A club at Rowan University is dedicated to traveling to other countries to help communities in need.
MEDLIFE is a nationwide organization that delivers medicine, education and community development (MED) to impoverished communities. It has clinics in five countries: Peru, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Tanzania and India. Volunteers will go to the mobile clinics for a little over a week, and throughout the week they rotate through different stations.
The stations that provide service for kids and adults include pharmacy, education and dental.
Heena Patel, Vice President of MEDLIFE at Rowan and a junior biology pre-med major, went on her first trip as a freshman three years ago when the chapter was first founded. Her first trip was to Lima, Peru.
“There was a wall that circled the poor community and separated them from the rich community,” Patel said. “You can see over the other side of the wall where there were green lawns and pools and huge houses. Everything they could possibly have was just on the other side of the wall. It’s weird to see the poorest of poor and richest of the rich right next to each other.”
The communities reach out to MEDLIFE and tell them what they need so that the organization is able to customize their projects for each community. Sometimes, ongoing developmental projects are requested, such as building daycares or houses.
The trips are a little over a week long. During the week, MEDLIFE students travel to nearby communities, helping people and experiencing a new country.
In certain communities, children have to make trips down mountainsides to get water, multiple times a day. MEDLIFE volunteers combat this by building staircases. The staircases make it much easier and safer for people to travel back and forth.
“We’ve personally went on those walks and they were excruciating,” Patel recalled.
There are hardships that go along with volunteering with MEDLIFE. When spending a day providing care to lines of more than 200 people, it’s almost impossible to not run out of materials, Patel said. Running out of things like alcohol wipes has caused the volunteers to work with other materials as best as they can. Simple things like Ibuprofen are extremely valuable to them.
“More so than keeping things sanitized, it’s even more heartbreaking when someone is there for one type of medicine and you have to tell them we don’t have any of the medicine they need,” Patel said. “They’re not going to be able to see a doctor anytime soon and that was their only chance and they couldn’t get it.”
Communities show their gratitude for MEDLIFE by throwing them ceremonies at the end of the week. All chapters go together, and Rowan students get to share their accomplishments with others.
When MEDLIFE students have time off, they explore the area they’re in. In previous trips, students got to tour around volcanoes, try zip-lining, sand-boarding and boating.
There are mobile clinics all year round, but as college students, MEDLIFE at Rowan organizes their trips during the spring, winter and summer breaks.
Donating extra medical supplies, small or big, makes a difference to the communities MEDLIFE visits. All donations and fundraising go toward MEDLIFE Project Fund, which helps medical clinics, developmental projects and schools. During the semester, MEDLIFE holds bake sales and fundraisers such as their upcoming Painting with a “Purpose.”
“My dad tells me, ‘you are able to study this way and go after whatever you want but don’t forget to help other people too,’” Patel said. “People in those communities aren’t able to get out and rise up, and as someone who is, I want to help them.”
MEDLIFE usually holds meetings every other Friday in room 126 in the Science Building.
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