Kicking off their first trip abroad, members of the Ohio State chapter of Volunteers Around the World spent two weeks providing medical care and supplies to several rural villages in Peru.
The OSU student organization was founded last year and provides students with medical knowledge, skills and experience through a mission trip, said Nicole Hadjisofocli, a third-year in psychology and president of Volunteers Around the World.
“We chose Peru for various reasons: the scenery, Machu Picchu, the lack of medical care in rural areas, host families, hotel price,” Hadjisofocli said.
The group travels to impoverished areas and works with local doctors to set up free medical clinics, providing free healthcare and supplies to the local population, Hadjisofocli said.
“The villages and most rural areas have no form of health care nearby and getting to a hospital could take hours of walking in dangerous conditions,” she said. “The goal was to bring medicine to the citizens in these areas.”
Upon arrival, the group took a moment to acclimate to temperature and altitude changes, as well as explore the city of Cusco, before heading toward the villages outside of the city, said Raegan Willertz, a group volunteer and third-year in neuroscience.
“We visited the ruins, Machu Picchu, and museums to get in touch with the city,” Willertz said. “(Seeing the city) made the trip all the more humbling.”
The group traveled to several rural villages, including Occopata and Huasanpata, with local Peruvian doctors to provide free healthcare to those with and without health insurance, said Katelyn Hagstrom, a group volunteer and second-year in microbiology.
While working in a free medical clinic in Huasanpata, Peru, the group assisted local doctors in checking patients’ vitals. Each volunteer would check the weight, blood pressure, blood glucose and respiration for a patient prior to seeing the doctor, Hagstrom said.
Volunteers Around the World donated medical supplies to each village with the free clinical time, and provided support to local families and children.
“We taught local children about the food groups, washing your hands and brushing your teeth,” said Katelyn Hagstrom, a group volunteer and a second-year in microbiology.
Many individuals shared their gratitude, thanking the volunteer group members, who they referred to as doctors, Willertz said.
“Even though they had less than what we’re used to, they were so happy and loved life and it was extremely humbling to see that,” she said.
The local population was not left without care after the group’s two-week mission concluded, Hadjisofocli said. After the OSU team left, members from another university chapter stepped in to help provide continuous care to the villagers.
Interest or experience in medicine is not necessary to become a member or travel abroad with the group, Willertz said. Rather, an interest in building leadership skills and giving back to those in need.
“We try to prepare (the group) before they travel with lectures about the countries they’re going to, so they know about the culture, the identity, the healthcare system,” Hadjisofocli said.
Students also complete a vitals workshop to learn hands-on medical skills and fundraise in order to buy medical supplies for donation.
Volunteers Around the World plans to conduct a mission trip each semester beginning with winter break, Hadjisofocli said. It has not been decided where they will be traveling.
“OSU’s motto is ‘pay it forward.’ (The university teaches you that) when you graduate. You should pay it forward and do something for the greater good,” Hadjisofocli said. “We are the essence of what ‘pay it forward’ truly means.”