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 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.
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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
Only in the initial phases of devising my trip so can't give full assessment but they have been great so far!
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.
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.
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.
I participated in the CFHI's Public Health & Community Medicine program in New Delhi, India during December 2015 - January 2016. I still have a hard time really explaining how awesome of an experience it was. Before the program began, I was full of emotions and a little apprehensive about how it all would all transpire and relate to what I have already been learning in my MPH program. Four weeks away from my family for the holidays was a tough pill to swallow but I was up for the challenge that ultimately changed my perspective in a lot of different ways. Not only did I learn so much about how public health integrates into community medicine in another country but I learned a lot about myself and my ability to translate the raw emotions that I felt while I was there. Both in-country coordinators made me feel like I was home and a part of their family. I also loved the weekly check-ins that the program provided for us to write our thoughts and talk with the coordinators about what we saw and how we were feeling. It gave me a chance during the program to reflect about the trip and the specifics of what I learned while visiting each organization.
Being able to be a tourist and visit the Taj Mahal, the Golden Temple, the Humayun's Tomb, the Red Fort and a myriad of other historic sites was the icing on the cake. This was my first international trip and by far CFHI set the bar high for providing such a cultural experience with different components that I couldn’t have imagined learning and/or understanding. I am very thankful and forever grateful to the CFHI staff and the in-country coordinators for the opportunity. I honestly think that everybody should be able to participate in global immersion programs and especially through CFHI because it’s simply one you won’t forget. The amount of confidence and pride that I have when asked about my participation in the CFHI program definitely hasn’t changed a bit since January and it honestly won’t ever! Thank you again CFHI!
I applied as a freshman pre-med student to experience hospital medicine in Cape Coast, Ghana. After being accepted into the program, I was impressed and extremely satisfied with CFHI's organization and preparation for what seemed an extremely challenging pursuit to volunteer in Ghana. They quickly made me a part of the medical community and lifted the stress of traveling, making the preparation and volunteering stages both personal and professional.
I worked with CFHI during my 10-week internship in Kabale, Uganda and I have only incredible things to say about this organization. While I was in Uganda, I worked with the local NGO, Kigezi Healthcare Foundation (KIHEFO), learning about Maternal and Child Health and primary care in a low resource setting. As an undergraduate and pre-medical student, I felt 100% prepared (and safe) to live in a developing country for 10 weeks, mainly because of CFHI's wonderful preparatory methods and resources. Because of the opportunities that CFHI has given me I've: met absolutely incredible people during my time in Uganda, made relationships of a lifetime, and have never been so motivated to continue my path towards a career in global health. Webale Monunga CFHI and KIHEFO :)
I participated in the Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine program in La Paz, Bolivia for four weeks and loved it! I liked that I was able to see healthcare in La Paz in different settings: I had two weeks of rotations at two different local community clinics and two weeks at the city's largest children's hospital (one week in surgery and one week in the pulmonary unit). The physicians I worked with were patient, kind, and very willing to work with me.
Not only was the clinical experience great, but the cultural experience was even better. My group and I were able to visit a new tourist site every weekend and our language facility made it so easy to plan the weekends. I also loved my homestay mother. The homestay experience was key in helping me practice and improve my conversational Spanish.
I would definitely recommend this program to anyone looking to combine their interests in healthcare and experiencing new cultures!
I attended CFHI's two week intensive Tropical Medicine and Community Health program in Puerto Escondido.
CFHI programs appealed to me because they are not for profit and based in partnership and exchange. Their motto, “Let the world change you,” is real and something that all of us in dominant cultures should do more. Being in Puerto with CFHI was a transformative experience. It was helped me to expand my view of community and global health, and see the ways in which our actions in the United States and modern medicine affect the rest of the world.
I was welcomed into the clinical settings and appreciated the ethical approach of CFHI surrounding international experiences in healthcare. Volunteering to "fix" problems in other countries from an ethnocentric position doesn't usually create sustainable change - and often is damaging to communities. I really appreciated how the medical director in Puerto was a public health doctor in the community. Our (excellent) language classes and homestay were through another local business - and very professional. My whole experience in Puerto felt like real service learning, and was built upon long-term sustainable relationships.
My time in Oaxaca was illuminating in that I could see how all different kinds of medicine can coexist. And I also found people that I could relate to, especially in terms of the paradigm shift we want to create. It’s not always easy to merge the old with the new. We need evidence-based practices in healthcare, but we also need the wisdom and knowledge of our ancestors – and we are losing this with each passing generation. We need to reconnect the mind and spirit to the body when we’re working with patients and we desperately need all forms of healing on all levels – from individual to community to global.
I went to Oaxaca, Mexico with CFHI for a month. This was my first time practicing medicine abroad and I appreciate how careful they were about making sure that I only did what I was qualified to do unlike other programs which sometimes let people do things way above their level. They were always available which made me feel safe at any point I was in Mexico. My home stay, clinics and hospitals I visited, and Spanish school were all set up and ready to go upon my arrival. I rotated through peds, surgery, internal med, L&D, ED... My medical director was extremely receptive of what I wanted out of my experience.
I got way more out of this experience than I could have possibly imagined. I previously shied away from short missions trips because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to fully immerse myself in the culture and really get something out of it while giving back. This trip with CFHI was perfect because my role often fell at the same level as it would be in the US which made it easier to feel immersed into the environment. The only down side is that it was quite expensive, but CFHI did help cover half my funds with a scholarship which was easy to apply for.
A month was also the perfect amount of time to get to know plenty of people, learn medical knowledge in Spanish, and get to know the area well enough that I would feel comfortable visiting another time (which I can't wait to do). I absolutely recommend it to any other med (or nursing) students!
I just returned from an amazing month-long global health experience in Quito with Child Family Health International. I witnessed some great medicine, took Spanish classes, immersed myself in the culture through a homestay, adventured across Ecuador, and made many lifelong friends. I learned so much about both medicine and myself through this experience. While any country will have differences in policy and operations I was surprised at just how similar clinic in Quito was when compared to my experiences in the US. In a way, it was beautiful illustration of how universal the human condition is. No matter where you are from, what work you do, or how you identify, all humans face the same medical problems across the world. This is a simple and obvious truth that is surprisingly difficult to grasp until you experience it firsthand. From stomachaches and cough to cancer and dementia, humanity can’t escape illness and (hopefully) doctors will always be there to aid and heal those in need. I highly recommend CFHI to any medical student!
It’s been one week since I got home from my amazing trip to Argentina and there has not been a single day where I haven’t talked about the incredible experience I had. I enjoyed it so much that my only regret is not staying longer than two weeks. When I arrived in Cordoba for the Hospital Medicine program, I was greeted by Carlos (one of the local coordinators for CFHI) at the airport and he took me to my homestay. I got to stay with an incredibly kind woman whose daughter and two granddaughters lived in their own apartment not far from us so I really got to bond with all four of them. The other local CFHI coordinator, Charly, taught me how to get to the hospital using the local bus system and after that I was set to make the most of my two weeks.
All of the doctors, residents, and students in the hospital were so helpful and always took the time to explain what they were doing whether it was a basic physical exam, an EKG, or stitching up a wound. I got to spend every morning in the local emergency hospital and I learned so much it was amazing. As soon as I told people that I was a student from the United States, they would ask me lots of questions about California (where I’m from) and about the medical school process in the US compared to Argentina. Everyone was really friendly so I felt very comfortable right away. I loved getting up and going to the hospital every morning because I knew that in the four hours that I was there, I was going to learn so much. I really wish I had planned to stay for at least a month because two weeks was not nearly enough! I am so grateful that CFHI put together this amazing program and I definitely plan on participating in more CFHI programs in the future!!
I am forever changed by my Ugandan experience. Thank you CFHI for this amazing opportunity, and thank you KIHEFO for accepting me like family. This was truly a once in a lifetime adventure. CFHI provided me with an opportunity to be immersed in Ugandan culture. This is the way to experience global health! I was forced to put my own assumptions aside and learn to think about health from a different perspective. I left Uganda with a new sense of purpose and a renewed passion for global healthcare.
Uganda is a great country with even greater people. I will never forget the special people that I met. The KIHEFO staff was incredible and truly did everything possible to ensure that I enjoyed my stay. I am forever grateful for there amazing hospitality. This entire experience has changed my outlook on not only health but also on life.
I regret not reviewing CFHI's Cape Town project beforehand as CFHI's reputation got the best of me. It is apt to say that the program is total rubbish. Here is some information that you are not told.
1) There is NO clinical rotation. CFHI's webpage advertises the opportunity to observe in general surgery, general medicine, pediatrics, HIV clinic, and casualty. The reality is that you are placed in Internal Medicine for the duration of the program. When I brought this fact up, one of the coordinators, Avril, got mad and replied word for word "Why can't you be open to the experience?"
2) The staff offers ZERO accommodation. It was extremely frustrating to work with Avril and Marion (coordinators of the program). It seems that their answers to any problems in the program are "Be open minded", "Don't let the small things get to you", and "You are already blessed to have this opportunity". The driver associated with the program is one of the grumpiest, least accommodating person that I've encountered. You are picked up at 6:30, because he doesn't want to sit in traffic. You arrive at 7, and you wait until 8 to begin observing.
3) The planning of the homestay is counter logic. All the volunteers are placed in a neighborhood called Vanguard Estate. It is in the region called Athlone. Two blocks down is a massive township called Langa. Think townships as one grade above slums. You can imagine that the neighborhood is not safe at all. Additionally, you are in a remote location where there is nothing fun to do. To head to the city where most attractions are, you have to either take Uber or drive. You can imagine the accumulated cost for that.
I speak from the bottom of my heart when I say that you should avoid this program. If you want to be placed in South Africa, choose Durban. It seems that project has more positive reviews, and I doubt it can be worse than Cape Town's project. Save yourself money and time.
Thank you for sharing this feedback with us. We are sorry to hear that the program did not match your expectations. We take this type of feedback very seriously we welcome the opportunity to continue to improve. I would like to encourage you to contact us directly so that we may learn more about your concerns and address them directly. Thank you for again for your feedback and for bringing these important issues to our attention. Sincerely, Robin Young, Assistant Director- Africa and Asia, Child Family Health International. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org