Many students who attend the University would like to become involved in community service, but sometimes it may be difficult to find an organization or cause in which you can become actively involved and actually see the impact of your service from the beginning through the end.

The University’s chapter of the Foundation for the International Medical Relief of Children is a student organization that helps students become involved in community service locally and abroad. 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 the problem is often 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, the national organization has started self-sustaining clinics around the world and now has more than 3,000 staff and volunteers who help carry out their dream of improving the health of impoverished children 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 international clinic sites 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 United States citizens in need?” Some people may think that we need to honor our duty to our own country before helping people overseas. But we 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 he or she was born.

But we don’t believe in neglecting our community. FIMRC strongly believes in having a large local impact. As volunteer chairs, we can certainly say this is true, since our role in FIMRC is to find opportunities for FIMRC members to reach out to the Ann Arbor community. We hold a variety of events from volunteering at retirement homes and serving at soup kitchens to playing games with kids at the Detroit Medical Center.

So how can students get involved in service projects here and abroad? We’ll help find opportunities for students who join FIMRC to serve in local communities in a variety of ways. Another hands-on way to get involved is to travel to one of the clinic sites and volunteer. One of our members, student Stephen Philip, went for a week to Costa Rica to visit the clinic site in the summer of 2010.

“When you are at the clinic, you can see the health problems that underserved populations experience and some of the political and socioeconomic reasons for those problems,” Philip said about his experience. “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, tonight from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. 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. 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. With this in mind, please come and “spare some change for change,” and get a great meal out of it too!

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 you work. Rather than simply reminiscing about the great service deeds done by University students in the past, but use that legacy to propel you to do greater acts of service in our community and around the world.

Madelyn Stumpos and Jordan Reilly are the Fundraising Coordinators for FIMRC.

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