Paula is a 13-year-old young woman living at Sagrada Familia, a Global Volunteers’ community partner, in Ventanilla, one of Peru’s poorest urban communities near the capital city of Lima.
During the summer months (December through February), Sagrada Familia quiets down, with only the resident children attending sessions at the school, eating in the dining hall, and playing on the sports courts. Paula arrived this summer from a village in the Peruvian Andes. At the time, she was suffering from rashes, which many in the community thought were mosquito bites worsened by her scratching. The teachers and caretakers urged her not to scratch, but the skin sores increased rapidly, making Paula miserable.
In February, a 27- year-old medical student from Columbia University arrived on the Global Volunteers team. Sagrada Familia was excited to have a soon-to-be-doctor present and arranged for her to do check-ups for all of the children living in the community. Over the course of her two-week stay, this volunteer joined a team of medical students who conducted check-ups for 250 children, one of which was Paula. Contrary to the community’s belief, the young medical student noticed that Paula was suffering from a skin infection. After speaking with the volunteer, Miguel, the community director, acknowledged the urgency of Paula’s condition and booked an appointment with a specialist.
After a couple weeks, Paula’s legs were free of sores and she was able to return to playing like the happy, healthy kid that she is. Over time, the students have grown more and more comfortable seeing the volunteers with medical experience for their check-ups and the community of Sagrada Familia is thankful for the medical support. In Paula’s case, one volunteer’s patience, kindness, and confident diagnosis made all the difference.
For over 25 years, Sagrada Familia has served as a shelter for vulnerable children who otherwise have nowhere to go. This community creates a safe, nurturing environment for children who have been left homeless or neglected. Sagrada Familia’s goal is to give these children the love, care and individualized attention that all children need and deserve.
**Paula’s name has been changed to protect her anonymity.