A Volunteer’s Campaign: The Gift of Giving


Every year around her birthday, University of Michigan student Leighann Cohen reminisces on her previous year and the events that inspired her to give back. Last August, Leighann had the opportunity to participate in the first-ever MEDLIFE volunteer trip to Tanzania, so for her 20th birthday, she decided to give back to the organization that gave her an eye-opening experience.

Instead of asking for material gifts, Leighann started a campaign that asked her family and friends to use that money and donate it to MEDLIFE instead. Her campaign started on her birthday, October 28th, and continued on until New Year’s Day of 2014. Over the span of three months, she reached out to an array of people, from close friends and family to sorority and fraternity networks at her university, to donate to her cause. She wrote a letter to her prospective supporters to explain her cause:

“As I begin the final month of my teenage years, I face adulthood with a new appreciation for the world and the billions of people I share it with. For my 20th birthday, I would like to do something different. Although there is always something one could buy me that would make me smile, the something that I really want this year is your help in changing the lives of people that are in need of change. For my birthday, I want to know that I have done what I can to give back to all of the people that have changed my life this summer,” an exerpt from her letter.  

From all of the support she received, she raised a total of $1,235  for the MEDLIFE fund.

“My experience with MEDLIFE was one that truly gave me direction in life,” she said. “The communities we traveled to and the people we interacted with touched my heart. Despite the immense language barrier, every day brought new and exciting friendships and lessons.”

Her inspiration for the campaign started from her trip to Tanzania with MEDLIFE last August, and particularly from her experience in a community called Kikavu. The clinic in Kikavu was set up in an old dispensary that was once funded by a foreign organization who had since stopped their support. Because of this, Leighann’s group did not expect many people to show up for the clinic and thought that MEDLIFE would have to build back the community’s trust. To their surprise, nearly 300 children, adults and elderly were attended to at the clinic that day. “I cried out of happiness as our bus pulled out of Kikavu,” she said. “I think that seeing this, especially on my first day of mobile clinics, solidified the true impact MEDLIFE’s work has on underserved and impoverished people around the world.”
Leighann strongly encourages that other students fundraise for MEDLIFE in a similar manner.

“One’s social networks most often are full of people with similar interests to yours,” she said. “School organizations are also a fantastic way to get the word out.”

Thank you, Leighann, for all of your dedication and support to MEDLIFE! We wish you much success in your future endeavours.



Hear it From MEDLIFErs

Testimonial Quote

Reya Seby
Western University

This trip motivated me more to pursue a career in the healthcare field so that I can use my resources to help those who need it the most, similar to MEDLIFE’s mission.

Testimonial Quote

Victoria DiCanio
University of Connecticut

It was most enjoyable to finish the hard work and see how big a difference a group of individuals can make. It was such an amazing experience.

Testimonial Quote

Anita Woo
University of Toronto

I enjoyed the mobile clinics the most, especially the dental and triage portions. I would definitely recommend a MEDLIFE trip, it was a great experience.

Testimonial Quote

David Saff
Maclay High School

The most enjoyable part of my trip was hanging out with the amazing group of kids I was with. I would highly recommend a MEDLIFE volunteer trip to others.

Testimonial Quote

Sydney Sansone
Nova Southeastern University

This trip made everything that I was learning in my public health courses come to life and immersed me in a new culture while also learning about medicine.

Testimonial Quote

Abygail Youmans
College of Charleston

Being involved with MEDLIFE is not like joining another club - its bigger than that. It is about joining a movement that seeks to help change people’s quality of life for forever.

Testimonial Quote

Emi Hofmann
University of Central Florida

Not only was I able to participate in a week long Mobile Clinic, shadowing doctors of all types of specialties including pharmacy, dentistry, gynecology, and more, but I was also able to learn about the culture and visit incredible places.

Testimonial Quote

Julian Takagi-Stewart
University of Toronto

One thing that I really loved about this trip was that MEDLIFE made sure that the volunteers got an understanding of the complexity of issues that lead to underprivileged people in communities outside of the main city

Testimonial Quote

Hannah Van Hofwegen
University of Ottawa

Whether it was basketball with the local kids, assisting the doctors, talking with families, building washrooms, holding babies, or spending time with the people who were on the SLT with me, this was an amazing opportunity that I would do over and over again.

Testimonial Quote

Isabelle Holt
Cornell University

I loved learning about the patients MEDLIFE has followed and how they offer real help to people with chronic/urgent conditions. It is amazing how the organization formed real connections with the communities.

Testimonial Quote

Valerie Lindeborg

Our family had the privilege of participating in multiple trips with Nick [founder] and his amazing staff. Their expertise made the trips unforgettable while instilling in my boys the fundamentals of good character: selflessness, compassion, and empathy.

Testimonial Quote

Harry Vildibill
University of Georgia

As an aspiring physician, MEDLIFE motivated me to further continue my goal of becoming a doctor. In fact, I enjoyed the Tanzania Service Learning Trip so much that I decided to go on another trip to Cusco, Peru.