Spotlight: VIDA

Spotlight: VIDA

This month, we’d like to introduce you to VIDA, a non-profit organization providing health services throughout Central America. Whether you are a pre-health professional, an advanced student or a practicing health professional, VIDA is an awesome way to gain both experience in your field and cultural enrichment, while at the same time having a positive impact on your world.

How did this organization begin?

Central America has a great deal of need, and although their local health systems try to provide services to the neediest of their people, they often fail to do so. After having seen these situations working in different organizations, VIDA’s founders, Curtis Larsen and Sondra Elizondo, started VIDA in 2008 as a way to take student volunteers to Central America where they could not only help others but have an amazing learning experience as well. Many students, health professionals, and others helped make founding VIDA possible and also greatly contributed to VIDA’s success.

What makes VIDA different?

We started working in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama. Over time, we also started working in Honduras and Guatemala. Currently, we are working in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

VIDA strives for excellence in the quality of its programs. We are constantly training and evaluating our staff and programs to make sure we are progressing trip by trip to an even higher standard. This includes everyone from the interpreters who work in our medical clinic, to our Team Leaders who are in charge of the overall success of the trips, to the health professionals who work with the volunteers. Our staff are trained on everything from teaching to CPR to medical English.

We also don’t work with many donations for our medicines and supplies, as those costs are pretty much covered with the volunteers’ trip fees. We work hard to make sure everything needed for clinic is sent in top shape and that nothing is wasted. This ensures that we will be able to carry out all the clinics and other activities planned for each trip.

One great part of our adventures is when we get to experience home stays for a few nights, and our families are also well-trained and love to host volunteers in their homes. Our administrative staff is dedicated and very helpful to volunteers and trip staff before, during, and after the trips.

What programs are offered and who should go?

VIDA basically has three different programs: Medical, Dental, and Veterinary. We are also in the process of splitting each of these programs into a basic and advanced program to get better use of different volunteers’ training and skills. So, a third year veterinary student would be assigned tasks that are more suitable to her/his skills, and a pre-veterinary student would be assigned more basic tasks and will have a different interaction with our staff veterinarians to ensure they will also get a great learning experience that prepares them for veterinary school. The same principle would be applied to the medical and dental programs.

Our programs are created especially for university students in pre-health and health careers, but really, we are open to accepting anyone who is interested in these areas and wants to help others in need, while learning tons and having a great time in Central America.

For more information on how to get involved or support VIDA, check out their website!

Traveling to the Philippines at just 8 months old, Shawna grew up loving all things related to travel and serving abroad. She is passionate about helping others travel safely and make the most of their time abroad.