It’s almost the end of the work day, and a small pop-up clinic in Ecuador is almost filled to its capacity limit, but another patient who can barely walk is escorted in by her son.
Upon examination, doctors determine she has a uterine prolapse and needs to be rushed to the nearest hospital in the middle of nowhere.
If there had been no pop-up clinic, the woman would have died with no way to get the care she needed.
“She came in struggling. It turns out that she had a prolapsed uterus, which means it was falling out. She was older, and if she hadn’t come to the clinic, she would have died,” said Ongelique Conflenti, a Los Angeles nurse and BSU alumna. “Right after the doctors had figured out what was going on, they got her a taxi in the middle of nowhere, paid for her to get to the hospital and paid for her treatment.”
This one woman’s example in Ecuador is reality for many across the world who constantly face pain, jungles and mountains that stand between them and the medical help they need.
Timmy Global Health, an organization centralized around healthcare, works to provide those pop-up clinics in developing nations, in order to make more options available to those who have none.
Based in Indiana, the organization has chapters in high schools and colleges throughout the state that allow students to get involved and help whether or not they are pursuing a health- related major.
One example would be senior elementary and special education major Ella Penczek, the president of Ball State University’s chapter. Penczek joined her freshman year and now organizes meetings, tracks executive board members’ goals and deadlines and ensures all members feel involved.
Since getting involved, Penczek said “the biggest impact” she has seen was during her second year.
“We didn't have to go back to one of the communities,” Penczek said. “They were able to kind of be self-sufficient after we had helped them for quite some time.”
All of the organization’s chapters are assigned an area to go to every year with healthcare professionals to set up pop-up clinics. Trips occur every three to four months, and some people stay stationed within the communities after the majority of volunteers return home.
Timmy Global Health keeps all records of previous patients from their pop-up clinics, so their records may be used for future references when they visit those areas again.
“We ask for so many doctors and nurses to go with us over there; it’s not us treating them, but we’re working with them,” said Alyson Wittmer, vice president of BSU’s chapter. “It’s the impact on them that they bring back and [how they treat] their co-workers and their patients a different way once they come back. Once they see the other side of [how] … it’s not the same in other places and some people here are maybe struggling to get healthcare as well.”
Whenever they go to a new country, Timmy Global Health takes into account the economy of the area by referring patients to local services as much as they can, in hopes that they will eventually eliminate the need for their help.
“I always say Timmy's not a one-and-done kind of thing,” Conflenti said. “The biggest thing I love about Timmy [Global Health] is that in everything they do, they make sure that it's ethically appropriate. So that they’re going to these communities, they’re working directly with people that live in these communities and asking them what they need and then serving that need.”
In past years, Ball State students have had the opportunity to join other Timmy Global Health volunteers on trips to Ecuador, but they had to completely fund travel expenses on their own. Before, the chapter had dues and a few fundraisers, but this year they are only focused on fundraising.
“We don’t have dues this semester just because that kind of turns people away from it, especially if you don’t really have the money to pay for the dues,” Wittmer said. “So we’re really going to turn to fundraising ideas to try and do trips and [other] stuff. It kind of is harder, so, instead of dues they’re going to do… six service hours a semester.”
Due to how small the chapter has been in the past year, they have not gone to Ecuador and won’t be able to this year, but the chapter wants to expand involvement on campus.
Additionally, they hope to do smaller trips in order to help more local areas by contacting other chapters and connecting with them. Penczek said that a goal is to partner with a chapter in Michigan to do a clean water distribution in Flint.
Ball State’s chapter meets biweekly, and for those who are not students, Timmy Global Health also offers general volunteer programs and takes donations.
“One of the best things about being a student and being interested in Timmy [Global Health], [is] you don't have to have a medical major at all,” Conflenti said. “[While I was a student,] we had communications majors, and we had a couple marketing majors. One of our presidents [was] actually a communications major, and he did a great job. He went on three Ecuador trips as well.
“You really can be any major, and as long as you have an interest in broadening your horizons and most importantly helping people and having an open mind, then anyone can join.”
Contact Alyssa Cooper with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org