September 15, 2015
With a desire to do a little bit of good, Mandy March ’11 traveled across the world to improve the lives of children and parents in Kodaikanal, India. She came home having learned more than she can ever put into words–not only about medicine, but about appreciation, graciousness and kindness.
“The children…I’ll never forget Sam, a two-year-old boy whose heart is already failing but there is no surgeon to perform the necessary surgery; even if there was, his parents wouldn’t be able to afford it,” says Mandy when asked to describe the hardest part of her recent medical mission trip.
Considered by med students to be the last summer break, the summer after the first year of medical school is often spent relaxing, volunteering or traveling. For Mandy, now a third-year student at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, it was the perfect time to fulfill her dream of going on an international medical mission trip.
“I came across the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC), which is an awesome charity based right in Philadelphia. They provide medicine, food, hygiene products and I loved that they focused on bringing health education to the communities they were in, in addition to medical care.” Mandy could have chosen to go anywhere–from the Dominican Republic to Nicaragua, Uganda, or even Peru. However, the mission site in Kodakainal, located in the mountains of southern India, stuck out to Mandy as a place where she could put her newly learned medical skills to practice for a population that is not often recognized for its desperate need of aid.
For four weeks, Mandy spent her mornings at the local charity hospital and her afternoons at the local crèches. A crèche in India is a preschool with children ages 3-5 whose parents cannot afford to send their children to the private schools despite working six days a week. While at the crèches, Mandy and her fellow volunteers did health checks on children who were sick—usually a third of the class—performed monthly wellness checks and provided health education for parents.
One of Mandy’s goals as a volunteer was to start implementing preventative health measures in the community by teaching parents about sanitation, hygiene, the dangers of second-hand smoke and much more. According to Mandy, parents were most grateful for vaccinations.
“One of the biggest things that struck me was how appreciative and thankful most of the people were for what little they had,” says Mandy. “Parents in the U.S. who refuse to have their children vaccinated probably don’t know what it means to have a child who could get really sick with few medical resources available.” The parents in Kodaikanal try to do everything they can to keep their children healthy because the alternative is all too real to them.
When asked to describe the best part of her experience Mandy again referenced her time spent with the children. “Despite everything, the children greeted us every day with huge smiles and were always excited to play…everyone was gracious, kind and thankful. By the end of the trip I definitely felt at home.”
Anyone can take a trip like Mandy’s. For more information on FIMRC please visit http://www.fimrc.org/
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