UCF students travel abroad on mission of compassion, cultural experiences

International Medical Outreach is a non-profit at UCF

ORLANDO, Fla. – In 2006 a group of University of Central Florida students started a club with the purpose of giving back to rural communities in developing nations.

Today, it's a nonprofit organization at UCF called International Medical Outreach. Active students travel to rural communities that don't have the ability to raise funds for basic health care.

“As UCF students or just college students in America, we have a lot of resources, we have the ability to fundraise,” Jay Desai, vice president of IMO, said.

International Medical Outreach travels to remote villages that lack health care and provides basic medical needs like taking blood pressure and recording vital signs.

Members travel for one week and are also exposed to different cultures and traditions. Some of the countries they've visited include Colombia, Honduras, Peru and India.

“These trips, they’re more based on medical shadowing to understand health care systems in different countries,” Desai said. “It really gives you a better understanding of why we do what we do,” the biomedical sciences major said.

In 2011 the foundation launched the Haiti Project.

“We go to a remote village called Belle Anse where we stay there for a whole week. While we’re there we also travel up a mountain to an even more remote village named Brignol,” Desai said.

Members travel twice a year and are accompanied by doctors from Port-au-Prince to work at clinics set up by the foundation.

"You have a community of some of the most wonderful and generous people you've ever met, who simply do not have the same educational privileges that we have in America," said Andrew Beneche, a member of IMO whose parents are immigrants from Haiti.

The organization's mission is one of compassion that's impacting lives and reassuring these college students what they're meant to do.

“It really enforces that I do want to go into a medical career and help people same way I’ve been doing with International Medical Outreach for the rest of my life,” Desai said.

For Shreya Rao, a member of IMO and the health training director, it's also showing the difference students can make in the world.

"I think it's a good example for students everywhere to know that you have power to do something great even if you don't have that doctor degree yet," Rao said.

Beneche said this is something that he will carry with him for forever.

“International Medical Outreach has affirmed something deep inside of me about my own desire to give back and a part of my culture that growing up in America I didn’t see the entire spectrum of. So that’s something I’ll take with me for the rest of my life,” Beneche said.

About the Author: