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Volunteering in Your Community and Abroad

What is it like to have power over life and death, and yet to struggle with your own humanity? The English Surgeon is the story of acclaimed British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, who has traveled to Ukraine for 15 years to treat patients who have been left to die; of his friend and medical colleague in Kyiv who carries on the fight despite official hostility and archaic surgical conditions; and of a young patient who hopes that Henry can save his life.

Henry’s commitment to relieving suffering in the Ukraine is a reminder that we can all takes steps to help others in our backyard or around the world. Below are some steps you can take to improve things in your community and abroad.

1. Host a discussion on the pros and cons of various forms of health coverage in the United States, including universal, single payer and private plans.

2. Set up a health fair that connects local providers offering free or sliding-scale fee medical care with those who need it.

3. If you are interested in volunteering in your community, visit the following websites:

VolunteerMatch provides ways for individuals, nonprofits and corporations to find places to volunteer and offers virtual opportunities.

Serve.gov is a website provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service that allows you to either register your own project or find a volunteer opportunity in your area.

Network for Good allows visitors to look for volunteer opportunities and donate to causes or organizations in traditional ways or through charitable donation gift certificates called “good cards.”

The Volunteer Family encourages family volunteering and has family-oriented listings.

4. To get more involved with organizations specifically committed to medical volunteerism, check out the following organizations:

AmeriCares: An international relief organization, AmeriCares provides medicines, medical supplies and aid to individuals in need around the world. The group responds to both natural disasters and to the everyday needs of people in countries where health care is inaccessible, unaffordable or of low quality. The AmeriCares website features a section that provides links on how individuals, foundations, corporations and medical personnel can help the cause.

Doctors Without Borders: An international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists, Doctors Without Borders provides medical aid in nearly 60 countries. The organization’s website features recent news and stories of activities and treatment, as well as information on volunteering with the organization and donating to the cause.

International Health Volunteers: This independent, not-for-profit organization works to establish an accessible group of physicians, dentists and other medical experts who can assist in domestic and international aid and medical relief. The organization’s website features a page that describes current projects, and another that provides the steps to take to become a member.

International Medical Relief: International Medical Relief works to bring medical services, supplies, training and education to communities around the world and works to empower communities to take care of their medical struggles themselves. The organization sponsors medical mission trips where treatment and education happen on-site, conducted by volunteer doctors and dentists and non-medical volunteers. The group’s website features a page describing how people can help the organization, as well as a page of information for anyone who would like to volunteer on a medical mission trip.

International Medical Volunteers Association: The International Medical Volunteers Association website brings together resources on international health volunteering and is a good starting point for people looking to get involved with medical aid. The website features an extensive Q-and-A section about medical volunteering, as well as a list of organizations that potential volunteers can contact.

Operation Giving Back: The American College of Surgeons is dedicated to the provision of quality, safe, and timely care for the surgical patient. Its “Operation Giving Back” initiative serves as a resource and a source of inspiration, education, support and fellowship for all those dedicated to providing surgical care in underserved areas. Operation Giving Back focuses on addressing unmet surgical needs, fostering professional partnerships for clinical care and education and training, and strengthening medical infrastructure to promote sustainability. All who are interested in surgical humanitarian outreach are invited to get involved.