I had researched various organizations before commencing my voyage to India. Though I do believe that travel can be spontaneous and unplanned, I think that when it comes to volunteering, proper research must be executed. There exists this "benevolent gratification" that many travelers are drawn to when it comes to going abroad and volunteering, however a lot of "aid" is not necessarily beneficial or productive. With that said, after much research, I picked two organizations to work with during my stay in India. One was with interest in alternative medicine (CHFI) and the other focused on modern medicine. I can say that with the comparison of the two, CFHI was undoubtedly the most engaging, dynamic, and nourishing organization that I've participated in. The locations were superb, as I got to work in the rural village of Patti, perfectly off the grid and secluded, which was therapeutic as much as it was mystifying and eye opening. Never did I think I would be in a tiny village at the foothills of the Himalayas, connecting with villagers like I did. We also had the pleasure of spending Diwali in Rishikesh, which was a natural paradise and truly one of my favorite places in the world. That area totally spoke to me as someone who is reflective and quite spiritual. Here we got to learn about natural healing with acupuncture, water therapy, mud therapy, and reflexology, as well as experience practicals from our instructors. It was magic. Finally we spent 2 weeks in Deradun where we got to live as medical students. This meant we took the bus to our rotations, which were actually quite encompassing (they took up the entire day) but in turn, extremely beneficial. I felt like I was getting what I asked for with medical volunteering. I learned about homeopathy, Ayurveda (with fabulous practicals), and speak with a 104 year old doctor for 2 weeks. It was such an amazing, moving opportunity. I really loved how thoughtful and easygoing our host family was, and our guide, Manyank was so elaborate with our entire experience. He took us to a wedding, taught us Hindi, helped us fabricate weekend plans, took us out to dinner, and had thanksgiving with us. I really miss him actually! I loved that yoga classes were included in the first 2 weeks of the program- it was the most immersion I've ever had in the practice. And honestly, with comparison to the other organization that I worked with, the material I learned through this program was invaluable. It was in depth, meaningful, impressive, and something that I share at any chance I get. The depth of the Ayurveda and homeopathy and alternative medicine that I learned was absolutely incredible. It truly means a lot to me, and has made me a more medically creative person. And the experiences I had during this program will always move me. India is in my bones now. I love this organization and what it does. I would 100% love to have the pleasure of working with CFHI again!
I went to Ecuador through the Child Family Health International Intensive Beginner Spanish and Health Care Program. Child Family Health International programs are inter-professional and open to students ranging from undergraduate pre-health students up to residents and post-graduate students.
The Intensive Beginner Spanish Program is unique in that participants begin with service-learning placements rather than clinical rotations. In this program, I received increased Spanish language instruction in preparation for entering healthcare settings. In the mornings, I did community engagement projects and learned about the cultural and social context of Quito before entering the hospitals. One whole month seemed like a long time to be away when I was preparing for my trip, but the time actually flew by. We spent every morning during the week working in the clinic or hospital, and rotated to a different site each week. The last two weeks, focused on practicing Spanish skills during clinical rotations at local healthcare facilities such as community level clinics on the outskirts of the city serving low-income populations and specialized emergency care. Other rotations included a public maternity hospital for high-risk pregnancies. I came away with more confidence communicating in Spanish within social and professional settings, as well as a holistic view of healthcare systems in Quito and how Ecuadorians access these services. A typical weekday I would get up around 5:30am to get to the hospital or clinic by 7am. I would work in the hospital or clinic until 12pm. All of the students had a 2 hour lunch break, and then classes began at 2pm. All Spanish classes were 2 hours: one hour of grammar and one hour of medical vocabulary.
The first two weeks I was at The Camp Hope Foundation. Camp Hope provides services in health, rehabilitation, special education, and recreation, work for children, adolescents, young people and adults with a severe disability, with few economic resources, orphans and abandoned children in order for them to achieve independence and integration within society. Their objective is “To contribute to the comprehensive development of children, adolescents, young people and adults with a severe and moderate disability, involving the community and their families in the process.” Camp Hope organizes agreements with medical centers throughout Quito in order to support participants medically at a low cost. At the Hope Camp, I worked with nurses and physical therapist to help children with severe mental and physical disabilities. I was able to work one on one with kids doing physical therapy, sensory exercises, and music therapy.
Hospital IESS is teaching hospital, located in the northern part of Quito, that receives funding from the government and other civil organizations. It provides primary, secondary and tertiary care at low cost. In Ecuador, all people have access to free healthcare, but there is a great disparity between the quality of facilities available to the wealthy and to the poor. I worked alongside medical students and residents in the emergency room general trauma area. I participated in morning rounds, general consults, and follow-up treatment. In all of the public sites that I worked, doctors repeatedly told me that certain things weren't available, because there was no money. This was most evident my last week in the maternity hospital. Patients in labor did not have sheets or pillows on their beds.
At Hospital IESS I was in the Emergency Department with Dr. Julian Cadena. I worked alongside the Ecuadorian 5th year medical students and nurses. I observed a variety of small procedures, and as the week progressed I got to do small tasks on my own. When a patient would come in I would take the patient history and evaluate their pain level. I also learned how to take and read electrocardiograms. This was one of my favorite parts of the experience. I was surprised that neither the doctors nor nurses use gloves while treating patients; thankfully I brought my own gloves. The last week I was at Centro de Salud Carcelen Bajo which is a small local health clinic. My experience here was much less hands on. I observed Dr. Monica working with pregnant mothers and their babies. I did taking blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and other vital signs.
Going to Ecuador I was nervous that the career I aspired for, would not be a good fit for me. I did not know if I could keep up with the high intensity of critical care nursing. However, I now know that I am on the right track pursuing a career in nursing. I also now have a much broader world perspective and understand that there are many more ways to regard life than the way we do in America. Ecuadorians had a way of embracing life that was thrilling and refreshing. Reproductive Health in Quito combined my medical interests with the opportunity to improve my Spanish skills, which will be very valuable as I move forward with my career. I feel that this program added a vital dimension to my medical education.
Willing to help
Wonderful staff who were happy to help and impressively supportive from the get-go.
This is also one of the only organisations I found that made an intentional and significant focus of re-investing back into the elective community which is a rare gem and made a strong impression.
Looking forward to a great experience with them next year. Couldn't recommend them enough.
I had a wonderful experience working with CFHI. I went abroad to Ecuador for 1 month doing a Spanish immersion program. I really enjoyed my clinical experience as I know many of the other students did as well. They were very flexible making sure that our clinical experience met our needs and expectations. The spanish classes were also very helpful. For the first two weeks we were at a foundation for children with cerebral palsy and this was so amazing. We thought we would be just playing with the kids and feeding them but it turns out that much of the staff and kids needed general physicals so we had the opportunity to help with that. The doctors there are great teachers and we learned so much. The healthcare system is of course much different and it is great to have some many patient people willing to teach. I would definitely recommend this program to students looking to study abroad!
My month completing CFHI’s Child and Social Determinants of Health program in Accra, Ghana moved so quickly, as it was filled with so many exciting moments both in the clinic and in the country. Not only did I expand my knowledge on a medical level but on a cultural level as well. From seeing elephants 10 feet away while on safari to observing the biggest umbilical hernia I have ever seen, there has not been a dull moment. Reflecting back, I have learned so much that I believe will make me not only a better doctor, but a better person as well. Although Ghana is a developing country, it is humbling to be in a place with fewer resources than the US and see how other people live around the world. It was also an important learning experience to meet people in a nation that was colonized and whose people suffered terrible injustices.
This experience has improved my medical knowledge and will remain a formative part of my medical education. The prevelance of certain diseases is very different in Ghana compared to US, so I was able to see and learn about a number of pathologies that are less common at home. So many important public health programs are in their infancy here in Ghana. I believe it is helpful to see how systems and resources develop overtime and to understand what they came from. I also learned about the power of patient education. No matter how many medications you provide or the number of times you see a patient, teaching parents why these things are important is the only long term way to improve the health of a child. From HIV management to the prevention of malnutrition, money may be a barrier to improved health but the ultimate challenge is due to a lack of education. This emphasizes the importance of doctors working hand in hand with the entire medical community, social work and public health to educate patients. Overall, this was an amazing and humbling learning experience that I would recommend to all!
It’s interesting how I entered into CFHI’s Public Health and Community Medicine program in New Delhi with a number of assumptions, both concerning study abroad programs and the country of India. At the end of the program, however, I stood corrected. CFHI’s sweet yet concise motto states, “Let the world change you”, and how appropriate. The two-week intensive program provided me with both an educational and cultural understanding of the public health system and in the context of India’s vibrant and dynamic culture. Given the nature of short-term study abroad programs, CFHI allowed me the opportunity and the means to delve into the most challenging issues that exist concerning global medicine, and in a professional and ethical, but above all, meaningful approach. As a young and aspiring pre-medical student, I can state with much confidence that I have been changed.
This past fall, I spent 6 weeks in Ecuador through CFHI’s Coast to Rainforest: Community Health program. I loved the comparative nature of this program in that I was able to shadow in clinics in Guayaquil, Puyo, and Quito. Every week was different in terms of the size of the clinic/hospital and the types of patients I was interacting with. I had the chance to provide education about mosquito-borne diseases like Dengue and Zika in a community in Guayaquil through the SNEM program. In Puyo, I was able to learn more about rural and indigenous health as well. One of the unique components of this experience was visiting the San Virgilio indigenous community in the Amazon. They were so welcoming and happy to share their culture and knowledge of medicinal plants with us.
Overall CFHI takes a lot of care into putting together a program that fits your interests and time. Both the local and main staff in the US are incredibly helpful and attentive when any problem arises while you are abroad. In addition, CFHI’s dedication to ethical global health programs is evident in both the training provided to students before leaving and the close interaction with community members and local health care providers abroad. This program is a great opportunity to learn more about healthcare in South America, meet new people, and experience a new culture.
The first day of arrival was exciting yet overwhelming. Arriving at 5 am, I was worried I would have no way to get to my homestay. Yet I am glad that the program coordinators had arranged a pick-up time from the airport to a hostel until later in the morning. Charly (local coordinator) picked me up and took me to my homestay where my hostess was wonderful and a source of information of the city. Getting lost in the city was intimidating but Carlos (program coordinator) and Charly make the transition easier and educated us in the culture, language, what and where to eat, our schedules, and hospital location and rotations. Truly well organized and made the transition much easier.
I was assigned to Cordoba hospital and I chose the burn unit because it uses different specialties such as dermatology, and post-op care to treat and manage a burned patient. Dr. Olmos showed me around and taught me many things she felt were important in the recovery room. I can tell that the physicians I interacted with had a personal connection with patients and spoke to them like family. Everyday, majority of patients and doctors pass by a hallway that has the words written in Spanish "No perder la humalidad" meaning "do not lose your humanity" and the words do inspire providers to do their best for their patient's best interest in managing care. Overall, it was a truly humbling experience, and yet two weeks in Cordoba was not enough and I yearned to stay longer. Knowing the Spanish language does help and being able to communicate with others is amazing. I could never speak in Spanish with anyone other than my family and speaking my mother tongue felt great. I thank CFHI commitment and mission for helping me participate in this wonderful journey.
Here is my blog: https://cfhihospitalmedicineinargentina.wordpress.com/
I first became involved with CFHI as a one-month intern after hearing about its mission with global health at a school activity's fair. This internship sparked my interest to dedicate my subsequent summer to two of its 4-month programs in Oaxaca City. The overall structure of each program is similar, one composed of hospital shadowing, afternoon Spanish lessons, and community volunteering. One thing that I really liked about the program is its flexibility. During the program, I had the opportunity to choose where to volunteer, so I chose to volunteer at a rehab center for children with mental or physical impairments. Additionally, I also volunteered at Centro de Esperanza, a grassroot organization dedicated to providing afterschool classes to children from low-income family. Both experiences were similar such that they allowed me the chance to learn to interact with children; but most importantly, both experiences made me much more humbling and appreciative of what I have. I am from a low-income immigrant family in the upscale neighborhood of San Francisco, so I didn't have much either. But when I was interacting with children whose childhoods are marred by illnesses, I formed immense gratitude towards the things that I took for granted, such as no-cost schooling, physical health, and hard-working parents.
Furthermore, I gained a comprehensive view of the healthcare in Mexico by shadowing in local health clinics, the only public hospital of Oaxaca City, and one of the many private hospitals in the city. Thanks to CFHI, I had the opportunity to witness healthcare disparity and unequal distribution of healthcare resources. From observing medical care given in the halls of the public hospital to the clean, private rooms of the private hospital, I saw a stark contrast in the demographics of the patients, which was not surprising but still affirmative of the pronounced healthcare disparity in Mexico.
To top it off, I had a wonderful time with my host family. The matriarch of the family was my host-grandmother, and she was very motherly to me. She took care of me when I was sick with gastroenteritis for a week.
Overall, I had a great, exotic time in Mexico. I was learning a lot and having a great immersive foreign experience. It greatly impacted my goals right now for the future.
Child Family Health International (CFHI) gave me the opportunity to give back to my motherland. I remember interviewing for Belmont's Pharmacy program and telling my interviewer that I would like to go back to Uganda for a month in my fourth year as part of my experiential education. It was a dream then, and now a reality. This was my first global health trip and it was definitely a life-changing experience. Robin and Ally were essential in setting up this trip and I am very grateful for all their help and tireless efforts. This is the first time Belmont University College of Pharmacy has had a rotation site in Uganda and the first Public Health//Missions elective that has lasted an entire month, and it was a great success. Several students are already interested in pursuing this elective in their fourth year and I hope I can return as a CFHI volunteer in the near future. As a person of color and from an underserved community, I was able to learn from first-hand experience of other social determinants that I had not personally experienced. HIV, malnutrition, poverty, and gender inequality are still a reality in many communities, including Kabale, Uganda I feel it is my role, as a global citizen, to start making the right changes as the world continues to change me. I like the Kigezi Healthcare Foundation (Kihefo) model because it integrates sustainable healthcare initiatives that fight disease, poverty, and ignorance. In Kabale, I participated in patient care in the general clinic (most common disease states include malaria, brucellosis, and typhoid), HIV/AIDS clinic, and maternal clinic. Besides my clinical experiences, I participated in gardening and visited a traditional healer for the first time. I learned more about how he incorporates spiritual, traditional, and western medicine. I also had the opportunity to visit the bishop that baptized me as a little girl (he moved to Kabale shortly after he baptized me and I had not seen him since then) and that made me feel like my spiritual circle is now complete. I have many questions after this trip, and I do not have all the answers, but I will continue to learn and be an advocate for quality healthcare for all. Thanks again CFHI and the Thomas Hall Scholar Award #lettheworldchangeyou
CFHI gave me the opportunity to be taken seriously as a medical student in another country. While I continued to improve my language ability in the classroom, I was also able to engage in the real world. While the experience mostly involved shadowing, I was able to take away valuable and unique experiences.
Great support for our Princeton students for many years now, very accommodating of their needs as well as the requirements of my internship program. Highly recommended partnership!
CFHI has been a great partner. Medical students from my institution have participated in many of their programs and come away with career-changing or life-changing experiences. As an institution, we appreciate the communicative nature of CFHI and the in-country support they provide to our students, especially regarding their safety and security.
CFHI provides excellent opportunities for students who are interested in global health. It is a highly ethical organization that partners with communities all of the world to help those communities provide sustainable health and wellness programs for their people. I highly recommend the CFHI to my students who are interested in gaining a global perspective on health.
Child Family Health International CFHI has been a wonderful partner to the University of MN Pre-Health Student Resource Center. We have had many students access amazing experiences throughout the world. The programs are high quality, well-run, and perhaps most important built upon the ethical principles that Dr. Evert promotes for any global experience. Pre-health students return ready to use those experiences to talk about the importance of cultural humility as a future health professional.
I recently completed the Remote Island Medicine 4 week CFHI program in the Philippines as my last rotation as a 4th year medical student. This is my second CFHI program, and I was very impressed with my previous experience when I went to Ecuador. I chose CFHI again because of their partnership with the local people year round, rather than being like other non-profits who come in temporarily and then leave. CFHI works with local preceptors to integrate participants into the local existing healthcare system, providing what I think is a more authentic and accurate view of the local country’s health care. I want to learn how the locals provide sustainable healthcare, not go there to provide only a temporary solution.
The Philippines program is highly structured, while still flexible to meet the various education levels of the participants. The local program Medical Director, Dr. Joel Buenaventura, has a strong vision of what participants will gain from their experience: Understanding the structure of the Philippine Health System (PhilHealth), how health care is delivered in local units, called barangays, and what goals and strategies the barangays use to keep their local population the healthiest based on their specific needs. Dr. Joel and Dr. Medina, the associate director, is great to work with. They make sure that we safe and also know all the local secrets: great food and activity recommendation. My local preceptor, Dr. Maestro, who I spent a majority of my time with, was also very welcoming and made sure I got as much clinical or cultural experience I could. CFHI Philippines does a great job of escorting you to all of the different sites so that you are not lost or left figuring things out on your own.
Going to the Philippines is definitely a great first experience abroad! The food is great (and everyone wants to feed you!) and the people are friendly, especially if you stay with a host family. English is also the second national language so asking for directions or recommendations is not difficult here. And the country is gorgeous! The water is the bluest of blues and the sand is white. I had a great time here connecting with the locals and learning from them how health care resources can be best utilized. We were able to see health care in many different settings: big tertiary care centers in Manila, smaller local hospitals on smaller island as well as immunization and prenatal clinics in geographically isolated areas. I am so grateful that CFHI created this partnership with the locals so I could truly see the Philippine health care system up close and personal. Thank you Child Family Health International for a life and career changing experience!
Volunteering with Child Family Health International for a month in La Paz, Bolivia through the Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine Program was by far the best experience I have had with a U.S. based organization that provides global medicine opportunities for students. CFHI is an incredible service learning organization which in large part is due to the strong relationships they have in the field. These relationships foster unbelievable learning experiences for students while empowering local communities. The host families, local coordinator, Spanish teacher, medical director and local physicians are deeply committed to this sustainable and culturally respectful model. The rare clinical exposure is observed alongside local physicians that have long established relationships with patients. CFHI is embedded within the community and provides students with many opportunities to grow in cultural awareness and competency as future global health professionals. I was given the opportunity to work in a variety of different inpatient pediatric departments including pulmonology, infectious disease, hematology/oncology and neonatology. I also was provided with the chance to visit the neighboring women’s hospital and experience primary care in the community of El Alto at a clinic that serves many Aymara and Quechua families. The opportunities provided for me were designed specifically according to my interests and every attending physician I worked with was eager to teach with the deepest passion imaginable. CFHI not only provides rare and special opportunities for students but protects the local community by making sure students work within their realm of ability. This fact makes CFHI an organization that I champion and feel is creating sustainable opportunities for students with meaningful impact. I would recommend this organization to any student in the healthcare system that desires an authentic and life changing global health experience while helping to bolster a local community.
I participated in a CFHI organized trip to northern India as part of a rural/urban Himalayan medicine rotation. CFHI had partnered with my medical school's global health program to help bring us a larger selection of international experiences. The rotation was 4 weeks long and was designed with 2 weeks in an urban setting and 2 weeks in rural areas. Overall, it was an incredible experience that was very eye opening and I would recommend it to just about everyone.
What made the experience special is that we were connected with the pre-existing local health systems rather than stand alone/foreign sponsored clinical sites. What this meant for me, is that I got a true look into what healthcare looks like on a daily basis in northern India. Personally, I think that finding experiences like this can be difficult to come by.
The office staff and well as in country coordinators did a good job. The US office was very responsive and helpful in answering questions. The in country local coordinators got the job done, but communication was sometimes difficult and there were multiple episodes instances of confusion and miscommunication. However, this didn't detract from the experience at all and at no point in time did we feel unsafe or in jeopardy because of the snafus.
Overall, I would recommend CFHI to others looking for a global health experience. They offer a wide variety of experiences and go about making them happen in an ethical responsible way that is different than may other organizations.
My very first trip abroad was certainly one for the books and I thank CFHI for that! During the four weeks I was away, I was able to travel to three different countries within East Africa; Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. After vacation in Kenya, I completed the 2 week intensive global health education program with Child Family Health International. The program was called "Maternal & Child Health, HIV and Realities of Health Access", and took place in a rural town called Kabale, located within South Western Uganda. The experience was phenomenal; from the people I met, the breathtaking scenery, the delicious food I tasted, the sights I saw, and the information I obtained. One of my favorite parts of the trip was being able to visit different clinical settings, shadowing the clinical staff, and learning how our American health systems compare and contrast with health systems in these countries. I am from Washington D.C., where the rate of people living with HIV is still very high, so it was eye-opening to witness HIV diagnosis, counseling and treatment in another country. I also enjoyed visiting the beneficiaries of a public health project which was being implemented to decrease rates of malnutrition. My own personal public health interests include chronic and infectious diseases, maternal/ child health, social justice issues, and eliminating health disparities among under-served populations; all areas of which this trip covered. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to experience a world so different from mine, and will move forward in pursuing my career in public health with a new interest in global health as well!
My time in Puerto Escondido, Mexico through CFHI was nothing short of extraordinary. Upon arrival, I was greeted with warm smiles and open arms. While I had done quite a bit of traveling prior to this experience, this was my first time traveling truly alone and with a more career-oriented goal. That being said, I was very nervous and I apprehensive about how my experience would be.
Luckily, my apprehension soon dissipated after my arrival. In my short time in Puerto, not only did I work on my project regarding childhood obesity in Mexico and learn an incredible amount about the Mexican healthcare system, I also was given many unique opportunities to learn about the culture and the people of Puerto. Being associated with the Oasis Surf and Language school allowed me to meet a ton of new people and have access to many amazing activities. To name a few, during my three weeks I was able to learn how to surf, freshen up on my Spanish, go to the local market, eat amazing local cuisine, release baby sea turtles on the beach, visit two different midwifes, learn how to cook typical Mexican meals from my host mom, watch movies on the beach, visit a wildlife refuge, hike along some ancient trails, and listen to the stories of some amazing local people.
Every day I would go to a local clinic and work on discovering and reducing health disparities that I found to be present in the population, and every evening I would sit on the beach and watch the sun disappear below the rolling ocean waves. It was truly a setting and an experience that made me reflect and realize how lucky I am and how badly I want to improve the health and well-being of others in populations around the globe. I am so lucky to have had the chance to experience all that I did with my short time in this coastal town of Oaxaca, and I would not have had such a chance if it weren't for CFHI! I definitely recommend this program and this organization to anyone who is looking to experience something new and life changing in the realm of healthcare.