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Carly Epstein from the University of Delaware fundraised $3,700 before her MEDLIFE trip to Cusco, Peru in the Spring of 2015. Fifty percent of the money she raised went towards the cost of her participation fee and the other fifty percent will be put towards supporting MEDLIFE's work prodiving healthcare to communities in need.Thank you for your hard work, Carly!
How did you hear about the 50:50 campaign?
I received an email from my school about the MEDLIFE trip. I decided I wanted to go on the trip and volunteer, and then I began raising money for the 5050 campaign!
How long was your campaign?
I started campaigning about three weeks before my trip.
What did you do to be most successful during the fundraising process?
To be most successful, I wrote a small little blurb about what I was doing, why I was doing it and why it meant a lot to me. I posted this on Facebook and sent out a few email. My mother and father actually helped me as well.
Did you encounter any obstacles in the process? How did you overcome them?
The only obstacle I had was just getting (the message) out there and explaining what this trip was about. But I think once I was able to write down my feelings about it, I was able to get peoples’ attention and they were able to contribute and help me raise money for the campaign.
How was organizing a 50:50 campaign a positive experience?
It was really rewarding being able to see the money go up as the time went on. It meant a lot to me that people cared about my purpose and this cause. It actually has been a very positive experience for me.
How do you feel about the impact you have made raising money to support people like the ones you are working with on this trip?
I think that the impact is huge to be able to donate this money towards such an important cause. To deliver health care to people who don’t have the opportunity to go to the doctor, have a visit, and be taken care of.
Do you have any advice for other students considering 50:50 campaigns?
Its definitely important to make it personal, to say what you feel about it and why its important to you. I think that’s what worked best for me and I think people can feel that; they feel it through your words. That would be my advice for other students J.
Betty Alvarez, a 42 year-old woman who moved from Huancayo city 14 years ago, now lives in Lima with her husband Santiago Ochoa.
Although she is the mother of 3 grown up children, she still works in a club for mothers in her community to support them.
At the present time, Betty is a follow-up patient with MEDLIFE. Her story started 6 years ago when she suspected that she had a problem in her right breast. However, due to her lack of income, she couldn’t go to her first doctor’s appointment until 3 years later.
Betty had a calculus operation on her right breast, but after a while she developed extreme pain in her breast, so doctors decided to take an ultrasound and the results came up with cysts. She started a treatment for the cysts but time went on and the pain did not go away, so she decided to take a mammogram but the results were the same: cysts.
A short time after this, in December of 2014, MEDLIFE was holding a mobile clinic in her community. Betty attended the clinic, and that was when the OB doctor found a lump not only in her right breast, but also in her left one. “There in the medical clinic they checked me out and they told me that what I had was not a cyst, what I had was a tumor and that I had it in both of my breasts, the right and the left one”.
A few days after the clinic, Betty received a call from MEDLIFE nurses who were calling in order to take her to the doctor. She had to take a new Ultrasound to confirm that what she had was not a cyst but something that needed an intense treatment. “They told me that they were going to help me, and they did. They called me, and since that moment, they’ve been helping me”.
When the results came, it showed that what Betty had was a medium sized tumor in her right breast and a small one in her left one. With these results, at her next appointment, Betty had a biopsy exam so that the doctors could know if the tumor was benign or malignant.
Betty tells us that before becoming a MEDLIFE follow-up patient, she had problems getting an appointment. Although she had SIS insurance that covered her appointments and exams, it was very difficult to get an appointment. “You have to be there one day before, you have to get there at dawn to get an appointment. I like MEDLIFE because it’s fast. They call you, they accompany you on your appointments, they are here with me.”
At the moment, Betty is calm. She is waiting for the biopsy results and she says that she is going to follow the doctor’s instructions for her treatment. She advises women to attend the medical clinics that MEDLIFE holds in different communities, and suggests that if MEDLIFE calls you, you should be open to the communication, because you don’t have to look for them, they look for you.
Lauren Britt from the University of Michigan completely covered the cost of her participation fee for her MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic in Lima, Peru by simply organizing a successful 5050 campaign. In no time, Lauren’s strategy for her campaign and the generous contribution of friends and family earned over $2,000! Her campaign was straightforward and allowed her to have an amazing trip experience in Lima. Find out more about the 50:50 campaign
Here at MEDLIFE we are proud to introduce Neema Lyimo, who recently began her work with MEDLIFE in the summer of 2014. Neema will help further MEDLIFE's development in Tanzania. Read more about Neema below:
Where are you from?
I am from Arusha, Tanzania and I received my Bachelor degree in Human Nutrition from Sokoine University of Agriculture in 2010. After that I went for masters degree in Public Health at Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences with partnership with University of Calgary Canada in 2012. I enrolled in a course in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Eastern Finland in 2013.
How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?
I had attended a seminar on teaching children with Autism in Moshi, which is where I was first introduced to MEDLIFE. I met Terry Mulligan, MEDLIFE's director in Tanzania and I was interested in the organization, since I have been dreaming to working with organization which helps to improve the lives of the poor. Attending mobile clinics is an amazing and fulfilling experience to be helping people in poor communities.
What is it that you like most about working with MEDLIFE?
I love working at mobile clinics because I find it very uplifting to provide Public Health Education to the communities. It is wonderful to be able to provide them with treatment and medicine and improve the lives of people within the community.
Can you name a particular patient that has had a strong impact on you?
Well I have been very pleased/impressed when going on the mobile clinics and find that older people (90 or 100 years) walk great distances together with their families to get the health care. They really impress me and I enjoy working with them.
Before MEDLIFE, what were your experiences with non-profit/humanitarian organizations?
Before MEDLIFE I worked with Compassion International just after high school while waiting to join the University in 2007. Thereafter I worked with St. Elizabeth Hospital as a Nutrionist after earning my bachelor degree in 2010 before going for my Masters degree. On top of that, in 2013 I worked part-time with World Vision in the evaluation of Mid-Term Review of the East Africa Maternal Newborn and Child Health (EAMNeCH) Project.
Why is this work important to you?
The idea of reaching the poor through a comprehensive package of access to medicine (mobile clinics), community development and education is so appealing to me because of my education background and passion. Also, as a trained nutritionist, I know firsthand how important this work is in health and community development. In addition, as a Public Health professional I know the value of multi-sector approach to solving access to health services challenges. Hence all of the above mentioned points, combined with my passion, is what makes working with MEDLIFE so attractive. This work has always been my dream.
What do you do in your free time?
I enjoying learning new things and traveling to getting exposure to other people and cultures.
Joanna Dainton traveled all the way from her home in England to be an intern with MEDLIFE from November 2013 through May 2014 to gain relevant experience working for a non-profit in a developing country. During the internship, her experience with one community leader MEDLIFE frequently works with, Jorge Vargas, motivated her to make a difference in the community beyond what her intern duties entailed.
“I wanted to help Jorge because he was someone who I really connected with,” Joanna remembers. She says he has a lively and humorous personality, and despite his physical handicap, “his optimistic attitude was incredible,” she says. Jorge was bound to a wheelchair because of polio he contracted as a child, and Joanna wanted to help him where he needed it most: his mobility.
As Joanna recounts, Jorge was restricted to using an old, rusted wheelchair to navigate the rocky and steep terrain of his community, high in the hills of Nueva Esperanza, in Lima, Peru. With this chair, Jorge required someone else to push him around, and his work as a community leader was severely limited.
“I felt this was an unacceptable situation, especially given his full involvement in his community as a leader and organizer,” Joanna explains. “I could see that by enabling him to be independent, not only would his life be improved but the lives of those around him would be too.”
During the last stretch of her internship with MEDLIFE, Joanna launched a plan—in collaboration with MEDLIFE staff including Carlos Benavides, MEDLIFE Peru’s Director—to buy Jorge a motorized wheelchair. She would start a MEDLIFE campaign to turn his dream of having his independence again into a reality.
Upon her return to England, Joanna communicated Jorge’s story to her network of friends and family across her social media accounts, she sent out countless emails and even held fundraising events. Before long, she had reached her goal of $1000 and MEDLIFE matched her contribution to afford the motorized wheelchair.
After the funds were in, the MEDLIFE team proceeded on to the next step: finding the perfect motorized wheelchair customized to Jorge’s needs. After trial and error and months of research to find the perfect fit, as of February 2015, Jorge is comfortably navigating his way around his community with his motorized wheelchair.
Joanna feels overjoyed with the accomplishment and collaborative team effort. “It's brilliant knowing we achieved what we set out to do and have hopefully changed Jorge's life for the better,” she said.
Jorge’s newfound independence not only means he does not need to rely on friends and family to get around, but also allows him to continue his work as a community leader, which was very limited before. Helping organize MEDLIFE mobile clinics in his community was difficult for Jorge to manage previously (although his passion for helping his community enabled him to accomplish it), but now Jorge has the tools, along with the heart, to really create change.
Reflecting on her experience, Joanna says she feels an even closer connection to the communities she helped serve during her internship, despite being half way across the world. “Seeing the photos of Jorge with his new wheelchair has created a link between myself and everyone who donated and worked on the project, and Jorge and his community,” Joanna says.
Joanna’s friendship with Jorge made her feel very passionate about her campaign for his motorized wheelchair. She believes this type of connection MEDLIFE strives to achieve with its follow-up care and long-term relationships with families and communities is essential for effective change. Joanna certainly saw an opportunity to directly change someone’s life in her experience with Jorge, and encourages anyone else considering development projects to find that personal connection in order to be the most successful.
Several years of pain and hardship are finally over for MEDLIFE follow-up patient and mother of three, Nery Huaman Salas. In January of 2015, Nery had an operation to remove a troublesome tumor in her breast that she had lived with for six years, along with the antagonizing fear that it could be cancerous.
Several months before the operation, in the summer of 2014, Nery’s journey began when she first connected with MEDLIFE at a mobile clinic held in a community of Nueva Esperanza, located in the hills of Lima, Peru. Nery knew she should take advantage of the services offered at the mobile clinic because her access to health care is very limited, she explained. It was during a routine breast exam that the doctor discovered her breast tumor.
The doctor’s discovery was not news to Nery; she had lived with the tumor, a fibroadenoma, overwhelming her daily life for years. However, due to limited economic resources, receiving the appropriate medical care was never attainable.
Nery is unable to provide an income right now as a stay-at-home mother and her husband’s irregular salary of $50/week is barely enough to provide for a family of five, let alone afford an expensive operation. Nery felt trapped without the resources or ability to improve her situation.
Despite her financial obstacle, Nery frequently tried her hand at different approaches to make an operation possible, but to no avail. At one point, for example, when Nery visited a doctor at the hospital she was assigned a SIS — a health care plan for people with low economic resources — she walked away with only disappointing news.
Nery said the doctor seemed unconcerned about her tumor. He told her not to worry—she did not need an operation. Nery did not trust the doctor’s judgment and she speculates he had come to that conclusion only because her health plan would not cover follow-up care, like an operation. Disregarding the doctor’s recommendation, Nery did worry—a lot. The pain was unbearable and she feared for her health.
Just when Nery thought she was out of luck, MEDLIFE informed her that they would support her to afford the medical care she needed. “The truth is I had no other option,” Nery admitted.
From that point forward, MEDLIFE worked with Nery every step of the way; supporting her through the medical appointments like biopsies, ultrasounds, and eventually to her operation to ensure the tumor’s removal. “Before I was in significant pain,” Neary said, recounting the years of being in constant discomfort. “But now I don’t feel it anymore. I’m not in pain anymore.”
Nery is currently recovering from the operation at a family friend’s house located down the hill from her own house because the steep paths and rocky terrain make it too difficult for her to access during the healing process.
As Nery remains a follow-up patient, MEDLIFE will continue to ensure Nery gets the medical care she needs so she can live a healthy life for herself and for her children.
When Nandini Razdan’s MEDLIFE internship in Lima, Peru concluded in the spring of 2013, she returned to her home in the United States feeling somewhat unfulfilled. Nandini’s intern experience was life-changing, eye-opening, and left a significant mark on her, but she soon began wishing she had made more of an impact on the lives of those who had changed hers. “These patients graced me with an invaluable experience, but what have I done for them?” Nandini asked herself.
Nandini answered her question by revisiting the case of a patient whom she met during a patient follow-up care visit. Eduardo, a MEDLIFE follow-up patient with Cerebral Palsy, made make frequent trips to the emergency room due to difficulty breathing, where he was then forced to wait several hours each time to be seen by a physician. Eduardo’s situation frustrating to Nandini, so she knew she had to do something to help.
Remembering Eduardo’s story, Nandini decided to fundraise for an in-home breathing machine so Eduardo would not have to relive the pain and discomfort of his frequent trips to the hospital. A few Facebook posts and less than 24 hours later, Nandini reached her goal of $325 to afford the equipment. Nandini became the first MEDLIFE intern to personally fundraise for a project—but it wouldn’t be her last.
A year later, Nandini heard mention of another patient in desperate need for medical equipment he could not afford. She learned that Julio Pineda, living in the slums Lima, Peru, lost his leg due to uncontrolled diabetes, and was in need of a prosthetic replacement so that he could provide for his family as a taxi driver. Julio was able to navigate his home on crutches and was given a prosthetic leg on-loan from the hospital, but these were only temporary fixes he could not depend on long-term.
Even though Nandini concluded her intern responsibilities long before she heard of Julio Pineda’s story, MEDLIFE and the people it helps were still very important to her. Nandini seized the opportunity to help Julio the same way she helped Eduardo. “I realized that if a person is in a position to help someone, you should not hesitate to do it,” she explained.
This time, though, Nandini’s task was much greater: Julio’s prosthetic leg would cost $1,700. Though a bit daunting, Nandini admitted, the number did not deter her; it only encouraged her to get the message out about Julio’s situation to more people in her network. Though raising the necessary funds took a little longer than it did for Eduardo’s campaign, Nandini reached her second goal in only two months. She attributes the success of her campaign to persistence and the generosity of her friends and family. “People see your sincerity and are then more than willing to help you help others,” she explained.
When MEDLIFE told Julio of the good news—that he would be getting his prosthetic leg—he welled up with emotion. “I feel really happy,” said Julio. “Please tell her that I am really happy and appreciative,” he said, expressing his immense gratitude to Nandini and her supporters. As of February 2015, Julio Pineda has been given a new lease on life, made possible by Nandini’s dedication to his case. Julio was measured, prepped, suited for his prosthetic leg, and is underway to walking on two feet again.
Nandini’s efforts not only went above and beyond what the MEDLIFE internship role entails, but her work also encouraged succeeding interns to do the same. “I am so happy that the momentum was picked up by later interns for their own projects,” Nandini said. Nandini was certainly able to accomplish what she set out to do to when her internship concluded, and her impact is sure to endure. Her example continues to inspire others to do what they can to make a difference for MEDLIFE’s patients.
MEDLIFE is known for its volunteer trips, where students dedicated to public health and social justice journey across the globe to provide essential services to communities and individuals in need. It is also within MEDLIFE’s mission to expand chapter members’ educational opportunities, enabling them to gain exposure to the ideas and opinions of professionals and academics across disciplines related to Medicine, Education, and Development. A MEDLIFE member does not need to travel across the world to be introduced to new concepts or have their perspective on the world altered. They need only organize or attend a M.E.D. Talk.
M.E.D. Talks are MEDLIFE’s take on TED Talks. TED Talks take the best and brightest of their fields and give them center stage to share their ideas about Technology, Education, and Design with the world. Hundreds of speakers from across the globe have exchanged ideas, innovations, and initiatives that will change the way the world approaches challenges in the years to come. Each speaker bears their own perspectives on and solutions to problems the world faces, ready to discuss and debate the merits and shortcomings of each idea before them. Goals for change are stated, debated upon and altered. Above all, ideas are put forth for others to hear. A forum for discussing global issues enables, enlightens, and engages its participants and presenters alike. MED Talks do the same, however they take on the topics of Medicine, Education and Development and their numerous complexities.
Though it may be years before they will be on the TED stage themselves, MEDLIFE students from across the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico come together every semester at their respective educational institutions to discuss topics relating to Medicine, Education, and Development. Future doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers, community organizers, medical technicians, public health specialists and more collaborate to create forums for the exchange of ideas. Members of each chapter get a chance to interact with other attendees before listening to and engaging with professors and professionals from their universities and local communities. The goal of each M.E.D. Talk is to facilitate students’ professional and personal development by increasing their access to today’s specialists for the betterment of tomorrow.
During the Fall 2014 semester, MEDLIFE Chapters at Dartmouth College, MIT, and McGill University hosted their own compelling M.E.D. Talks that ranged in topics from alternative engineering methods in impoverished communities to the global response to the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. Here are summaries of their M.E.D. Talks, each successful in their own rights. They differed in size and execution, but the purpose and outcome was the same:
Ebola continues to plague Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea and poses a threat to the global community if effective treatment and prevention methods are not employed. With the hemorrhagic fever on everyone’s mind, MEDLIFE Dartmouth, in partnership with another campus global health organization, brought in Patrice Juah, a Liberian activist, to talk about her firsthand experience as a member of an Ebola-stricken community. Ms. Juah was a member of the Young African Leaders Initiative that placed her in residence at Dartmouth for the summer of 2014. During her talk, Ms. Juah discussed her reaction to the outbreak—which escalated drastically during her absence—upon her return home, as well as the obstacles she faced when returning to the United States. Fueled by a combination of personal loss and an overwhelming sense of a gap in education for the Liberian population about how to prevent the spread of the disease, Ms. Juah helped launch the Martha Juah Education Fund. She discussed the initiative of the organization—it aims to educate students in the face of school closures—as well as the challenges the organization faced in coordinating its efforts. Ms. Juah also discussed her work with the Arterial Network, which focuses on the cultural impacts of Ebola. Its goals are to distinguish the region’s identity from the disease that has captured the globe’s attention through the power of artistic expression.
The MIT MEDLIFE Chapter hosted Professor Libby Hsu for their M.E.D. Talk in the fall. Prof. Hsu discussed her work in impoverished communities in Nepal and El Salvador. A member of D-Lab, a developmental laboratory devoted to creating and disseminating beneficial technologies for impoverished communities, Prof. Hsu’s talk revolved around her most recent work developing sustainable sanitation methods in El Salvador. The discussion expanded during the question and answer period to include the ways in which communication is critical to facilitating developmental work and Prof. Hsu’s experiences in Nepal developing concrete mixtures that are effective, affordable, and accessible.
Credit for the establishment of M.E.D. Talks goes to McGill University. The McGill University MEDLIFE Chapter hosted the first M.E.D. Talk in the fall of 2013 and continued their tradition of excellence this past fall with a four-speaker series entitled “Healthcare in Marginalized Communities.” One of the many distinguished speakers at their conference was Dr. Colin Chapman, a Killam Research Fellow at McGill University and a member of the Royal Society of Canada. Dr. Chapman discussed his work with primates in Kibale National Park, Uganda and the challenges of balancing primate conservation in the face of the continual expansion of the local human population.
Another speaker that presented was Dr. Joyce Pickering, the Vice Chair for Education in McGill University’s Department of Medicine and a general internist. She talked about her work in international health and disease prevention, including current challenges facing the global community and the steps necessary to predict and respond to global disease outbreaks. Dr. Joyce was joined by Kalia De Boer, a mental health specialist and addiction counselor who worked for several years in the Inuit community of Hopedale, in Labrador, Canada.
Ms. De Boer described her experience being embedded in an isolated community of approximately 550 people and the obstacles an outsider must overcome when trying to help a community with their most intimate and sensitive problems. The final speaker included in the conference was Helen Hsu, the founder of MEDLIFE McGill and a veteran of the efforts to undue cuts in federal healthcare for people of refugee status in Canada. She discussed the unique vulnerabilities that immigrants and refugees are confronted with once they have fled to Canada.
These pioneering M.E.D. talks are just a few examples of what MEDLIFE chapters across the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico are currently planning and organizing. No matter the theme or the size of the event, students and MEDLIFE members are expanding the realm of discourse about Medicine, Education, and Development at their schools.
Read about one of our volunteer's experience organizing a highly successful 50:50 campaign for her trip to Lima, Peru! Find out more about the 50:50 campaign here.
Name: Wesley Tomlinson
Amount raised: $1300
Are you a MEDLIFE chapter member?
I’m not actually in a MEDLIFE chapter. I decided to come alone with my best friend from med school. We both go into different universities so we thought it would be an amazing experience to meet up half way around the world to partake in a volunteer trip.
How did you hear about the 50:50 campaign and why did you decided to organize one?
It was on the website when i signed up to MEDLIFE. My sister who had previously been on a volunteer trip told me all about it. After reading up the benefits of the campaign on the website I knew thye campaign was for me. It became a clear decision once i knew that half of the money i raised would go towards funding my trip and the other half to helping out the community that I wanted to volunteer for.
How long before your trip did you start and finish?
I only started my campaign in October. I remember only having 60 days left until Lima, only starting the campaign a month or so before my trip. It was at this point that I started posting on social media websites and sending out e-mails. I was very lucky to have friends and family who would share my link to the page.
What did you do to be most successful with your judgment when you fundraised? Did you encounter any obstacles in the process and how did you over come that?
I tried to reach out to as many different people as possible, to see if they would be willing to donate. I was stunned with the feedback that i received, as everyone I reached out to were very supportive, financially and verbally. However, I did encounter a few obstacles. Some people chose not to respond to me, some people just ignored my requests, but you have to take these experiences on the chin and keep up the momentum.
What advice would you give to others who want to start their own campaign?
I would say just go for it! Even if you are worried about not raising any money, it can’t hurt to try. You have to think and stay positive!
MEDLIFE at Queen's university started small, but, with the dedication of a few motivated students, it grew rapidly. Read this interview with students from one of Canada's very successful chapters and what they do for fundraising events, member recruitment, and their goals for this coming year!
When and how did your chapter begin?
MEDLIFE Queen’s began in the fall of 2012. Inspired by the success of the McGill chapter, we wanted to provide students at Queen’s University with opportunities to contribute to MEDLIFE’s mission. What started as five friends sitting around a kitchen table has now grown into a major source for student involvement opportunities on campus.
What strategies do you use to promote MEDLIFE on campus?
To promote MEDLIFE on campus, we strive to maintain visibility, both in person and online via social media. Whenever possible, we try to establish a face-to-face connection with students – whether that be through clubs fairs, class talks, or simply by setting up at a table in the student center, we do our best to ensure MEDLIFE Queen’s remains an available and approachable organization. In addition, we work to maintain a strong social media presence, focusing on eye-catching images and graphics. We post these not only on our own page, but also within various Facebook groups to maximize our reach. By ensuring our online presence remains professional and visually impactful, we feel we set ourselves apart from other groups on campus.
What system do you use to recruit new members? What process does a new member go through once part of the chapter?
To recruit new members, we rely a great deal on clubs fairs and events – this makes September a very busy month for us! We also send information through department email lists periodically throughout the year to promote new opportunities for involvement. Our chapter is organized into a number of committees, namely Mobile Clinics, Fundraising, Outreach & Education, Conference, and Expansion. These committees plan and execute various initiatives and require an application and interview to sit on. For students wishing to join the chapter in a more casual way, there are many ways to get involved, including volunteering, socials, outreach events, and talks.
What activities do you organize to keep your members interested throughout the year?
Throughout the year, our chapter hosts a number of fundraisers and other events. This past semester we have held a Western-themed fundraising event at a downtown bar, volunteered at a local soup kitchen, set up a “MEDMail” booth to allow students to send postcards to MEDLIFE staff and volunteers, and have held a number of general meetings. Next semester, we are looking forward to a benefit concert, 5k run, global development conference, and much more!
What are your goals as a chapter for this academic year (2014-2015)?
For this academic year, our goals include running three successful mobile clinic trips in addition to a development corps trip. We are also looking forward to new initiatives, such as our benefit concert and conference, as well as continuing annual events such as our 5k. In addition, we have placed a greater focus this year on outreach and education activities, with the aim of increasing on-campus engagement with health and human rights issues, both locally and globally.