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You are here: Home > Online Articles > Service & Experiential Learning in the Amazon



Service & Experiential Learning in the Amazon

By Christian Orlic


Service & Experiential Learning in the Amazon
Last August, 13 students from the American School of Barcelona (ASB) took two weeks off their summer vacation and traveled to the Amazon basin in Peru to participate in a student-run medical mission organized by Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM). The partnership between these institutions started in 2016, when seven students accompanied me on the program’s inaugural medical mission. The trip was coordinated by the school’s Interact Club and was recently recognized as the best youth-led service activity in the region by Rotary. Likewise, ASB received an award from the mayor of Maynas, the community in which the medical mission takes place. For 10 years now, MSUCOM has been sending doctors to the Amazon basin on a two-week medical mission trip. There, they set up free clinics to provide basic health care services as well as education to impoverished local communities with very limited access to medical care. Michigan State has already had significant success with the mission in the past, treating more than12,000 patients over the decade. This year marked the second for students from ASB, who have become instrumental in providing care to the local community. Prior to traveling to Peru, students research the region and familiarize themselves with their tasks and research projects. On arriving in Peru, they are immersed in local culture and given an orientation on how to be pivotal participants of the medical mission. Students then help with logistics, public health education, and translation, as well as participate in research projects. They also get to enjoy piranha fishing, sightseeing, and interacting with local fauna. In fact, each room in the clinic is staffed with two medical students, a doctor, and an ASB student. Thus, all communication between doctors and patients occurs thanks to the student’s mediation. ASB students also have the opportunity to take part in the diagnostic process, and some even learn how to perform certain medical procedures. At ASB, we strive to ground learning in reality and encourage our students to maximize their potential by actively participating in improving the world. Abby Greenwood, a 9th-grade student who returned for a second year said, “I have never felt so useful.” Likewise, a parent described last year’s mission as “I think it’s the best experience in the life of our boys and girls.” Not only was our team delighted with the mission but so was the medical team from MSU. Dr. Anne Lacasse, who has been to over 25 missions, remarked that “the young group from Barcelona are the most amazing interpreters we have ever had; they are compassionate, hard-working, and just a lovely group of young people.” We are excited to return to Peru next year. The Michigan Senate has presented the medical mission with two awards. Christian Orlic teaches Biology and Theory of Knowledge at the American School of Barcelona. >

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