- About Us
- Volunteer Trips
- Where We Work
- Get Involved
Last week, our two remaining presenters traveled hundreds of miles across the U.S. and Canada to spread word about our mission. Here are some quick updates and photos from their fifth week on the road:
Oct. 26, 2012:
Visiting McGill was a great experience; they have a truly amazing chapter with exceptionally dedicated students. Their strength is even more evident up close and personal. I had extremely constructive conversations with the Executive Board and brainstormed a bunch of new ideas for some of our new student initiatives. A big thanks to all the members of the McGill Executive Board and Expansion Team for taking the time to meet. I hope to be able to visit again soon!
Catch one of Juan's talks by checking out his stops on the Southeast region tour schedule page.
Oct. 26, 2012:
This week was full of a lot of flying, a lot of sightseeing, a lot of planning, and a lot of driving through cornfields; beautiful weather the whole time, luckily. I visited Purdue, U Missouri, Notre Dame and Washington U in St. Louis. Norte Dame's campus was impressively beautiful. Students at all of the schools showed a lot of interest and are excited about getting started with MEDLIFE and/or fundraising within their existing chapters.
See where else Sean is headed by checking on the Midwest tour schedule page.
A bittersweet ending to week four as we bid farewell to two of our dedicated MEDLIFE presenters, Maurico Parra and Biz Shenk. They've wrapped up their legs of the tour and are heading back home (Miami for Mauricio and Lima for Biz to continue her yearround internship with MEDLIFE).
Oct. 16, 2012:
After having spent a week visiting several schools in south Florida, it was time to start heading back up north. Today I arrived in Tampa at the University of South Florida, another school on my tour with no previous history of MEDLIFE chapters. After getting slightly lost in its immense campus, I was finally able to find the College of Public Health just in time to meet with the future president to prepare for the presentation. The overall turn-out was good, and while the room may not have been packed, at MEDLIFE we focus more on getting higher quality rather than quantity. Every student who came seemed to be very excited and passionate about getting involved and attending a clinic in order to make a significant impact. The highlight of the meeting was when a previous FSU MEDLIFE member, whom I attended my first mobile clinic in Ecuador with, was in attendance. It was very heartwarming to see that even in graduate school and a different city, students made an effort and found ways to still be involved with our organization. Aside from another school in Jacksonville tomorrow, my tour is essentially over.
Overall, it was a great couple of weeks visiting various universities and spreading MEDLIFEs mission across the state of Florida. At the end of it all, I probably met with close to 100 students. 100 young and motivated individuals who will continue raising awareness and doing their part to help improve the lives of the one billion+ people without access to healthcare across the world.
Mauricio visited a total of 11 campuses during his short stint on the tour. We appreciate his excellent effort to promote MEDLIFE and take on a huge responsibility such as this one and continue to volunteer for the cause, well after his internship had already ended. We are sure that he will continue to be an integral part of MEDLIFE for years to come. Thank you again, Mauricio!
Oct. 17, 2012:
On Tuesday I went to the University of Maryland and was very pleased with the enthusiasm and the great turnout of new students. They are planning to send a large group of members on a Mobile Clinic to Lima this winter, and have several others looking into going during summer. It was also nice to see another beautiful campus and get to know more of our dedicated executive board members. They are a highly motivated group of students, and it is clear that they will see continued success in both fundraising and getting help to the communities we serve!
The experience on the tour has been truly awesome. It was very beneficial and important to get in direct contact with the students leaders who are helping to create a solid foundation of members to enable the organization to continue growing. I'm sad to go, but I'm also very excited to get back to Lima and participate/help out in my first Mobile Clinic this November!
Oct. 16, 2012:
University of Chicago was great! They had a strong turnout and an enthusiastic e-board that I think will put together some excellent fundraisers, plus they provided some delicious Mexican food! I'm very excited for the University of Michigan chapter. Melanie is a great student leader and truly has a knack for fundraising. She was able to get Tropical Smoothie to donate 100 smoothies for the One Billion + Campaign meeting, and afterwards she took the leftover smoothies over to the library and collected donations for MEDLIFE in exchange for a smoothie. She already has several fundraisers planned, including a 5K road race on Sunday, November 4th. I look forward to returning to Ann Arbor and participating in the 5K fundraiser!
See where else Sean is presenting by checking out his other dates on the Midwest schedule page.
Oct. 19, 2012:
Juan is currently giving a talk at McGill University and will be updating us very shortly! For now, enjoy some lovely pictures from Ottawa:
Our third week is winding down on the tour and our presenters have sent in their updates for all of you to see. This time, we have a special treat-- a video of Co-Director Juan Vanega's presentation at Colby College created by MEDLIFE Communications Director Lindsay Bigda:
If link above doesn't work, you can view the video on Vimeo here: http://vimeo.com/51252802
Oct. 9, 2012:
My visit at Colby was awesome! As I began to search for the room where our presentation was going to be, I ran into Jen Tsang. A native to the Greater Bangor Area, she helped me back in 2009 to get a group students together so that I could talk to them about MEDLIFE. That meeting, three years ago, saw the very first inception of MEDLIFE at Colby College. To run into her, precisely as I was about to speak at Colby again, felt like more than just a coincidence, and offered and great little moment to reflect on how much MEDLIFE has grown.
Lindsay and I set up about an hour before the presentation began and we shot some video while we waited for the students to arrive. The presentation went very well and the students were incredibly responsive. They all showed enthusiasm and stuck around for some discussion afterward. The presdient of the chapter, Meghan Tedoldi, did a great job coordinating everything for the meeting to happen and I was reassured to see that she was at the head of the chapter there. I am very confident that it has the potential to, not only do very well this year, but to set itself up so that it will do well in the years to come.
Catch Juan on one of his stops by checking out his other dates on the Northeast region schedule page.
Oct. 12, 2012:
The meeting at Indiana went well! They had a strong turnout and an enthusiastic e-board. I was very impressed with the webpage they created. Bloomington is a very charming little town and is especially beautiful this time of year. Thank you, Antony Vo for your hospitality.
I had a productive meeting at the University of Illinois with Krista Kimme, Associate Director of Development at the College of Applied Sciences. She was very enthusiastic about MEDLIFE and I believe that she will help students at UI start a successful MEDLIFE chapter.
I was very impressed with the turnout at Northwestern University. The president, Natalie, and co-president, Neil, are great student leaders. They have both been to South America several times and are able to speak about MEDLIFE and their experiences at great length. They have also already set up volunteer hours and fundraisers despite only being back in school for one whole week! I expect great things from the NWU chapter this year!
See where else Sean is presenting by checking out his other dates on the Midwest schedule page.
Oct. 8, 2012:
This morning I went to Drew University to speak with two medical anthropology professors, a class, and then at a discussion lunch, and everything went very well. The class seemed interested in the aspect of root causes and about 7 students from the class came to the casual lunch discussion afterwards. Several other students from other classes also came, so there were probably around 15 students in total at lunch. We went over how the mobile clinics are run, what students get to do hands-on, and how MEDLIFE differs from other organizations.
One student told me that he is part of a fundraising group on campus and he was especially interested in the "fundraise for a specific project" part of the presentation, so naturally, I mentioned our Wawa Wasi project to him and the efforts we've been making our chapters this month. He said this is something they would like to get involved with. Also, I made it clear that students do not have to be part of a chapter to participate in mobile clinics, and that students don't have to participate in mobile clinics to be part of a chapter. There were definitely some interested students. We will see what happens!
Catch Biz on the tour by checking out the Mid-Atlantic region schedule page.
Oct. 11, 2012:
I went to visit Barry's MEDLIFE chapter in order to present to the current members. Around 15 people showed up. Juan's story really impacted the members and as soon as the presentation was over, they began sharing fundraising ideas. I expect a lot of good things to come from this chapter!
On the 8th, I went to Ft. Lauderdale to present at the new Nova South Eastern University MEDLIFE chapter. The president seems like a very passionate and hardworking student leader, and I'm very optimistic about working with them. She also informed me that their undergraduate program does not have any global volunteering organizations on campus, so MEDLIFE has potential to be a huge hit. Unfortunately, it was midterms week when I came, so only 4 people were able to show up to the presentation. However, since I will be in South Florida for a few days, I told her that I would come and give the presentation to a larger student body on Friday. Hoping for a good turnout!
Find out where Mauricio will be giving talks in Florida by checking out the Southeast region schedule page.
Our MEDLIFE Chapter at the Unversity of Georgia has come up with a ghoulishly fun idea for fundraising: a Zombie 5K! Runners will run for [their] lives on campus while being chased by "zombies" and two survivors will be awarded gift cards. If you happen to be around that area, you can be a part of it by clicking on their FB event photo below or going to https://www.facebook.com/events/276133812506072/.
This chapter is also known for doing a great job fundraising throughout the year. Last week, they held a scarf sale at their local farmer's market in Athens. Co-President Sarah Premji tells us, "we've been doing these scarf sales about once or twice a month for the past two years. We set up a tent here at the local market and spread the word about MEDLIFE. We sell scarves amongst other organizations and individuals at the market who sell things ranging from candles to organic food.
This week we sold 14 scarves and recruited two new members! This was a great way to get our name out in the Athens community. The next Athens Farmers Market Sale will be on October 20th."
Recent graduate of Iowa State Unviersity, Pedro Jose Gonzalez is our newest intern at MEDLIFE Ecuador in Riobamba. He's completed one out of the six months he'll be working with us, and so far he's helped build sanitation projects in rural communities, followed-up with patients and helped get things in order for future Mobile Clinics. Get to know more about the Puerto Rican native and what he's gained from his experience so far:
Tell us a bit about yourself:
My name is Pedro but everyone calls me PJ. I'm 23 years old and I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Chemistry. I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and moved to the states two years ago when I transferred from the University of Puerto Rico.
How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?
I started getting involved with MEDLIFE back at ISU. Last year, the chapter president introduced me to it and asked me to join their cause -- I'm glad I did!
What was your first impression of Riobamba?
I was surprised at how similar Riobamba is to Puerto Rico. It hasn't been difficult getting adjusted. One thing that shocked me was the poverty in the communities surrounding Riobamba. I was never exposed to such a thing. It's sad to see how some can't even manage to pay for a piece of bread that's less than 50 cents and how their health is deteriorating. People in these communities are not familiar with the health care system in Ecuador and suffer under the worst conditions. Even though it was a depressing scenario, I'm delighted by their humility and ability to keep a smile on their faces. They've taught me to value the small things in life.
What do you like most about being an intern?
Everyday is different -- you never know what you will face. Also, I like that my job is not limited to one specific task or environment. I can work in the office or accompany a patient to the hospital or visit rural communities. Working at schools is really inspiring because the kids love to see you and interact with you. The MEDLIFE staff in Ecuador is simply AMAZING; there is no other word to describe them. They know how to work together as a team to get the best results and most important they make me feel at home.
Tell us an anecdote from your experience with MEDLIFE thus far:
Something that has stuck in my mind is the time I went to visit an old MEDLIFE patient named Darwin for an interview. When MEDLIFE was first established, he was their first patient to receive a life-saving heart surgery. It was fulfilling watching this kid have a normal life thanks to this organization; and he was so openly grateful. He even kept the teddy bear that Co-founder of MEDLIFE Juan Camilo Vanegas brought him five years ago. He carried the bear with him during the whole interview; he was so eager to show it to us and how much it meant to him. That's when I truly realized how important these types of organizations are in countries like Ecuador.
How do you think the internship will help you with your future plans / career?
I have always thought that in order to be a successful and compassionate doctor, one should have a better view of the world and understand not only the problems affecting their countries but also countries around the world. MEDLIFE has showed me the important things in life and how I can work to better society. Thanks to this organization, I consider myself a more wordly person with a better perspective of current health problems.
Another successful week of the One Billion+ Campaign Tour has come to a close and we are strongly urging all of our student chapters to make their best effort to fundraise for our Wawa Wasi Day Care Center Project this month. We've also added an additional presenter to the mix -- Mauricio Parra, our former summer intern, has taken over Florida on behalf of MEDLIFE! Check out how he and the rest of the crew are doing on each of their legs of the tour below:
Oct. 4th, 2012:
"Today I met with UF's MEDLIFE executive board where I hosted a small workshop to help them during their transition into becoming a strong and established chapter in Florida. Within this workshop, I gave them a long overview of the organization, reiterating to them our mission by using examples from all of our patient follow-ups. Afterwards, we analyzed their plans for the year, focusing mainly on how they have gone about promoting the organization, and I provided them with helpful tips that have worked with my chapter. Our meeting ended up lasting over two hours, and I feel that we managed to accomplish a lot in preparation for their actual General Body Meeting with Juan at the end of the tour. All of the officers seemed to be very eager to get the club going, and I told them that we will be there with them every step of the way! Now, I’m on my way to my presentation in Orlando for UCF!"
Next week, Mauricio will be travelling to Miami. Check out the Southeast region tour schedule page to find out where he'll be speaking.
Oct. 4, 2012:
"The presentation at Cornell went very well, with a mixture of new students and established MEDLIFE members showing up. Most of the students who attended were interested in signing up for a Mobile Clinic this January, and all seemed interested to learn about the patients and projects we are currently overseeing in Lima. I met a few students on the Cornell executive board, and they assisted in answering new students' questions about our work on Latin America. Overall, it was great to see enthusiastic students who want to get involved and make a difference! "
Next week, Biz will be travelling to New Jersey! Find out where she's headed by checking the Mid Atlantic tour schedule page.
Oct. 1, 2012:
"San Luis Obispo, most commonly referred to as SLO, recently was named as the happiest city in the country, and we weren't disappointed -- it is a great little city! Despite not having a talk arranged when the tour started the Cal Poly e-board quickly pulled together a meeting in their library. We met with probably around 10-15 students there. They have participated in multiple clinics so far and are really excited to grow their chapter even more. They were accepted as an official school chapter at the end of last year so in many ways they are just starting to get formalized. We're happy to be helping them along their way, they seem like a promising group."
Next week, Nick will be travelling throughout southern California! Find out where he'll be stopping by checking the California tour schedule page.
Oct. 5, 2012:
"This week has been exceptionally awesome. Binghamton had a phenomenal turnout -- great job Danielle. Pitt's campus is beautiful and Lauren gave me a great tour. Ross and Rachel are ideal student leaders, not to mention should probably end up together if they are dedicated Friends fans, such as myself. Penn State chapter is destined for great things. University of Miami is full of great people. I especially want to thank Taylor and Chris for all their help with getting my car out of trouble and putting me up in the nice hotel. I can't wait to see what the rest of the tour brings!"
Next week, Sean will be heading to different states in the Midwest! Find out where he'll be stopping by checking the Midwest tour schedule page.
Oct. 3, 2012:
"I'm in North Carolina and the weather is really beautiful. Going to UNC was awesome. I met with Maili and Danielle, two students in their sophomore year that have never even been on a Mobile Clinic! Yet, when Maili heard about MEDLIFE, she felt inspired to bring it to UNC and recruited her high school friend, and fellow UNC classmate, Danielle, to help her. Together, they have taken the initiative to build a chapter from scratch at UNC. The 1B+ Campaign stop at their school doubled-up as the first introductory meeting. There was a great turn out and the chapter is well on its way to a strong start!"
Rachel Goldberg came to us fresh out of the University of Virgina to intern with the Communications dept. of MEDLIFE in Lima, Peru for a full year. Now, after her first month on the job, she writes about her experience working in the field with our patient follow-up coordinator, Meri Lecaros:
When I came to Lima to start my year with MEDLIFE, I knew I would be dealing with a level of poverty that I had never seen before. But knowing something theoretically and experiencing it firsthand are two very different things, and in the short month I've been living in Lima, I have already learned a lot. As the communications intern, I came here with no background in medicine, but I discovered there is a lot more to MEDLIFE's work. The problems we encounter every day in the field are part of a larger system of social and economic inequality that only gets worse over time. When you don't have the basic resources, infrastructure and education, healthcare becomes much more complicated. I am always struck by the empathy of the MEDLIFE staff as they work to respond to the whole problem.
For the past few weeks, I've been going with Meri, MEDLIFE's field nurse, to visit a patient named Eloy, an eight-year-old who was born with a heart problem that limits the flow of oxygen through his body and gives his skin a bluish tint. He needs an expensive operation that could save his life, but as I discovered when I visited, that isn't his only problem. To reach his home, we first had to take a cramped combi, a small public transportation van, from the edge of town up into the hills until the bus couldn't go any further, then climb up a steep and slippery dirt road until we reached another hill that looked like a pile of rocks. Eloy's house was perched on top. His mother, Betsy, came out to greet us, picking her way through the rocks as Eloy followed, stopping every so often to sit down and catch his breath. Thankfully, MEDLIFE is now working on a new staircase project next to his house.
After noticing that Eloy was small for his age, Meri has been visiting each week with a bag full of nutritious food. But she wanted to find a more sustainable solution, something that would allow Betsy to provide for her children even when she wasn't around. So I went with her as she talked to the president of the local comedor, or community kitchen, and worked out a deal: Betsy could help prepare food there, and in exchange take home meals for her and her children. As soon as it was agreed, Meri walked up to Betsy's house to tell her to bring her pots and pans and get to work. We watched as Eloy, a quiet kid and a picky eater, sat down and devoured the menu of the day.
As Meri said, "It feels good to know that we accomplished something today that will continue even if we leave some day." I hope that I too will be able to make some kind of lasting change this year, however small it may be.
During his senior year at Florida State University in 2011, Mauricio Parra helped create his school's first MEDLIFE chapter and soon led over 25 students on a Mobile Clinic in Tena, Ecuador. Now, after a two-month stint interning this summer 2012 at MEDLIFE in Lima, Peru, Mauricio has taken on the important role of personally delivering presentations throughout the state of Florida on the One Billion+ Campaign Tour. Starting with his first talk at the University of Florida tomorrow, you can catch him along the way by checking his tour schedule page HERE. Get to know the Colombian native turned MEDLIFE leader in his interview below:
What strategies did you use in order to be successful in recruiting Mobile Clinic participants and with your "Be The One" campaign?
In order to attract people to our club, I took some time to compare MEDLIFE to the other international volunteering organizations offered at our school to find distinctions that set us apart. Upon my research, I found that the effectiveness of medical missions and aid/relief organizations has become a hot topic of debate in recent years. By emphasizing on unique aspects, such as how we operate year-round, work closely with local doctors, and maintain patient follow-up care, I ensured that students on our campus understood MEDLIFE's mission to promote long-term sustainability and culturally sensitive care.
With the help of my dedicated student officers, we spoke at various club meetings, posted flyers throughout our campus, chalked sidewalks in popular areas, and notified numerous advisors to send out informational emails.
Did you receive support with the "Be the One" campaign? Who helped you, or what tools were helpful?
The "Be the One" campaign was a success at FSU due to the joint effort of all of the founding officers. Through our collaborative work, we successfully promoted MEDLIFE among our student body to make it the strong, established chapter it is today. Although we started from scratch, we still managed to host monthly meetings, socials, and fundraisers. Our hard work and determination to help others in need paid off when we managed to send over 25 committed students on our first mobile clinic to Tena, Ecuador during our spring break of 2011.
Describe a memorable moment from your Mobile Clinic experience.
After attending a clinic in Ecuador and leading two others in Peru as an intern, what I found to be most memorable were the many instances of finding people who still used traditional, or indigenous, medicine. In both countries, I interacted with several locals who held strict beliefs of solely curing themselves through natural remedies, such as using leaves and roots from certain plants. During the clinic weeks there were multiple occasions where patients came in with injured limbs wrapped in various plants, and upon closer inspection, were found to be severely harmed and infected due to lack of proper medical attention.
While there is a fine boundary that we must respect when dealing with various cultural traditions, health care is one of the most pressing issues that desperately needs a social reform. People may not always get the necessary or proper treatment because more often than not, those living in rural communities and urban slums simply lack the education about modern medicine. This ultimately may lead to debilitating and chronic health complications that could easily be prevented or cured.
Why are you a MEDLIFE leader?
Having been raised in South America, I have been exposed to what it is like to live in a developing country since a very young age. Now that I am an adult, I have had time to reflect back on these experiences, and I have found myself constantly wondering how I can help change things for those who are still stuck in these perpetual cycles of poverty. Once I discovered that this organization held similar views to mine, I knew that I wanted to be an integral part of it. I became a leader because MEDLIFE presented me with the opportunity to not only help the cause, but actually have an influence in the ways that we go about providing it.
What has been the most helpful resource for you as a student leader?
Aside from having the support of the executive board, I have found the power of networking with other student leaders to be the most helpful resource. Whether it was to open up new opportunities for our club, or just acting as an outlet to brainstorm different ideas, meeting with various people has been a crucial factor in creating more awareness of this organization.
What advice would you give to students who would like to do the Be The One campaign or be a MEDLIFE leader?
While sending 20+ students on a Mobile Clinic may sound like a difficult task, my chapter at FSU (along with several other ones across the nation) has clearly proven that it can be done! All it takes is proper planning and dedication. The best advice I can give is to have a good rapport with the rest of your officers, keep constant communication with your SAB Leaders, and freely accept as much creativity as possible when planning events and fundraisers.
Although being a MEDLIFE leader will feel overwhelming at times, keep in mind that everything you are trying to accomplish will have a tremendous impact on the lives of hundreds of people. Once all is said is done, seeing the appreciation from not only the patients in the clinics, but the classmates that you brought with you, gives you one of the most rewarding feelings one can ever hope to experience.
This week kicks off our One Billion+ Campaign Tour across the United States and Canada! Read below for some quick journal entries on the road from our four presenters including Director of MEDLIFE, Nick Ellis, Co-Founder Juan Vanegas, and year-round interns Sean White and Biz Shenk:
Sept. 26, 2012:
"I Flew into San Francisco today and met with the UC Berkeley chapter. The presentation went well and then I met up with their executive board and discussed the possibility of their chapter eventually becoming a regional center for MEDLIFE in the future; they are very excited about it. I also talked to them about how it would be great to get more people involved. They also shared with me about their prerequisites for students wanting to go abroad on a Mobile Clinic -- there are classes that they require their participants to take before they go so that they are better prepared and effective for their trip. This sounds like an interesting idea that we could share with other chapters. It was a great day in Berkeley."
View Nick's photos from Berkeley, CA by clicking HERE
Next week, Nick will be travelling all over southern California, from San Luis Obispo down to Riverside. Check out the California tour schedule page to find out where he'll be exactly.
Sept. 27, 2012:
"Today I headed out to Virginia Commonwealth University for a presentation at 3:30 PM. The talk was at a big lecture hall; about 20 people showed up and it went really, really well. I was able to talk to students and their pre-health advisor for a while after the presentation and then a couple of the officers asked me if they could take me on a tour of their campus. They were incredibly hospitable; they even insisted on buying me dinner! Most importantly, I got to talk to them a lot about what their monthly goals should be, what the main themes are that they should be covering at every meeting and about sending students on Mobile Clinics via the 50:50 Campaign. Overall, it was a very positive day!"
View Juan's photos from Virginia by clicking HERE
Next week, Juan will be travelling to North Carolina and Maine! Find out where he'll be stopping by checking the Southeast region tour schedule page.
Sept. 26, 2012:
"Today I met with Mrs. Gauthier at Grand Blanc High School. She is excited about setting up a high school Chapter at GBHS. Several of her students have been looking for an international clinical experience and it seems like MEDLIFE will fit that need well. Expanding MEDLIFE to high schools is a new venture for us, with our first group of highschoolers coming in November to Lima -- this should be fun and interesting. After the presentation, I hit the road for Toronto. Now I'm here safe and sound and getting prepared for tomorrow's talks at York and University of Toronto."
Next week, Sean will be travelling to Pennsylvania and Ohio! Find out where he'll be stopping by checking the Midwest region tour schedule page.
Sept. 27, 2012:
"Headed to Wellesley College around 11:30 AM to meet up with Nikita, a junior majoring in psychology and biology. The presentation went incredibly well, with about 20 or so students showing up. All were very attentive and asked questions throughout the presentation. At the end, everyone even stayed to ask more questions regarding the Mobile Clinics and how to get involved."
View more of Biz's photos from Mass by clicking HERE
This weekend, Biz will be heading to Rhode Island and Connecticut! Find out where she'll be stopping by checking the Northeast region tour schedule page.
Over the past four years, Dan Jenkins has participated in a total of six MEDLIFE Mobile Clinics in two countries; Peru and Ecuador. In January of this year, we pulled Dan aside during a Clinic in Pamplona Alta for a short interview about what motivates him to keep coming back. Click below to watch the video and see what he had to say: