Virtual Volunteers Share What It’s Like to Make a Global Impact From HomeJul 02, 2020
For the past few months, our Virtual Volunteer Programs have been creating opportunities to make a lasting impact on FIMRC’s sites and the communities we serve while volunteering from home. Since our virtual programs first started, we’ve had volunteers from all backgrounds join us, including nurse and physician volunteers, pharmacist volunteers, medical and nursing student volunteers, MPH candidates, undergraduates, and high school students. Our virtual volunteers make a direct impact on site and are learning about and participating in FIMRC programs, including how to diagnose treat, and prevent some of the greatest global issues of our time, such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, hypertension, malaria, anemia, malnutrition, maternal and child health, mental health, and many more. Our volunteers choose FIMRC because we offer a hands-on approach to public health and, even from home, volunteers can shadow clinic staff, engage in community outreach and education, support mobile clinic operations, and learn about grassroots, ethical medical volunteerism.
We’ve been thrilled with the enthusiasm and interest from our virtual volunteers and partners participating in our programs. And now we are happy to share some insights and feedback from some of our volunteers.
Read on to learn more about each virtual program and what some of our recent volunteers took away from their experiences.
This virtual version of our Summer International Health Fellowship (SIHF) gives virtual volunteers the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of global health and create a project that will be used at one of our sites around the world, all while volunteering from home.
“I wanted to pursue my passion for helping those in medically underserved areas while being at home. FIMRC's program provided this perfect outlet, inspiring me to sign up,” shared Ashwin Sritharan, an undergraduate student at Western University. “My biggest takeaway from this experience is how my views on global health were completely opened up to me, and how global health is far more than just distributing medicine. It involves proper integration into the culture you are trying to serve and to help solve key socioeconomic issues that are the real root causes of disease. This experience opened me up to the multi-faceted problems that those in resource-limited settings face and inspires me further to want to help those in need.”
Our virtual fellowship volunteers range from undergraduate students like Ashwin to MPH candidates and medical student volunteers. As Danielle Uibel, a FIMRC alum from Project Limon, Nicaragua who recently completed her MPH and plans to attend medical school this fall shares:
“I think understanding public health, global health, and cultural competency are huge parts of what makes a good doctor. We need doctors to be kind, caring, and empathetic, with a strong sense of morality and social justice. I hope that by continuing to learn more about global health I'm able to expand my perspectives and understand more about the social determinants of health and barriers that many patients face. I hope to be a doctor who advocates for my patients and for public health, and the only way to truly do that is to work with communities to understand their situations and their needs. And I feel like through this fellowship we are doing just that!”
And we help our volunteers gain that understanding through our virtual sessions, which include conversations with FIMRC field staff as well as opportunities to shadow our team in the field.
“From a medical student’s perspective, FIMRC offers great shadowing opportunities. We are provided insight into the common conditions in low resource settings and ways to provide treatment that involves the least amount of resources possible, yet does not compromise on patient care and health in the least,” said Jemima Capriati Stanley, a fifth-year medical student a Zhejiang University School of Medicine.
Volunteers can sign-up for 4-, 8-, or 12-week sessions to expand their knowledge about global health and learn about FIMRC’s work around the world. Fellows choose a regional area of focus (Latin America or Africa/Asia) and then develop a project that will have a direct impact on sites such as Oviya Ananthakrishnan’s project with our Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) group for Project Bududa, Uganda.
“Throughout my program, I learned a lot about the interdisciplinary nature of global health and the nuances of making visions of global health a reality. My favorite part of the program so far has been working on a project in Project Bududa. I am currently working on creating guidelines and resources for the OVC program and I am excited to see how far it goes and the impact it could have,” shared Oviya.
For high school volunteers who are just starting to explore a potential career in global health, our Virtual Global Health Leadership Training program provides a flexible and thorough introduction to global health through our 4-week summer program.
“This whole course has been so impactful for me, and so interesting to hear from FIMRC experts doing jobs I would love to pursue myself. I have loved hearing about the cultural aspects of different places and how to navigate providing these medical resources with a joint goal of not taking away or disrupting the culture. Additionally, learning about the commitment to sustainability. I think also getting to speak to these staff in charge of these projects, learning about thinking within cultural boundaries to help health problems for the greater good is fascinating,” shares Belle Shiffman, who recently completed the program.
Each week, students learn about different global health challenges, various global health career paths, and engage with FIMRC field staff to gain an understanding of our work on the ground. Students then take these lessons and apply them to different real-world scenarios at FIMRC project sites.
Healthcare professionals and other individuals or groups looking to use their time at home to make an impact have discovered both value and flexibility through our Virtual Global Health Volunteer Experience program. Based on modules focusing on one FIMRC site per week, these volunteers gain an introduction to global health while learning about FIMRC programs and the community. They also develop a project that will contribute to the overall sustainability of our project sites.
For example, Irene Chan, a registered nurse specializing in pediatrics created a virtual medical library for field staff at Project Alajuelita, Costa Rica. This amazing resource will help staff quickly diagnose and treat some of the most common conditions we see in our clinic.
And Jasmine Davda, a pharmacist with more than 14 years of experience developed a medication guide for FIMRC field staff at Project Bududa, Uganda.
"While I was looking forward to traveling to Uganda to participate in Project Bududa in person, I was able to get a more varied experience of two FIMRC sites in the two weeks that I participated in the program. I enjoyed my project, which was creating a medication guide for use at the clinic. This program helped me deepen my knowledge around global health challenges as well as social, economic, and cultural factors involved in addressing those challenges," Jasmine said.
We also offer our Virtual Global Health Experience program in Spanish for volunteers from native Spanish speaking regions. Jhan Carlos Manuel Fernandez Delgado participated in our program, volunteering a week at Project Restauracion, Dominican Republic, and creating a first aid manual for FIMRC Health Promoters.
"Jhan Carlos embodies what it means to be a FIMRC volunteer! He not only came up with an amazing project but became part of the FIMRC family by putting so much love and devotion into his project. The manual he created will be used in a community he has never been to, yet he gave his everything and applied all his skills to customize it for FIMRC and our beloved communities in the DR," said Field Operations Manager Dafne Calderón.
And the experience had just as strong of an impact on Jhan Carlos:
"I learned about a lot of different countries including Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic; five countries total! What I liked the most was learning about FIMRC's many different programs and sites around the world. I also really enjoyed my project. The Virtual Volunteer Program was very nice and educational too!"
Virtual Global Health Training
This customizable program is designed for universities, medical students, and others that want an in-depth and academic virtual program that will fit each partner’s specific needs. Participants will connect with healthcare professionals and FIMRC field staff while creating a project to support site operations.
For example, nursing students from Alma College recently completed a 4-week virtual program in which they spearheaded a range of impactful projects including developing a pamphlet for pregnant women for Project Huancayo, Peru; creating a breastfeeding education guide for health promoters at Project Restauración, Dominican Republic; and providing menstrual cup education alongside our partner, Saalt, at Project Alajuelita, Costa Rica. Each project is already making a difference at our sites.
“I have gained so much from this program even though we were across the world. I learned cultural facts and education about Latin American countries as well as clinical knowledge. I am thankful for this program,” said Alma nursing student Delin Kanitz.
Thank you to all of our virtual volunteers who have already made a huge impact this summer. And it’s not too late to sign up for our virtual volunteer programs! Sessions are available through summer and fall 2020. Join us!
Interested in volunteering abroad or participating in our virtual programs? Check them out below!
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