Holding true to our mission, our student chapters are constantly striving to bring Medicine, Education and Development to their own communities through various service events and projects. At our chapter at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico -- San German, students decided to give their part by spending a full day wandering around the streets of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico on a mission to feed the homeless.

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The idea for the project was initially thought out and planned for in one executive-board meeting. A few days later, the team of 15 students headed off to the streets of Mayagüez to hand out sandwiches to the homeless. In total, the chapter gave out 35 breakfast bags, which contained sandwiches, fruit baskets and water. 


“As we met them, we started to talk to some of them and they shared their stories with us,” said Derecks Negron Torres, Fundraising Chief of the chapter. “It was an amazing experience."

The chapter decided to carry out this event because they noted the large number of homeless people living in their community. This project was a way for the chapter to ease some of their daily struggles.

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“Each and every one of us is familiar with the large amount of homeless people in the streets of Mayagüez,” said Gladimar Rodriguez, chapter President.  “We now have a group of students who are so motivated to serve in our community, so when the time came for organizing charitable activities, this was the first idea."

The chapter will continue carrying out this event on an ongoing basis. Keep holding true to our mission and we look forward to your continued involvement in our organization!

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At our Mobile Clinics, we always encourage our student volunteers to bring extras from home that are not in use -- clothes, books and other similar materials. At our last Mobile Clinic in Riobamba, Ecuador two of our chapters went above and beyond and brought hundreds of pairs of shoes to give todifferent communities in the area.

For weeks before their arrival to Riobamba, students from the University of Puerto Rico -- Mayagüez and the University of Puerto Rico -- Rio Piedrasunderwent muchplanning and collaborationin order to successfully bring shoes to communities in Ecuador.

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The idea to bring shoes to Mobile Clinics came originally from a student at Cornell University, Lorena Montalvo. After participating in two different MEDLIFE Clinics, she noticed a particular need for shoes in the various communities that we serve, especially for the children. After hearing about her idea, the two chapters in Puerto Rico decided to adopt the project and bring shoes to the communities at their trip destination of Riobamba, Ecuador, thus fulfilling the missions of the two organizations involved: MEDLIFE and Footprints, a new organization founded at Cornell University.

Thanks to various donations and the collaboration with the Boy Scouts of America in Puerto Rico, who held a Jamboree for the cause, the chapters were able to collect a total of 452 pairs of shoes to distribute among community members. The student volunteers were greeted with smiling faces from children and adults alike as they received their new pairs of shoes.
“It was any amazing experience seeing how the kids immediately put the shoes on once they received them, excited for their new gift,” said Eduard Valdes,President of Mobile Clinicsfor UPR - Mayaguez. “It made me reconsider the importance we place on material goods, something that media expertly infuses into people's minds as a necessity."

Congratulations to UPR - Mayaguez and UPR - Rio Piedras for successfully carrying out this amazing project, and we look forward to your future involvement and achievements with MEDLIFE!

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Here at MEDLIFE, we encourage our student chapters to carry out our mission of delivering Medicine, Education and Development not only internationally, but also in their local communities through various community service events. With this in mind, our chapter at the University of Central Florida decided to host a local clinic in their community after seeing a need for a clinic and also to prepare for international clinics hosted by MEDLIFE.

After much planning, organization and support from local doctors and community members, our UCF chapter successfully carried out a full-day's clinic, treating 50 patients who ranged from a 5 month old infant to a grandmother in her 80s. Read our Q&A below with the Executive Board about their motivation for the project and how they plan to become more involved with MEDLIFE in the future.   

How did this idea come about?

We noted a need for a free clinic in the city of Kissimmee, Florida. Many uninsured people from Kissimmee take the buses up to Downtown Orlando to visit the free clinic called Shepherd's Hope. A typical bus ride to Orlando (with all the necessary transfers) takes about two to three hours. By the time patients arrive at the free clinic in Orlando, the clinic is often full and cannot accept more patients. Patients were being turned away frequently. Therefore, we knew that there is a need for such a clinic in Kissimmee. In addition, we also wanted to give our members an opportunity to experience a mobile clinic at a local level.

Why did you think it was important to host a local clinic?

We saw a need for a free clinic in the city of Kissimmee for the poor and uninsured population. In addition, we also thought that a local clinic is a good first step to prepare our members for international mobile clinics abroad with MEDLIFE.


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How did you recruit your doctors?

We began by sending letters that explained the goals of MEDLIFE and the local clinic, and visiting doctor's offices in the general Kissimmee area. The doctors who agreed to attend the clinic also invited their colleagues.

Are you planning to host more local clinics in the future?

At the present time, we would like to refocus our efforts on the goals of MEDLIFE USA and participate in our first ever international mobile clinic. However, due to the support of the Kissimmee Parks District and the response from our doctors and members, we are considering planning more local clinics in the future. This local clinic may become an annual event every November. This endeavor is in the hands and at the discretion of the new executive board which is to be elected in March of this year. It is ultimately their decision to continue planning more local clinics.

What were some of the differences between this local clinic and the international mobile clinics?

Our president is the sole member of the executive board who has participated in a MEDLIFE mobile clinic previously. Our local clinic was designed and modeled on the international mobile clinics. The main differences in these clinics include US health mandates, prevalence of certain diagnoses, and cultural perspectives of healthcare.

As we consulted with doctors on the legal aspects of the clinic, we discovered that we cannot have a pharmacy station because US law prohibits the repackaging and redistribution of pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medications. For this reason, there was no pharmacy station in our clinic - we could only distribute vouchers or flyers for local pharmacies that already offered select free medications. We also did not provide specialist care, unlike the international mobile clinics.

The prevalence for various diagnoses was also different. Here in the US, obesity and diabetes are significant and prevalent public health issues - especially in areas where the population is impoverished or uninsured. In Ecuador and Peru, on the other hand, malnutrition and fungal infections are more common among the poor communities and pueblos jovenes. Finally, cultural perspectives also varied. In the US, birth control is more widely accepted than in traditionally Catholic nations such as Ecuador and Peru.


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Congratulations to MEDLIFE UCF for successfully carrying out this clinic and we look forward to your future involvement with MEDLIFE!

 

Written by Rosali Vela and translated by Ebony Bailey

Throughout these eight years in which MEDLIFE has worked with low-income communities in Latin America, we have always thought that the volunteers should be recognized for their hard work during the volunteer trip. With that in mind, we have dedicated ourselves to improving the conditions for our volunteers, starting with giving each participant a variety of materials that will help them after their experience in Latin America or Africa.

We know that a volunteer trip with MEDLIFE is more than simply a touristic trip. A trip with MEDLIFE is an experience that involves bringing help to communities that normally don't receive it; it is visibly improving the lives of hundreds of people in need by bringing medicine, education and development to them. Because of this, every volunteer will receive a participation certificate that recognizes his or her work and service during his or her trip.


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These participation certificates can be used on personal resumes, CVs or any other purpose that the student requires.

Apart from this, the volunteer trip folders contain materials such as brochures on how to stay involved with MEDLIFE, postcards, participation and destination stickers, among other materials.

50:50 campaign participants who raise more than $100 for the MEDLIFE fund ($200 overall) will receive an honorable mention, granting them a scrub and a special certificate that highlights the amount they raised for the organization. The 50:50 campaign rewards will vary based on the amount fundraised. Volunteers who raise more than $175 for MEDLIFE ($350 overall) will also be issued a special certificate and will receive an official hoodie that includes the MEDLIFE logo and a 50:50 reference logo. For more information the 50:50 campaign, click here.


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For all of the volunteers that come from universities where there is not yet a MEDLIFE chapter, we will give you an expansion folder. Essentially, it is the same folder that all of the volunteers receive. But it also contains instructions on how to start a new chapter, along with posters and a MEDLIFE banner to help you get the word out about your MEDLIFE chapter on campus. We are very happy to meet new students who have the passion and drive to start chapters in their universities.

These improvements are being applied little by little to the volunteer trips, and we are happy to have the opportunities to recognize all of our volunteers for taking action and involving themselves in changing the world.

The 50:50 Campaign is MEDLIFE's online fundraising tool that allows students to raise money towards their participation fees and travel grants. Stephanie Nava Guerra is a senior majoring in Biochemistry at Manhattan College, who raised more than $2000 for her trip to Tanzania. She has recently started a MEDLIFE chapter at her university, which you can follow here. Read below about Stephanie's experience with the 50:50 campaign:


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How did you hear about MEDLIFE?
One of my friends, Manny, from the University of Georgia, went on a trip to Tena, Ecuador. I saw his photos on Facebook and thought, “how cool!” I sent him a message asking him more about the trip and he sent me a link to MEDLIFE's website. I must have sent more than 100 emails about MEDLIFE to Amelia, the Associate Director of Student Affairs, but she was very helpful and answered all of my questions. I was originally going to participate in one of the clinics in Ecuador, but when I saw the announcement about a new trip to Tanzania, I knew I just had to go there. I signed up for the trip, without knowing a single soul, and travelled to Africa by myself, but it was all amazing and I would definitely do it all over again.

What made you decide to do the 50:50 campaign?
I'm a really big fan of fundraising in general, but especially if it's for a good cause. A trip and experience like this is not always offered to students, let alone one coming from a single parent household. As soon as I discussed my plans with my mom, and that the cost did not have to be all paid for by her, that there was a way for me to receive donations and work for the money. My mom said, "It would be easy to just submit the money for the participation fee." By doing the 50:50 campaign, I thoroughly went through the MEDLIFE website to be able to answer any questions that I would be encountered. As I read about the campaign, I learned that the money goes to more real causes like medicine, food and other supplies. This extra cause gave me more of an incentive to fundraise. It also allowed me to investigate more about what MEDLIFE is and spread the word about MEDLIFE.

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How did you fundraise?
I was very assertive with my fundraising efforts. In most cases of fundraising, you send out one email to everyone you know explaining your case, you get a few initial donations, and mostly everyone else forgets. In my case, I sent out an initial email explaining my cause and would send reminder emails multiple times a week. My mom, Marla was a great help: she and I sat down and made up a list of people I could ask to donate, and the list was always growing. My mom's boss, Nancy Lepre, was also very helpful. She sent out an email explaining my campaign to all of her friends and family and always checked up on my progress.

Would you recommend the 50:50 campaign to other students?
Yes! My motto for things like thisis “just do it.” While I was on the trip, I really saw where that money went -- upon arriving to Tanzania, they took us to the pharmacy to buy medicine with the fundraised money, to the local market to buy toothbrushes and the grocery store for the food. Because of my fundraising and the trip, I opened up a new chapter here at my school and now we're planning a trip to Riobamba, Ecuador. Now at our chapter we're encouraging students to fundraise as much as they can, whether it's $50 or $500, because at the end of the day it's all going to help a good cause.

What were your impressions of Tanzania?
It's absolutely beautiful! It really opened my eyes, it opened my mind and it opened my heart. All of the people there were really happy to see us and welcomed our help with open arms. It also made me realize that basic things such as running water are something that we take for granted here in the States. During the Mobile Clinic, we met a man who had walked several miles from another town to the clinic site just to get ibuprofen. That really put things in perspective for me.

What was your favorite part about the Mobile Clinic?
Definitely the people. When I was there I really tried to immerse myself in the language and the culture. I quickly became friends with Terry's assistant, Innocent Massawe, who is local to the area and taught me some Swahili. I also kept a book of Swahili phrases and always introduced myself in Swahili. Sometimes I would butcher the language, but the people were always happy that I was trying to word and would often correct me. You know, many people have this stereotype of Africa -- that everyone is starving and everyone is poor -- but there are poor people all over the world, not just Africa. So it was really interesting to get there and see all of those stereotypes from TV to be put into perspective. The kids laugh and smile like we laugh and smile. Because at the end of the day they're human beings like everyone else.

Anything else you would like to add?
I'd like to give a “shout out” to some of the people who heavily supported me inmy trip: Kathleen Rothschild, Robert Boyer, Manhattan College Faculty from the School of Science for all of their support, and lastly, Nancy Lepre for being a huge help in my campaign endeavors. I would also like to just give a big thanks to everyone who donated. Finally, I'd like to thank my mom, Marla Del Milagro Guerra Garza, and my sister, Kimberly Nava for making all of my goals and dreams come true.

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