I’d like to use my blog this week to talk about a really cool organization I’ve been part of since my first semester at USC – Volunteers Around the World (VAW). VAW is an international humanitarian institution devoted to improving the standard of living for those who live in some of the most poverty-stricken communities across the globe. With its various university chapters of the organization across the States, VAW is typically divided into three categories: medical outreach, dental outreach, and hospital internship. Our chapter at USC is primarily focused on the medical outreach division, which has been reflected in both the outreach trips since I first joined.
I first became involved in this club through a friend who was leading a thirteen-day outreach trip over winter break to Cusco, Peru (which I will tell you all about below). Although VAW is not necessarily an engineering club, it’s open to all majors and there certainly are several engineers, among other majors, involved (though it should be noted that it is fairly pre-medicine dominated, including most of the engineers). In this way, it’s also a great way to meet those of other majors that you might not necessarily have classes with. The scope of the meetings that the club has throughout the year are primarily geared towards preparing the members and fundraising for the upcoming outreach trip, which typically happens over winter break.
As I previously mentioned, last year’s outreach trip was to a community about an hour north of Cusco, Peru. It was a thirteen-day trip beginning on the 27th of December, six of which we used to travel around the area and seven of which were used to run a medical clinic. We spent five of the six travel days at the beginning of the trip. After spending a day in Cusco adjusting to the altitude, we spent the next three days on the road with a tour group exploring the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.
The clinic itself was set up in an abandoned community center, which we cleaned and brought all of our equipment into. We then divided it into four stations – information intake, vitals, pharmacy and shadowing – around which we would rotate each day. The information intake station was primarily run by those of us that spoke Spanish, seeing as we could communicate with the locals to get their names, birthdays and other information. In the vitals station, we would draw the blood and take the blood pressure of each patient. The pharmacy was set up with the funding we provided on the trip and based on the doctor’s prescription, we would bag and deliver the drugs to the patients. There would be two volunteers in the shadowing station each day, one with each doctor at the clinic. This was of particular interest to the pre-med students on the trip – many of whom did it more than once – however everyone on the trip had a chance to shadow at some point.
This year, I’m excited to be travelling on another medical outreach trip with VAW over winter break – this time to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Similar to last year, it will be a thirteen-day service trip between Christmas and the beginning of second semester, consisting of six travel and seven volunteer days. I also took on an e-board position for this trip as the head of recruitment, which has been an overwhelmingly positive experience as I’ve both gotten the chance to recruit some friends for the club and meet new people interested in joining.
TL;DR: I’m part of this really cool club with really cool people that do some really cool things. If you’re interested in volunteering, medicine or travel, definitely look into joining USC’s chapter of Volunteers Around the World and apply to join upcoming outreach trips.