Dollie Ambassador Ellie Volpicelli is a pre-med student at USC, and took Teddy Bears with her in early January 2016 on a medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic. We asked her to share her experience…
“In Fall of 2014, a peer of mine from the post-baccalaureate pre-medical program started a USC Global Medical Training (GMT) chapter. GMT is an International Humanitarian Organization which provides free medical and dental services to underserved populations living in mostly Central America and the Caribbean. Its main goal is to improve the health conditions and well being of community members who do not have access to adequate health care. A strong corollary objective is to provide motivated and compassionate undergraduate and graduate pre-medical students with an educational experience of serving others.
My friend encouraged me in 2014 to go on a medical mission through GMT to Panama, and he promised it would be “a life changing experience”. I went, and he was right!
Upon my return to the United States, I became an active member of GMT and was elected Vice President and Service Coordinator. My job was to plan the winter medical service trip to rural areas of the Dominican Republic, and execute the Community Service Project through collecting in-kind donations from organizations like Dollies Making A Difference.
On January 2nd, I embarked on my medical mission trip with two suitcases – one filled with scrubs and medical supplies; the other filled with candy, toys, games, and Teddy Bears from Dollies Making A Difference!
Upon arriving in Santa Domingo, all 24 of us USC pre-medical students were greeted with warm smiles and hugs. Over the next two days we learned new medical terminology and studied the major health problems in the Dominican Republic. On the third day we boarded the bus and headed to Santiago Rodriguez, where we spent the next four days in surrounding rural villages, setting up free medical clinics that serviced over 600 persons.
I brought 4 teddy bears and 1 small cloth blanket to each clinic day. Throughout the day I scanned the room to find an age-appropriate child who seemed to need an extra hug from a Teddy Bear or the comfort from a warm, cozy blanket. Often times, I would distribute Teddy Bears to clinic visitors waiting in line. Yet, sometimes I provided the home made Teddy Bear to a child who was crying and was afraid to be seen by the doctor. I saved the blankets for when I spotted a mother in a clinic with a newborn.
Each item was extremely well received! I felt so honored and humbled to give each family these special gifts. Upon receiving the Teddy Bear, each child squeezed his or her new friend with a huge smile on their face! The family members of each child also expressed their deepest gratitude. My team members, as well as myself, were so excited to watch the children receive their new friends. It warmed our hearts just as much as the children’s.
On this trip, I was able to see first hand how the people of the Dominican Republic live their daily lives, and I was able to practice medicine under the supervision of kind, knowledgeable doctors. This mission trip gave me more than I could have ever imagined. It reminded me to appreciate the things I have and the opportunities that I have been given. Never have I been more certain about wanting to pursue medicine. I look forward to the day when helping others is my full-time career.”
Indeed, Ellie has learned “To Give is to Receive”.