September 9, 2014 9:33 am

CHAPTER SPOTLIGHT: UPR MAYAGUEZ

Written by Rosali Vela

At the beginning of this school year, The University of Puerto Rico organized a meeting for all those interested in volunteering with MEDLIFE at their university. They had an incredibly impressive turnout; over 300 students turned up to learn more about the work MEDLIFE does! The UPRM MEDLIFE chapter's hard work and great organizational skills make them our New Chapter of the Year award winners! A big congratulations and thank you goes to them for their dedication to MEDLIFE. Here is an interview with the presidents of the chapter which includes advice on how to recruit lots of members and run a successful MEDLIFE chapter.

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When and how did your chapter begin?

 The MEDLIFE-UPRM Chapter was founded by Eduard H. Valdes and Paola C. Diaz last year, after attending a Mobile Clinic in Tena, Ecuador. Most of the 2014-2015 Executive Board members met in January 2014, at our first Mobile Clinic in Riobamba, Ecuador. Up to date, the UPR-MAYAGÜEZ MEDLIFE Chapter counts with 93 active members from all faculties and has officially participated in two Mobile Clinics: one in Riobamba, Ecuador and the other one in Lima, Perú.  Our main mission is to provide activities that enhance students' skills in leadership, teamwork and community service. For this year, our next destination is Tena, Ecuador.

What strategies did you use to promote MEDLIFE on campus? 

We love to incorporate technology in everything we do. So, we have mainly promoted our activities through social networks. We sent mass-email recruitment, and used our official Facebook and Instagram pages to our advantage. The Facebook Pages App is really useful; it allows us to share information and photos easily. Also, the page makes use of statistics algorithms that let us know how many people have seen the posts. In addition, our Social Media and Advertising Officer is also a member of Her Campus- UPR Mayaguez, so she has written various articles about MEDLIFE UPRM. We also participated in student fairs, posted flyers around the campus, and even made brochures.

What system do you use to recruit new members? What process does a new member go through once part of the chapter?

As part of our technological innovations we introduced online attendance lists.  Instead of going through the hassle of passing a list through a classroom that has more than 300 people, we made a live form on our Google drive. The form is similar to the ones used for surveys but more accessible.  The students are able to access the form from their smartphones by scanning a QR code displayed on our power point presentation.  As the students submit the form the results are posted on a spreadsheet on our drive.  This reduces the margin of error and allows us to save time as we can now skip the process of copying all the names and emails to a computer. Not to mention that we are also saving trees in the process by not having to print a bunch of papers to be used as lists for every meeting. 

On the topic of saving trees, once the students are done submitting their responses the list can be organized in alphabetical order, field of study or how they became aware of the chapter's meeting.  By doing this we were reassured that we could concentrate more on online promotions since most of the students replied that they were informed of the meeting by a social network. Rather than going through campus posting flyers or any type of advertisement that requires the use of paper, we put our efforts into spreading the word in the social networks and email newsletters.   

Effortlessly sending emails is just another advantage of our attendance list form. Emails can be copied directly from the spreadsheet into the newsletter mailing list. This eliminates the process of adding email addresses one by one to the mailing list.

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What activities do you organize to keep your members interested throughout the year? 

FUNDRAISERS: Our team has ramped up fundraising efforts organizing activities, such as cake and pizza sales.

CHAPTER FUND: We decided to create the “Chapter Fund” to help relieve the cost for the students who have actively participated in 90% of our activities and cannot afford the trip. This fund has rewarded the dedicated students who have put in the hard work towards our MEDLIFE chapter.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: As community service, we created the “Patch Adams” activity. Members from our chapter volunteer and dress as clowns in an effort to bring humor to orphans, patients and other people. We also created an event called “Vísteme para mi fiesta”, where we collect donated prom dresses and deliver them to selected girls who cannot afford the expenses. 

EDUCATION: We also added “Triage Training” to our list of activities. The students learn basic medical techniques. They practice how to measure vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature; the students also learn how to use the stethoscope and perform a heart auscultation. 

MEDLIFE WEEK: A whole week dedicated to MED's activities: Medicine, Education and Development. We end the week with a White Coat Ceremony to formally initiate all our new members. 

What are your goals as a chapter for this academic year (2014-2015)?

We will continue with our previous activities, but we would also like to accomplish these new goals:

  • Organize a Health Fair and offer free basic healthcare services to all faculty members of our university. 
  • Expand our interdisciplinary membership base.
  • Offer more MED's activities: Medicine, Education and Development.
  • Organize local Mobile Clinics and offer hands-on experience to train our students, and provide a space where they can learn prior to the Mobile Clinic.

 

This week's volunteers brought us some surprises! Among all the 50:50 campaigns, over $4500 were raised for the MEDLIFE General Fund! Read below about two of the most outstanding campaigns to learn how they fundraised for the campaign and hear about their experience in Lima so far. Find out more about the 50:50 campaign here.

steph-5050-2014Name: Stephanie Wizner
Amount raised: $3530

What made you decide to do the 50:50 campaign? The campaign gave me a great platform through which I could pay for the volunteer trip, as well as raise some money for the different stair projects in Lima. I sent an e-mail with the staircase pictures showing potential donors how far their money could stretch, and where it was going exactly.

How did you raise the money for your campaign? A lot of it I have to thank my co-workersI'm not in school anymore, which means I'm not hustling poor students for donations. I started working in a corporate environment early this year. Fundraising in an office worked to my advantage since the vast majority of my co-workers were willing to donate to an aid trip across the world. Most of my work colleagues were middle-aged with families. A vast majority of my colleagues were eager to help fund my trip since they were not in the position to implement change physically. However, they could help financially by donating towards the 50:50 campaign as well as sending me out to Lima. My mother was a huge help too!

Why would you recommend that volunteers participate in the 50:50 campaign? When you're asking for donations, it's a lot easier to present a campaign to potential donators where they know where the money is going.

What is your favorite part about the Mobile Clinic so far? Definitely the children! Talking to the kids on clinic has given me an insight into their day-to-day lives. They all have so much hope, and aspire to be doctors, lawyers, veterinarians and chefs. They all had amazing dreams, which gives me real hope for their futures.

What were your impressions of Lima? It´s very diverse, some areas seem very Westernized like New York city; really up and coming. However, there are areas that I've experienced on Mobile Clinic that you would never normally see as a tourist in Lima, which has given me a whole new perspective on this economically diverse city.


martina-5050-2014Name: Martina L'Abbate
Amount raised: $2565

How did you first hear about MEDLIFE? I heard about MEDLIFE through my sister who studied at Cornell and plans on becoming a doctor, and she heard about the mobile clinic trip while at school.  She went to Ecuador, loved it, and came back with all these awesome stories, and since I want to be a physician assistant, I thought it would be a great life-changing experience, so I chose to go to Peru.

What made you decide to do the 50:50 campaign? If I was going to come to Peru, I figured that I would go all out since MEDLIFE needs the money to fund all of its programs.  Simply asking for five dollars from everyone really raised a lot of money not only for me,but for MEDLIFE as well, and I feel pretty good about that.

How did you raise the money for your campaign? I work at gymnastics gym, so I put up a flyer, and it ended up attracting a lot of the kids who kept showing their parents, "Mom, look what she's going to do!". Most of the money came from family members, my dad's boss, and others through word of mouth.

Why would you recommend that students participate in the 50:50 campaign? In America, we don't realize how good we have it.  My first day here I looked at the conditions that some of these communities are in and I almost was crying because back home I complain about trivial things like slow Wifi. We can donate so much without having to financially drain ourselves, and I think that we should give what we can when we have it.

Our chapter at Wayne State University founded just last October fundraised $2000 towards building a Wawa Wasi day care center roof in Lima, Peru! Read our Q&A below on their motivations for fundraising and hopes for this project:

What it is that motivated your chapter to fundraise for a MEDLIFE project?

The main factor that motivated us to fundraise for a MEDLIFE project was to have a specific goal that we could tell our chapter. This is Wayne State's first year as a MEDLIFE chapter and it is crucial to get as many people together for support. One idea that our e-board decided on was to fund a specific MEDLIFE project so that our members would have a concrete idea of what our money was going towards and they would be more motivated to work toward our goal. This way, we developed a strong member pool in our first year and have set a firm foundation for the years to come.

Why did you choose this particular project to support?

The main reason to fundraise for Wawa Wasi was because we are partnered with a local organization, Woodbridge Community Youth Center. They focus on providing a safe, studious, and nutritious environment for the youth of Detroit during after school hours, when their parents are still at work. Instead of the children spending time at home or in their neighborhoods unsupervised and getting influenced by the negative environment that surrounds them, the organization provides them a positive environment with volunteer tutors to help the children with school work. Similarly, Wawawasi provides a safe and nutritious environment to the children of Peru so the mothers can go out and continue their education or work and seeing the impact Woodbridge has on the Detroit Community, we wanted to fundraise for the similar cause to create a large impact on their community.

How did you fundraise for the project?

We fundraised for this project with several different small events: bake sales (including samosas!), friendship bracelet sales, change wars, Donors Play, and henna tattoos. Also, our Masquerade dance fundraised about $440 that went directly to the fundraiser; our remarkable e-board worked hard on every fundraising event and donated a lot of their time and money so everything we made during the fundraisers was 100% profit. We fundraised for a total of about six months and reached our goal of $2000 on point!

What do you hope to see come out of this project?

We hope that more mothers are able to feel relieved that their children are in a safe and nutritious environment, and they take advantage of the opportunity to educate themselves or find a job so they can provide additional income to the household. In addition to the extra monetary flow through the families, we believe that once the children are in an environment that can give them the resources and tools they need, they can build their future on the pillars of success. Through this project, we hope to see a sustainable impact in the lives of the families living in the area.

Has your chapter participated on a Mobile Clinic before?

We have had three people from our chapter go on a Mobile Clinic, and one person will be tagging along with Michigan State during the May 5 Mobile Clinics. Of the three students who went, we had one go with the University of Michigan chapter to Ecuador in December, and the other two students went to Lima, Peru in March.

Kourtney Wathen is a student from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington who raised $2,585 for her trip to Riobamba, Ecuador through the 50:50 campaign this past spring. Read below to learn about how she fundraised for the campaign and her experience in Riobamba, and read more about the 50:50 campaign here.

How did you first hear about MEDLIFE?
We had a speaker come and talk to us and show us a presentation. We didn't have a chapter yet, but after that talk, we started a chapter during my freshman year.kourtneywathen
What made you decide to do the 50:50 campaign?
I decided to do the 50:50 campaign after discussing the trip with my parents. They wanted to help, but they did not want to pay entirely out of their own pocket, and they felt that I was responsible enough to figure out my own financial endeavors. I agreed with them totally, but I wasn't sure how I was going to do it on my own. Being a full-time student with no job, it can be difficult to fund mission trips like the MEDLIFE Mobile Clinics.

How did you raise the money for your campaign?
I started by composing a letter, roughly one page long, about my mission, and I explained the goals of MEDLIFE as an organization. I elaborated on the purpose of the 50:50 campaign, and I concluded with the link to my page. Next, I printed out these letters and addressed them to local businesses in my home town and hand-delivered them. I got way more responses than I thought I ever would. I also posted my link almost every other day on my social networking sites, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I kept up the publicity on my trip and always included a little fact or a story to go along with my post to keep people interested. I also sent out an email to all of my friends and family with a summarized version of the initial letter that I wrote. I made a presentation in my church and asked for their support. Overall, I was overwhelmed by the number of people that donated to my mission trip. I come from a very loving, close-knit community, and for that, I am beyond grateful.

Why would you recommend that students participate in the 50:50 campaign?
I would recommend that students participate in the program because it is a great way to raise money for MEDLIFE as an organization. It really opens up the possibility for a lot of students to go if they put in the work for it. I know there are many students that are just like me that might need help funding volunteer trips like this, and the campaign makes it possible.

What was your favorite part about the Mobile Clinic?
The people were what made my Mobile Clinic experience memorable. In terms of stations, I really enjoyed inscriptions because I really got to talk to the people. I am a Spanish major, so I got to use all of my Spanish to really connect and interact with the people.  During my time at the toothbrush station, I met a young girl and we talked one on one for several minutes. She was laughing and was just so happy to be there; I felt we really connected.

What were your impressions of Riobamba?
I really enjoyed Riobamba. It was an unforgettable, eye-opening experience. Seeing the differences in culture, poverty, and even food was really interesting. It baffles me that some communities live in such desolate conditions, and it has led me to think about and be thankful for what I have, and for being able to go on that mission to Ecuador in the first place.

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Here at MEDLIFE, we're always proud to see our newest chapters hosting events and delivering Medicine Education and Development to their local communities. Our chapter at the University of Nevada, Reno was founded just last semester in September 2013. Since its founding, the chapter has hosted various events and fundraisers and sent a group of students to a Mobile Clinic in Lima, Peru in January. Last week, a group of 18 students from MEDLIFE Nevada and the American Medical Student Association participated in an event with Truckee Meadows Habitat for Humanity to help construct homes in that community. We interviewed Lucia Sanchez about the event, co-founder and president of her chapter who has participated in multiple clinics herself and has always been a great support to our organization. Read more about the chapter's service event below:

Why did you decide to host this particular community service event?
We decided to host this community service event with Habitat for Humanity because this organization gave our members the opportunity to give back to individuals of low income by providing development through the construction of houses. Their work is analogous to the development projects that MEDLIFE hosts when volunteers participate in mobile clinics.
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Why did you think it was important?
Truckee Meadows Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit, volunteer based organization that helps provide low income families the opportunity to seek homeownership in the Truckee Meadows community since 1991. As a chapter of MEDLIFE, our mission is to provide MEDs (Medicine, Education, and Development) to communities around the world and in our very own community. As such, it is important for our chapter to give back to help touch the lives of those who deserve a place to live.

How did you get involved with Habitat for Humanity?
Our mobile clinic officer who focuses on community relations, Jake Eisert, contacted Habitat for Humanity and set a date for which we are able to volunteer.

Do you plan on doing this event in the future?
Yes, our members had a great time working with this organization and it was amazing to see the work that volunteers put in in order to create something that benefits so many people. Towards the end of our workday, the construction manager showed us a house that was completed 100% by the work put in by volunteers and it was absolutely breathtaking to see what the dedication of a group of individuals can do for a community.

What differences did you find working on this project in your local community compared to your project abroad with MEDLIFE?
The difference between working this project and the project with MEDLIFE is that we took part in a project that we did not necessarily see from start to finish like a stair project in Pamplona Alta. However, even though we did not take part of the whole process here, we still got the same feeling of excitement and joy knowing that what we made will help improve the lives of others. Whether it was plastering or putting up drywall, carrying buckets of cement or painting a mural what you are doing means so much more than you probably realize. That the smile on someone's face means that you have impacted them forever.

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