The interdenominational Volunteers in Medical Missions takes American goodwill and free medical care to poverty stricken people in third world countries. Teams require doctors, nurses, when possible a dentist and a pharmacist, and nonmedical support people to count pills, direct the flow of human traffic, dose patients with antiparasitic medicine, hand out prescriptions from the pharmacy, and in general, "grease the wheels" to enable smooth team functioning. Members of a team typically come from several states and various denominations; trips last one to two weeks. Since VIMM's founding in 1986, more than 1500 volunteers have traveled to countries across the world, donating over $12,000,000 in medical goods and services to nearly 200,000 destitute and doctorless people.
For the past several years, I have spent one week a year traveling to a third world country with Volunteers in Medical Missions. Members of a given team typically range from students to retirees, represent a broad range of professions, and come from several states. All faiths are welcome. Volunteers share the desire to help the less fortunate, and the belief that their individual contribution makes a difference. You will travel rustic roads, experience less than ideal sleeping and plumbing conditions, drink bottled water, and work long hours without pay, but you will return with the satisfaction of having helped people who will never be able to repay you, and you will gain a new appreciation of how much we first worlders take for granted. -- S.A.