Volunteer: Laura Rose Lathrop RN
PH&S Facility: Providence St. Vincent Medical Center
Country Visited:
Trip Dates:
August 25 – September 10, 2008
U.S.-Based Sponsoring Organization or Program: Volunteer Voyages

…Contrary to patients in the U.S. and other developed countries, Peruvians are much less informed and much less likely to discuss openly and easily their health care concerns.  For example, an American might go to the doctor and say, “I think I have a UTI because I have burning with urination and my urine looks cloudy, I think I need an antibiotic.”  Peruvians, on the other hand, needed much more questioning about symptoms and were less likely to advocate for themselves.  They might say, “I’m here because I hurt.”  When asked about the location/quality of the pain, our patients were vague and often attributed lower back pain to “kidney probems” as opposed to skeletomuscular strain (the more likely cause with these women due to the high physical demands of their farming lifestyle.)  This communication/knowledge issue has signficance to U.S. healthcare workers in that it can remind us to never assume our patients know or don’t know something, and that with each patient it is important to ascertain where they personally are coming from in their knowledge and experience….

To gain access to routine healthcare the residents of this village must travel by bus 1 to 2 hours into the city of Arequipa.  We also provided care for three days at the community clinic in Arequipa organized by Father Alex Busuttil.  Many of our team members made house calls to residents that are home bound….My expectation for this trip was to provide service in any way that I am able.  I never know what activities may be asked of me so my expectations are met because I did not go with the attitude that I would provide only certain services.  This is a concept that Father Alex preaches….there is a difference between “providing services” and “serving”.  When you endeavor to serve, you place the recipient in the center and ask the question “What does this person need?”.  Then the journey of finding ways to provide and meet their needs begins.

Mary Jane Krier RN, Clinical Coordinator Medical/Surgical Unit
Providence Newberg Medical Center
Sponsored by: Center for Personal Restoration
Peru, October 2006

I have traveled to Mexico many times but always as a tourist which is a completely different experience.  As a tourist you only see the most superficial parts of the culture and the people.  In Peru, however, I found that the people we encountered in the clinic were very open to sharing their lives and histories with us.  They were not trying to sell us anything or be in a service role to us.  Instead we were able to be of service to them.  They were so very warm and appreciative of our presence there and expressed it with hugs and kisses as they entered and left the clinic……It was somewhat shocking to see how advanced some of their conditions were.  Without easy or affordable access to health care, some of the patients were living with physical problems we might never see in the United States because they would not have gone untreated for that long.  It was moving to feel that our presence provided care that really had an impact on the quality of their lives……We estimate that we saw approximately 180 patients while we were working in Peru.  Each one of them had a story and a beautiful face that I hope to always remember.

Denise Marecki, RN, Providence Family Medicine, Portland
Sponsored by: Northwest Medical Teams
Peru, November 4-14, 2005

We performed 29 procedures over the next 5 days as well as seeing 30-40 patients each day in the clinic.  We did hysterectomies, repaired bladders, returned female organs to their correct anatomical position—you can only imagine what bearing 8-10 large babies and doing the strenuous lifting and climbing these women do every day does to their bodies.  It was challenging and exceedingly rewarding…..These wonderful, gracious, patient, impoverished but oh so rich women captured my heart.  They were so thankful and appreciative.  They expressed their gratitude openly and generously—bringing us chickens and the ultimate gift, a roasted guinea pig with head and feet still attached!!  I am sure you have heard it a thousand times before but I was rewarded far beyond what I was able to give.  I love seeing and experiencing a culture at a level far deeper than the casual tourist.  I love knowing that had I not come these few women we reached would have had no medical care, no chance at surgeries that so improved and in some cases saved their lives.

Diana Mock, D.O., Providence Medical Group, Newberg Family Medicine
Sponsored by: Northwest Medical Teams
Peru, November 4 – 17, 2005


We had a very productive medical mission trip in that we treated over 500 people in a variety of locations including a boys’ detention center, Father Alex's church community, and a rural village which many of the people walked for hours to get to from their even more rural villages in the mountains.  I was not sure if therapy services would be needed but it ended up to be one of the most important aspects of our team’s care.  We were in high demand to instruct in body mechanics, stretching, and postural education.  The Peruvian people have a very hard life in comparison to the United States.  Many of them sleep on the ground at night in a one room house with several of their family members (and many of the houses do not have roofs).  It is very cold at night and so in the rural villages they sleep with their animals to keep warm.  They wrap their babies in about 8-10 layers of cloths/blankets, even in the daytime when it is hot, it is a wonder these kids don't overheat.  They must carry their things on their backs and literally do backbreaking work for 8-12 hours a day to make a couple dollars to make ends meet for their families.  Father Alex has done an incredible job of creating an environment that encourages self sufficient skills.  He has built a church, woodshop, daycare, and organized groups of women who knit and others who make cards to sell.

Lindsey Burdick, Physical Therapist, Providence Milwaukie Hospital
Sponsored by: Center for Personal Restoration
Peru, November 29-December 13, 2005

…The contrast in living conditions in Peru was very educational and humbling, especially seeing what harsh living conditions the rural people experience.  Warm showers and flushing toilets, I quickly learned, are not necessarily available in every culture!....One favorite memory is of a 13 year old boy who is mute and deaf, a result of an ear infection at the age of three. Our team was able to evaluate, arrange appointments for test and the fitting of hearing aides at a Children’s Hospital.  Knowing that this boy’s life will be improved in such a positive way is something that will stay with me forever….

Heather Wehling, Occupational Therapist
Providence Milwaukie Healing Place
Sponsored by: Center for Personal Restoration
Peru, November 29-December 13, 2005


Peru….….Many of the parish members in the Alto Cayma neighborhood of Arequipa are second class citizens in their own culture in many ways.  Some of them speak only native languages such as Quechua or Aymyran and have no formal or vocational education.  Our local facilitator, the parish priest Padre Alex Busuttil, explains that our presence alone is a blessing to these people, but we believe that we are the ones that experience the greater blessing.  We are met with open arms, hugs, smiles, acceptance and friendship….

Mary Jane Krier, RN, Providence Newberg
Sponsored by: Center for Personal Restoration
Peru, December 1-7, 2005