Today was our first day at the work site in Paraiso, which is on the Southeastern outskirts of Lima, in the Villa Maria del Triunfo district. We left the hotel around 7AM and made it up to the worksite around 9AM. The further our bus kept going up the hill, we started to leave areas of poverty that may look familiar to certain parts of America, and we started getting into impoverished communities that have no American comparison. One interesting observation was in the number of stray dogs roaming around these areas, looking for any kind of food source. We were told that these dogs can sometimes be aggressive, but they just seemed to want to be around all the commotion as much as the people from the community.
We got to the school area and started to set up our work stations. We set up our foot screening and diabetes screening areas in a room with our pediatrician, intake nursing staff, and our ever so important translators. Slowly, we started to see more people working their way down from the top of the hill, to our location. Most of our patients were mothers with children, often 2 or 3 young children. We also had work crews building a playground, in the school courtyard, as well as one group that is building a house for a lady further up the hill. Thankfully, it was a beautiful sunny day, which allowed the construction crews to work in a pleasant environment.
One of the great parts of this experience is all the individual people coming together to work as a team, under extraordinary circumstances. Most medical offices spend weeks, even years, working on getting a proper workflow and protocol for managing patient visits, and we got a bunch of strangers together in a schoolhouse, speaking different languages, and making it work within the first couple hours of setting up. Between our dentists, primary care, pediatrics and myself, there were around 100 patient visits today, and, by the end of it, we were all happily exhausted. We ended the day with a meal together, at the hotel, and a small devotional time, which helped to reflect on some of the blessings and growth our team experienced. We’ll be back at this same site tomorrow, before heading even further up the hill on Monday.