Student leaders at UGA’s MEDLIFE chapter have distinguished themselves with their dedication to community service, not only on their Mobile Clinic trips in South America, but at home in Athens, Georgia as well. This year, they successfully applied the MEDLIFE approach of listening to the community and responding to their needs to complete improvement projects at the Oasis CatÃ³lico Santa Rafaela Hispanic Community Center.
They started by meeting with the community center’s director, Sister Margarita, to determine what the most urgent needs of the center were, and how they could help. She showed them the rotting floors of the trailers where after-school tutoring programs are held, and gave them a prioritized list of projects she would like to see completed. In September 2012, the chapter’s executive board applied for a Sustainable Service grant from Volunteer UGA, and were awarded $8,000 to replace floors and create a parking lot. They spent the next several months planning the project and gathering materials and volunteers.
In February, more than 40 volunteers, including undergraduate students, medical students, and a faculty member, worked in shifts throughout the weekend to re-floor and carpet two trailers. Chapter president Sarah Premji says the volunteers’ reward was in seeing the finished project and hearing words of thanks from the many community members who stopped by. “The trailers had been developing holes in the floor, and you could see the ground in certain places,” she told us. “With the completion of this project, Sister Margarita can rest assured that the children and tutors who participate in the after-school tutoring program will be in a safe, secure environment. There is no longer any danger of anyone falling through the rotting floor.” At the end of March, the volunteers came together once again to build a gravel parking lot, to provide a safer place where volunteers can park and monthly food donations can be dropped off.
At a large school like UGA, getting this level of organization and participation in a student group can be a challenge. The UGA MEDLIFE chapter owes its success to a strong 6-person executive board, and an innovative approach. As the chapter grew, they found that member commitment dropped off; said Sarah, “meetings became less personal and members felt less comfortable talking to each other.” So this year, they decided to split the chapter up into “family groups” which would foster open discussion and natural relationships within the chapter, and play to the strengths and interests of its individual members. Sarah reports that the new initiative has been a success: “In just one and a half semesters, MEDLIFE at UGA has seen increased member commitment and involvement,” she says. The new structure gives all chapter members the opportunity to be leaders within the organization.
UGA has also brought us some of this year’s best fundraisers, from the Run For (Your) Life Zombie 5K in the fall, to the upcoming Battle of the Bands happening this month. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next!