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We're very excited to welcome the brand new chapter at the University of Sydney to the MEDLIFE family! After completing a monthlong internship with MEDLIFE in Lima, Peru, USYD senior Anna Laming decided to spread the word on her campus. Thanks to Anna's hard work this semester, this young chapter now has an executive board in place, and is currently in the process of planning upcoming meetings, fundraisers and community service activities.
Student leaders at the University of Sydney said the new student group meets a growing area of interest on campus. "I knew I wanted to get more involved on campus, but I wanted to guide help to areas most in need," says chapter vice president Marco Leung. "MEDLIFE has mirrored my thoughts exactly. Not only does it have an established network that is growing very quickly at university campuses around the globe, but it also has a structured and friendly operations team to achieve its goals."
Students across Australia now have the chance to volunteer with MEDLIFE Mobile Clinics in South America, plus our future locations in India and Tanzania. For now, the Sydney chapter is focusing on raising awareness at their university and others in Australia in order to grow a national MEDLIFE network. We look forward to working with them!
As the 2012-2013 school year comes to a close, MEDLIFE wishes to extend a big thank you to all of our student chapters, leaders, and trip participants. Thanks for your hard work!
Coming off a record-breaking year in 2011-2012, McGill University has picked up right where it has left off. Currently on track to sending over 100 students on Volunteer Trips and hitting $10,000 fundraised, McGill's chapter has once again shown us the full potential each student group has to help our patients and our communities reach greater access to medicine, education, and community development. A special thanks to the outgoing members of McGill's executive board, whose passion and dedication have resulted in a exemplary student organization.
In less than a school year, our new chapter at the University of Michigan has materialized into a truly incredible chapter. They have recruited a large membership base and sent numerous students on Mobile Clinics. Meanwhile, the chapter's executive board members have quickly moved to bring their enthusiasm to our Student Advisory Board (SAB).
See the rest of the awards on our full awards page here!
Student leaders at UGA's MEDLIFE chapter have distinguished themselves with their dedication to community service, not only on their Mobile Clinic trips in South America, but at home in Athens, Georgia as well. This year, they successfully applied the MEDLIFE approach of listening to the community and responding to their needs to complete improvement projects at the Oasis Católico Santa Rafaela Hispanic Community Center.
They started by meeting with the community center's director, Sister Margarita, to determine what the most urgent needs of the center were, and how they could help. She showed them the rotting floors of the trailers where after-school tutoring programs are held, and gave them a prioritized list of projects she would like to see completed. In September 2012, the chapter's executive board applied for a Sustainable Service grant from Volunteer UGA, and were awarded $8,000 to replace floors and create a parking lot. They spent the next several months planning the project and gathering materials and volunteers.
In February, more than 40 volunteers, including undergraduate students, medical students, and a faculty member, worked in shifts throughout the weekend to re-floor and carpet two trailers. Chapter president Sarah Premji says the volunteers' reward was in seeing the finished project and hearing words of thanks from the many community members who stopped by. "The trailers had been developing holes in the floor, and you could see the ground in certain places," she told us. "With the completion of this project, Sister Margarita can rest assured that the children and tutors who participate in the after-school tutoring program will be in a safe, secure environment. There is no longer any danger of anyone falling through the rotting floor." At the end of March, the volunteers came together once again to build a gravel parking lot, to provide a safer place where volunteers can park and monthly food donations can be dropped off.
At a large school like UGA, getting this level of organization and participation in a student group can be a challenge. The UGA MEDLIFE chapter owes its success to a strong 6-person executive board, and an innovative approach. As the chapter grew, they found that member commitment dropped off; said Sarah, "meetings became less personal and members felt less comfortable talking to each other." So this year, they decided to split the chapter up into "family groups" which would foster open discussion and natural relationships within the chapter, and play to the strengths and interests of its individual members. Sarah reports that the new initiative has been a success: "In just one and a half semesters, MEDLIFE at UGA has seen increased member commitment and involvement," she says. The new structure gives all chapter members the opportunity to be leaders within the organization.
UGA has also brought us some of this year's best fundraisers, from the Run For (Your) Life Zombie 5K in the fall, to the upcoming Battle of the Bands happening this month. We can't wait to see what they come up with next!
North Oconee High School in Bogart, Georgia is now home to our first official high school chapter! They first got involved with MEDLIFE last fall, during the One Billion+ Tour, and continue to grow fast. Read the Q&A with chapter president Ivey Tanner to learn more about what they're up to:
How did you hear about MEDLIFE? Why did you decide to start a chapter?
A member of the UGA MEDLIFE chapter contacted our school counselors wondering if we were interested in a presentation being made at our school. Since I am a student council officer, that email was then forwarded to me. I discussed this with a few other student council members, and we decided we were definitely interested. Juan Vanegas then came and spoke at our school, and a group of us were moved by his presentation. From there 5 of my closest friends and fellow students as well as I made it our mission to start a chapter at NOHS.
Describe the process of starting your chapter and planning your meetings and activities.
First, we attended the presentation Juan made. After that, the 6 of us met and decided we wanted to approach our principal and get this idea approved. We then met with our principal who was just as excited as we were, and he gave us permission to begin the NOHS chapter. After that, we formed an executive board of 11 students, and we planned our first meeting. We had over 90 students attend the first meeting! At that meeting we presented some fundraising ideas we had already thought of and we opened up for new ideas. We are now in the process of planning a school wide beach volleyball tournament which will benefit MEDLIFE.
Melanie Askari started a MEDLIFE chapter at the University of Michigan just last year, and so far they've already completed successful fundraisers last semester, and their first Mobile Clinic in Lima last week! We spoke to chapter president Melanie about her experience with MEDLIFE and the secrets to her chapter's success:
Why did you decide to start a MEDLIFE chapter at your school?
I was in MEDLIFE at the University of Vermont before I transferred, and I had a great experience with it there and went on a Mobile Clinic to Ecuador. I really wanted to spread the MEDLIFE mission to U of M because we didn't have a chapter.
How did you go about starting the chapter?
First I picked an exec board, and pulled from people that I knew from different areas, different majors and different backgrounds. That was at the end of second semester last year, and we actually got going September of this year, when we became an official club through the university. We held mass meetings, trying to pull in as many people as we can, tell them about MEDLIFE, and get everyone involved.
What kind of events and activities has your chapter done so far?
We've been trying to do a lot of coordinated events with other groups on campus, so last semester we did a 5k run with a community service fraternity, and we've partnered with them on some other events this semester, just to bring in other people that want to volunteer and help out. This semester, we had a bowling fundraiser where part of the proceeds went to MEDLIFE, and it was good bonding for the group. Some people went that are on the trip now, so they got to meet each other before coming to Peru. We also had a silent auction at the bowling alley, and we do bake sales and tabling and stuff like that. This semester we're focusing more on awareness and education, and getting as many people on trips as possible. We're also planning to go on a trip to Ecuador in May.
What challenges did you face in getting the chapter off the ground?
Distinguishing ourselves from other global health groups was a little difficult at first, just because there's a ton of different groups and people think they do the same thing. But we've tried to market it to people of all majors, not just science backgrounds, people interested in community service, and getting that hands-on healthcare experience.
What advice would you give to other people trying to start chapters at their schools?
Basically, if you're excited about it, it spreads like a domino effect, and other people will be excited about it. Just being enthusiastic. If you've been on a trip it really helps because you can talk about that and people are always excited to go on trips, and then you come back from the trips and people want to get more involved on campus.
I would say reach out to as many different networks as possible, don't try to pull from all just one major, but get people from different backgrounds. And coordinate with other groups on campus, get the name out there, use their resources, and you will both benefit.
What are your impressions so far of Lima and the Mobile Clinic here?
Everything has been going great so far, people seem really excited. I know everyone was looking forward to this trip for a while. It's a very different experience for some people, maybe a third of our group doesn't speak any Spanish, so learning how to communicate in a city where you don't know the native language is always difficult. It's a beautiful place, it's different from anywhere I've ever been, and we're having a great trip so far.
What are you hoping to get out of the trip?
I'm hoping that with our group as a whole, everyone will come back and be really excited for fundraising more for the MEDLIFE fund, and doing all that we can to help out on campus.
For me, getting more experience talking to the patients and communicating about things in a real way, even with the language barrier, is a great experience. Just getting to know the local people.