It has been several weeks since the celebration of University’s 50th anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corps. But with all the excitement about President John F. Kennedy’s historic visit dying down, it’s important not to lose sight of the essence of his address on the steps of the Union: service to humanity.

The Foundation for the International Medical Relief of Children is a national organization helping to answer that call for global service. FIMRC was started in 2002 to address the health disparities found in many countries, paying particular attention to the plight of underserved pediatric groups. The foundation operates through clinic sites to provide high-quality medical care and preventative education to those who don’t have access to health care. At the clinic sites, children often come in malnourished or with pneumonia. First, the doctor needs to prescribe medication to immediately treat the problem. But often, the problem is due to poor hygiene or parasites and the patient and the family need to be educated on how to prevent the problem from occurring in the future.

Since its inception, this national organization has started self-sustaining clinics around the world and now has over 3,000 staff and volunteers who help carry out their dream of improving the health of children in impoverished situations all around the world.

But what makes FIMRC unique is the importance of its many college chapters. It’s primarily through the fundraising efforts of college chapters that the clinic sites around the world stay open all year.

Something service organizations — like ours — are often asked is, “Why does FIMRC bother going abroad? Why don’t you focus on helping U.S. citizens in need?” Some people may think that we need to honor our duty to our own country before helping people overseas. But I believe if we accept arguments like this, we will be valuing the lives of Americans over those around the world — and that is undesirable. The value of a person’s life is the same, no matter where they were born.

But we don’t believe in neglecting our community. FIMRC strongly believes in having a large local impact. As one of the volunteering chairs, I can certainly say this is true, since my role in FIMRC is to find opportunities for FIMRC members to help reach out to the local Ann Arbor community. We hold a variety of events from volunteering at elderly homes and serving at soup kitchens to hosting theme parties for kids at Mott Children’s Hospital.

So how can students get involved in service projects here and abroad? FIMRC gives students the ability to help out in several ways. We’ll help find opportunities for students who join FIMRC to serve in your local community in a variety of ways.

Another hands-on way to get involved is to travel to one of the clinic sites and volunteer. I went for a week to Costa Rica to visit the clinic site this past summer. When you are at the clinic, you can see the health problems that underserved populations experience and some of the political and socio-economic reasons for those problems. The impact on your life will hopefully be profound. Once you come back from a mission trip, you will be more willing to educate others about what you have seen and have a greater passion for fundraising for the clinics based off your firsthand experiences.

The final way to help out with service projects is to go to some of the fundraising events FIMRC holds. We will be holding our largest fundraiser of the school year, the annual Benefit Dinner, on Nov. 11 in the Psych Atrium in East Hall. Restaurants from all over Ann Arbor donate food to the event for students and the community to enjoy. There will also be items up for auction at the event. The admission ticket for the dinner will get you as much food as you can fit onto one plate and, more importantly, it will go directly to improving the lives of children around the world.

As students we need to do everything we can to help promote a spirit of volunteerism and service. In the end, it’s not a matter of which organization you choose to work with, but rather the motivation and passion with which we work. I hope we don’t simply reminisce about the great service deeds done by University students in the past, but rather use that legacy to propel us to do greater acts of service in our community and around the world.

Stephen Philip is the volunteering co-chair of FIMRC.

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