Part of a series
Author Ryan Van Nostrand is one of six Upstate medical students who traveled to Central and South America over the summer to volunteer. Ryan went to Peru, and five classmates from the College of Medicine went to Nicaragua. The trips were coordinated by the Center for Civic Engagement, which provides volunteer opportunities for all Upstate students. Ryan’s trip, and his stay at the Amazon Yarapa River Lodge, were facilitated by Dr. Charles Mango, MD, a Syracuse ophthalmologist who has helped develop the Center’s global health opportunities.
By Ryan Van Nostrand, Class of 2015
Going to the Peruvian jungle was one of the most enlightening experiences of my life. In the small village of Pevas, on the Amazon River, I gained a unique clinical experience and saw a myriad of tropical diseases as well as things a clinician might see every day here in the U.S.
The health system is vastly different with some people traveling days by dugout canoes up the river just to get to the health center.
I was lucky on my trip to visit Pevas during the time of their yearly festival. Children from the schools up and down the river came to compete in sports, perform traditional dances, and show the talents from each of the individuals in those respective villages.
There were obvious rivalries as the home crowd cheered. Winning meant bragging rights for the year. Pevas won the volleyball tournament and the mayor decided to have a victory celebration. He kept the power on for the town late instead of the normal 6 to 11 p.m. Everyone danced in the town square to music and celebrated into the night.
During the second part of my trip I was fortunate enough to see some of the richest natural habitat on earth. As a nature lover I felt like a wide-eyed child seeing all of the wonderful things this world has to offer.
The local guides pointed out dozens of species of animals and educated me on the various medicinal plants the local people have been using to treat ailments long before we ever derived drugs from them. It was the trip of a lifetime and something I will never forget.