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Experience Reflection – Lucy Williams, Vanderbilt University, November 2023

“I’ve always been curious about health, ranging from my own physical well-being to that of those around me. At Vanderbilt, I’ve had the privilege to study in a department called Medicine, Health, and Society; as I love to travel, I chose to concentrate on global health. I’ve learned the ins and outs of a holistic approach to medicine, weighing the economic, social, cultural, and demographic factors that contribute to and impact healthcare.

After a year of life-changing travel experiences, this fall, I sought to pursue educational experiences that would feed my curiosity and passion about global health. When I discovered Hands on Peru and learned about its founder, Katie, I knew immediately that this would be a once in a lifetime experience. Within two weeks, I decided that I was going to move to Peru for 6 weeks in 2023, work at CESAPU, and live in Huanchaco. I’d never traveled to Peru, let alone any country in South America. The last time I’d taken a Spanish class had been my senior year in high school (I unfortunately opted to take Latin in college). The first day I arrived, however, I remember feeling that CESAPU was exactly where I needed to be. I was immediately thrown into it; I shadowed Cindy in bloodwork analysis, worked alongside Margarita in physical therapy, worked in the pediatric department in the hospital, and quickly learned the ins and outs of CESAPU. At first, I worried a lot about my ability (or inability) to communicate in Spanish and how that would impact my ability to connect with the community, however, my worries were quickly thrown out the window. I had never expected the immense kindness that was shown to me by everyone involved at CESAPU. The community members welcomed me as one of their own, the staff quickly took on the role as mentors and teachers, and the interns guided me along every step of the way.

I can now say that I left Peru a more confident person: I learned more Spanish than I ever would have in the classroom, I developed a love for physical therapy and watching the distinctly life-changing impact it has made on the Los Angeles community; I left with new friends who changed and challenged my perspectives on the world. I left, maybe not a better surfer, but with a love for it.

In the short time I worked alongside Katie, I learned just how much it takes to run CESAPU; anyone can see that CESAPU has changed this community for the better. CESAPU will continue to foster growth in the coming generations and do it, not without challenge, but with incredible perseverance. I could not have learned more from this experience and I could not be more grateful for the people who helped me along the way.

I was fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by some of the best health-care in the United States; it’s easy to take these services, this attentiveness for granted. Now that I am back in school, into my routines, surrounded by what’s always been familiar to me, I’ve only become more appreciative and more in awe by my experience in Huanchaco and my time at CESAPU. It will be a time in my life that I will always cherish and I know that I will return to Huanchaco very soon.”

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