Punta del Este. Wow! I couldn’t believe I was going there. This beachside town, some 100 kms from Montevideo, is the place to be in the summer for the rich and famous from this part of the world. But… what are we going to do in such a place?
The rain and dark sky gave the right scenario to a hidden face of this city: the poverty belt around the summer mansions. Maldonado, a city next to Punta del Este, is the home of many people living in poverty after they emigrated, looking for job opportunities in any of both cities. We arrived to the Centro Latinoamericano de Estudios Humanos (CLAEH, Latin American Center of Human Studies) in Maldonado to attend a ceremony to place the first stone of the new building Oikocredit will support financing.
CLAEH made a statement by decentralizing medical education, not without resistance from other universities. They made this choice for three reasons: to decentralize medical education; to provide access to medical school for students with less resources and living outside Montevideo; and finally, to recover the social side of medicine: helping people without distinction. Oikocredit contributed to finance the implementation of this medicine career.
Some students granted scholarships attended the ceremony. Among them, Añece Smeding, a third year student, told me that before all medicine students had to study in Montevideo, the capital city. For Añece and her fellow students from outside Montevideo had little resources and it was not affordable due to the economic and social costs.
Añece showed me the large practice room. Next to it there is a cold area where corpses are kept. I did not dare go further than the entrance room. Añece’s enthusiasm revealed she was getting much more than medical education; she was able to share with others what she was achieving during the studies.