As an organization, we spent a lot of time discussing a high school program before we decided that it was something we wanted to offer. We put a lot of thought into the structure, the bones of the program and what we would and would not include as part of traveling with FIMRC.
Why? We wanted to make sure that if we have a high school program, we could stand behind the program and be confident in what we are doing.
Why? There are a lot of different volunteer opportunities on the market today, and to be honest, a lot of them have different philosophies about development, volunteering and responsible impact than we do. So if we were going to make this something that we do, we wanted to make sure our sites are equipped for high schoolers and that we can offer an exciting view into international medicine, public health exposure, as well as a good dose of fun to go with it.
What does that mean? It means that we care about our communities and the impact of our volunteer program. We already spend a LOT of time talking about how volunteers incorporate into our ongoing operations and ways in which they can contribute to the communities' long-term growth goals (which are also our goals). If we were going to insert in a new program that includes younger volunteers, we had to think a lot about how they would spend their time, if they would be able to enhance our work, and how it would impact the volunteer as well. We do not believe in doing a program just because, so we had to look at all aspects to do it responsibly.
What did we decide? We decided that we have a lot to offer to high schoolers, and that our communities have a lot to gain from their participation.
What exactly does that mean? It means the following: we know that at younger and younger ages, individuals want to get involved with international experiences. They want exposure to health care, or international volunteering, or language immersion. We also know that there are a lot of programs out there that integrate high schoolers in a way that is not responsible for the community. A one sided exchange is common in the world of volunteering, and we aren't interested in that - we want to provide the opportunity to be exposed to international medicine, global health, and development in a responsible and fun manner.
For us, it meant looking at our traditional volunteer program and changing it up for the differences of high schoolers vs. undergraduates, graduate students, medical professionals, or other individuals passionate about giving back. It also meant that there is an immense opportunity for volunteer work that we don't do with other programs. For example, we have included hands-on projects that other groups don't get to do. Our local staff and communities identified infrastructure needs and we incorporated those into the schedules. It also meant being clear about what will not happen when on-site: just because you are in the international setting does not give you permission to do things that would not be acceptable in the US. We follow the guidelines of the Association of American Medical Colleges for all volunteer trips, but make sure that it's especially apparent with our high schoolers. The guidelines provided are so important, both for the safety of the patient as well as the volunteer. So we take that seriously in our high school program.
We couldn't forget about fun either, so while other programs allow for time to explore the incredible countries where we work, we incorporated those excursions into this program. High schoolers will have the opportunity to explore in a supervised fashion, which allows parents to feel comfortable sending their kids with us as well.
These are, of course, only a few of the considerations that took place behind the scenes before launching our high school program, but they were some of the most important. We take our commitment to our communities and volunteers seriously, and the launch of the teen program is a new dimension to the same high quality work being done daily.
To learn more about the details of the program, visit our Student Adventures Program page. There, you can find detailed information including locations, sample itineraries, cost, contact information to sign up, and more.