During his senior year at Florida State University in 2011, Mauricio Parra helped create his school’s first MEDLIFE chapter and soon led over 25 students on a Mobile Clinic in Tena, Ecuador. Now, after a two-month stint interning this summer 2012 at MEDLIFE in Lima, Peru, Mauricio has taken on the important role of personally delivering presentations throughout the state of Florida on the One Billion+ Campaign Tour. Starting with his first talk at the University of Florida tomorrow, you can catch him along the way by checking his tour schedule page HERE. Get to know the Colombian native turned MEDLIFE leader in his interview below:
What strategies did you use in order to be successful in recruiting Mobile Clinic participants and with your “Be The One” campaign?
In order to attract people to our club, I took some time to compare MEDLIFE to the other international volunteering organizations offered at our school to find distinctions that set us apart. Upon my research, I found that the effectiveness of medical missions and aid/relief organizations has become a hot topic of debate in recent years. By emphasizing on unique aspects, such as how we operate year-round, work closely with local doctors, and maintain patient follow-up care, I ensured that students on our campus understood MEDLIFE’s mission to promote long-term sustainability and culturally sensitive care.
With the help of my dedicated student officers, we spoke at various club meetings, posted flyers throughout our campus, chalked sidewalks in popular areas, and notified numerous advisors to send out informational emails.
Did you receive support with the “Be the One” campaign? Who helped you, or what tools were helpful?
The “Be the One” campaign was a success at FSU due to the joint effort of all of the founding officers. Through our collaborative work, we successfully promoted MEDLIFE among our student body to make it the strong, established chapter it is today. Although we started from scratch, we still managed to host monthly meetings, socials, and fundraisers. Our hard work and determination to help others in need paid off when we managed to send over 25 committed students on our first mobile clinic to Tena, Ecuador during our spring break of 2011.
Describe a memorable moment from your Mobile Clinic experience.
After attending a clinic in Ecuador and leading two others in Peru as an intern, what I found to be most memorable were the many instances of finding people who still used traditional, or indigenous, medicine. In both countries, I interacted with several locals who held strict beliefs of solely curing themselves through natural remedies, such as using leaves and roots from certain plants. During the clinic weeks there were multiple occasions where patients came in with injured limbs wrapped in various plants, and upon closer inspection, were found to be severely harmed and infected due to lack of proper medical attention.
While there is a fine boundary that we must respect when dealing with various cultural traditions, health care is one of the most pressing issues that desperately needs a social reform. People may not always get the necessary or proper treatment because more often than not, those living in rural communities and urban slums simply lack the education about modern medicine. This ultimately may lead to debilitating and chronic health complications that could easily be prevented or cured.
Why are you a MEDLIFE leader?
Having been raised in South America, I have been exposed to what it is like to live in a developing country since a very young age. Now that I am an adult, I have had time to reflect back on these experiences, and I have found myself constantly wondering how I can help change things for those who are still stuck in these perpetual cycles of poverty. Once I discovered that this organization held similar views to mine, I knew that I wanted to be an integral part of it. I became a leader because MEDLIFE presented me with the opportunity to not only help the cause, but actually have an influence in the ways that we go about providing it.
What has been the most helpful resource for you as a student leader?
Aside from having the support of the executive board, I have found the power of networking with other student leaders to be the most helpful resource. Whether it was to open up new opportunities for our club, or just acting as an outlet to brainstorm different ideas, meeting with various people has been a crucial factor in creating more awareness of this organization.
What advice would you give to students who would like to do the Be The One campaign or be a MEDLIFE leader?
While sending 20+ students on a Mobile Clinic may sound like a difficult task, my chapter at FSU (along with several other ones across the nation) has clearly proven that it can be done! All it takes is proper planning and dedication. The best advice I can give is to have a good rapport with the rest of your officers, keep constant communication with your SAB Leaders, and freely accept as much creativity as possible when planning events and fundraisers.
Although being a MEDLIFE leader will feel overwhelming at times, keep in mind that everything you are trying to accomplish will have a tremendous impact on the lives of hundreds of people. Once all is said is done, seeing the appreciation from not only the patients in the clinics, but the classmates that you brought with you, gives you one of the most rewarding feelings one can ever hope to experience.