Shadowing experience during the pandemic

May 5, 2021

Since November 2020, we, VAW Global Health Alliances, have designed online courses to be much like a course in continuing education, valuable to anyone interested in public health and development work. This is the beginning of a new chapter for VAW Global and also a new opportunity for interns from around the world to to gain experience while joining hands in creating equitable access to quality healthcare around the world from the comfort of their own home or office.


One of our most proactive intern, Megan Wu – Yale University, shared: “I think this program can be very insightful for pre-health students or those who are interested in global and public health. Personally, I’ve got to learn a lot about doctor-patient interactions which is important to me because it can be hard to find a safe in-person shadowing experience during the pandemic.”

To set up an online shadowing course, VAW Global has to collaborate with our partners from Low-Middle Income Countries (LMICs), to share their expertise on a global scale, present medical cases, have their voices heard, and be a part of a global movement. “I really like that VAW included a Q&A LIVE session with the doctor. This gives you an opportunity to interact and ask question which is an in-person experience for the lab.” – said Megan.

During the length of the program, students will receive the access to learning materials on a weekly basic and a video recording after each LIVE session, which makes the learning process more flexible and . Or, as Megan mentioned “Lastly, I really like the program which is so well-organized and because each video is recorded with lots of flexibility so people from different time zone, have class, work or other activities can still complete the courses in their very doable way.”

Please feel free to find more information about our online courses HERE.

3 Short Ones about the LIVE Suture Workshop!

April 30, 2021
We meet with Doctor Roberto Sanchez, one of our physicians in Dominican Republic. We talked to him about the VAW Global LIVE Suture Workshop he leads.

1. Where did you learn to suture?

“During surgery rotations when I was in college. I remember that on several occasions my colleagues and I used to go to the emergency room of a local hospital during our free time on weekends and volunteer to practice and learn more.”

2. What do you think are the most important sutures pre health students should learn?

“As a pre health student, it is very important to have a good theoretical and practical knowledge of the basics aspects of suturing and of the most basic techniques such as the simple interrupted suture because of its frequent use.”

3.  Do you have any advice for future students joining the course?

“There are many advantages offered by attending the online suture course, such as the comfort of being at home, saving time, and having personalized classes in small groups; Students who have already joined us mentioned the fast learning feeling and the confidence to keep practicing while getting their questions immediately answered.”

Join our four-day online suture training today! Get 6 contact hours (0.6 CEUs) during our LIVE suture sessions with one of our best VAW Global Physicians in the Dominican Republic. Learn, practice and develop your basics suture skills from the comfort of your home … and you will receive a free suture kit!  >> More information

Enjoy working anytime, anywhere!

December 1, 2020

We have telecommuted to our meetings for more than a decade, because we all live spread across the world. Below are some ideas we live by to help us be successful in this atypical work environment. We hope it will help you adjust and be successful at telecommuting.


VAW Global employees have always worked from remote locations. Sometimes in a VAW Global office, sometimes at home, many times from an airport or hostel, but almost always without the “typical work environment” where you can interact with your co-workers face to face.

Routines & Exercises

Having a routine before work ensures a healthy mindset for you, a development of a high morale and a sense of higher productivity. These morning routines can be from waking up early and showering, getting dressed, doing exercise, having breakfast, etc. Even if you’re telecommuting and might not be in the same place as your colleagues physically, it’s advisable to still “get ready for the office” as you would at any other job, for your mental health and productivity at work.

It might be challenging to get 10,000 steps while working at your desk all day, but it is highly recommended you plan daily exercise or walks so you get your boost of the day. During work, ensure that you are drinking enough water, stretch your legs from time to time or vary positions while seated. Most importantly, make sure you are able to sit properly with the help of an ergonomic chair and proper office desk. It’s also advisable to take some time to rest your eyes to avoid eye strain.

Healthy meals and/or snacks

You are as productive as what you eat. Schedule your meals at a fixed time; this will not only help avoid having health issues, it will also adjust your body’s clock to know when you will be having lunch. Therefore, you will be more focused on your tasks at their time.

Make sure to have a healthy breakfast every morning to start your day. Plan your lunch ahead of time and have some snacks available at your desk during the day (we recommend fruits or seeds to keep your energy and health up). Try to avoid fat or sugary foods and drinks, as they will add unnecessary carbs to your body. Drink lots of water during the day and make sure you stay hydrated.


Having a telecommute job can be a bit lonely; you are in front of your computer for most of the day, unlike an office job in which one tends to interact with bosses or coworkers directly which keeps up your socializing skills. That is why it is very important to set some goals to help you out with socializing, here are some tips:

  • Go out, even if it’s a stroll or walking your dog at noon. It’s always good to stretch your legs away from the computer.
  • Work in a coworking space or a coffee shop. This forces you to interact with people while you work.
  • Plan things for outside working hours. Even if it’s going to a pottery class, going to the gym or grabbing a drink with friends.


The work space must be very illuminated and it needs to have a good ventilation system.

  • Having an spacious desk and good working chair makes you feel more content with your space as well as being good for your health (no back issues)
  • According to studies, having a tidy space will help you be more focused on your work
  • Colors are important, because they give out a sense of mood depending on the colors by which you are surrounded (ex: yellow stimulates creativity; blue helps you focus; purple stimulates problem solving)
  • Music helps you focus and keep being productive. You can listen to any can of music that helps you feel like that but we recommend music without lyrics like classical music, groove or electronic music.

Work & Life: Create Boundaries

Organizing not only working schedules but daily habits, such as walking the dog during your lunch break or preparing your meals ahead of time, can help improve your mental health.

Working from a computer or especially a cell phone can give you access to different platforms all the time; that being said, answering your work text or emails while on your day off is not advisable.

Time your day so you can have a start and end time. Create a space for work that you can leave at the end of the day. Leave your laptop in your dedicated workspace. Turn the notifications “off” on your phone (if possible). Finally, a good practice is to leave the house and take a small walk when you finish working.

Sleeping hours

During this modern time, it is very common to sleep around 5 hours or less. Even if it is common, that does not mean it is a healthy habit, especially for a telecommute worker. When you telecommute, you need to create your own motivation to achieve your goals of the day. If you have not slept enough, a cup of coffee might bring you back to life, but it will not have you at your 100% and this impacts your productivity. You will get more results if you get at least 7-8 hours of sleep on the same schedule every night.

If you feel like remote working is for you, why not try to be a Recruiter for VAW Global and work at anytime and anywhere you like?

We are looking for Team Leader Recruiters to be in charge of recruiting new Outreach chapters at universities around the world. You will recruit new Team Leaders at universities. This is a part-time telecommute position that will be tracked with weekly goals that lasts. It is twice yearly position (you can participate in just one recruitment season or multiple). >> More information


January 18, 2018

It’s a real world we live in, and it can be hard to see the reality of life in the developing countries around the world. We are thankful for our volunteers like Yuri who jump right into the thick of the hardships & needs and offer to volunteer their time, and donate their energy!


Four months have passed and I can still remember looking out into the distance and seeing a crowd of patients squatting on the ground as they waited patiently under the scorching Cambodian sun to see a doctor. More than anything, I can hear the babies’ wails, smell the scent of human sweat mingling with the ceaseless dust, and feel the weight of babies too small for their ages laying placid in my arms. For two weeks this past January, I joined a team called Volunteers Around the World (VAW) on a medical outreach to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Our team of twenty-one university students from three different universities (UNSW, USyd and SBU) set up mobile clinics in villages wherever and whenever we could. Abandoned car repair shops, backyards of village elders, school playgrounds and old temples became the centers from which we offered our services. Together we were able to help 774 patients by giving them treatment, medications and diagnosis that they would otherwise have to go to great lengths to obtain. I went into this outreach expecting to make a difference in people’s lives, not fully expecting the impact it would have on my own. Here are some stories of the people I met along the way.

I remember this first girl quite well because she came in complaining of acne. As I prepared to write the topical medication for acne, the doctor I was shadowing started speaking to her in rapid Khmer. She responded with single-syllabled answers, her eyes downcast, clearly hiding something. I sat in silence and observed her becoming intensely more vocal and distraught, until the doctor held up a hand to stop her. The doctor looked over at me and asked if I still thought she came in for acne today. I replied, “No.” He quickly scribbled on the prescription pad, but instead of handing her back the form, he passed it over to me. It was for Gynomax 1-0-1/3d. It was not acne for which she sought treatment, but for a sexually transmitted disease. He asked me to purchase the medication and to be discreet. She was pregnant from the ‘boyfriend’ she was arranged to be marry in a few weeks’ time. A sixteen-year old girl was about to be a mom and a wife. I watched her walk away with an official prescription for acne and the Gynomax tucked safely inside her pocket.

Another day I was on the intake station where I had to interview people with the help of a Khmer translator. One patient stuck to me particularly, because she had come to the clinic on the back of a motorbike. She was also 92 years old. She sat down slowly on the intake bench and I proceeded to take a history from her. When I asked her how many children she had given birth to; she replied, “thirteen.” I nodded and asked her, “How many of your children are still alive?” She swallowed and said, “One.” Under cause of death, I shakily wrote down ‘Pol Pot regime.” I could not even begin to fathom how much grief and pain this woman had experienced to have 12 out of 13 of her children killed in front of her and to have only her youngest live since the child was growing undetected in her womb. But there she was, sitting in front of me, talking about the children she fiercely loved and could have raised – as if her loss was just another simple fact of life.

On my last day at the pharmacy station, I read the script for a patient who needed Panol and cough medicine. While packing the medications up, I saw that he had presented with a cough, fever, night sweats and weight loss – symptoms that pointed towards tuberculosis. As I finally handed over the bag of prescriptions, I glanced over at the patient. He was a young boy of barely three years ago curled in his mother’s lap. Scribbled on his past medical history – tuberculosis.

And then it dawned on me – this child had already been through a full round of anti-TB drugs. The boy had already been subjected to the nausea, vomiting, night chills and unrelenting coughs of TB, and all within the first years of life. Yet, here he was, back with the same symptoms. I felt absolutely helpless. Anti-TB medication could only be bought at state-run pharmacies in the city, which were at least a two-hour truck ride away. The best thing I could do – as I watched the mother walk home – was to pray for his fever to subside. There were nights after a long day out in the villages when I couldn’t sleep thinking about what would happen to all these patients. VAW does an excellent job of including the local community and medical staff to make sure patients receive medical care after we leave, but the fact that so many people needed more help than we could provide was beyond unsettling. I began to realize that medicine was not as clear- cut as I had imagined it to be.

But the infuriation at the unfairness of it all was surprisingly invigorating. There was so much more that can be done, that should be done and as doctors, we have a chance to be in the thick of things, working towards making a real difference. Out there, receiving proper medical care could literally mean the difference between life and death – a fact that reinforces my passion for medicine and desire to pursue a life around it.

Top 10 Reasons to Volunteer Around the World

November 26, 2017

VAW Guatemala

You may have heard people describing volunteering abroad as “life-changing” and wondered if they weren’t exaggerating a bit. After all, why would you spend your time working long hours in some remote village if you could be sipping cocktails on the beach instead?

Everyone who volunteers has a different reason for taking the plunge but in the end, what they all find is that it really is a life-changing experience. If you’re still not convinced, here are ten great reasons to volunteer abroad:

10. It’s Good for Your Health

Volunteering has tremendous health benefits. Think about it: you’re physically active so you reap all the health benefits of a good work-out – including building muscle and losing fat – and you don’t even know you’re exercising! Your mental health gets a boost too: volunteering can help fight depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and stress.

9. You Get to See the World

Volunteering abroad means you get to see new countries. What makes it even better is that you’ll travel to areas that you would never have thought of, away from the tourist traps, and see a side of the country that most tourists don’t get to see.

8. You Gain Perspective

Volunteering helps you gain a new perspective on things. You learn what really is important and that there’s no point in sweating the small stuff. First World problems will start to look really silly. After all, it will be hard to get upset that your local store doesn’t have your favorite soda in stock if you remember that people you’ve met in real life have to walk several miles just to get safe drinking water.

Join VAW This Year!

7. You Make New Friends

One of the best things about volunteering is the bonds you form. Your Facebook friends list will become filled with people from all over the world and you may form lasting friendships. You may also meet people who will become very important to you: future contacts for employment, people who can offer you a place to stay on your next travel adventure, even a significant other.

6. You Become Part of a Community

Part of human nature is the need to belong and be part of a community. Volunteering provides just that. People may welcome you into their lives and their homes and you may even be “adopted” by a local family who will look out for you.

VAW in Guatemala

5. You Challenge Yourself

Volunteering is a great way to challenge yourself and see just how strong you really are. It takes you out of your comfort zone and places you in unfamiliar surroundings and situations where you need to adapt. You’ll be surprised at how much you can cope with and this will give you the self-confidence to tackle any future obstacles in your life head-on.

4. You Learn New Skills

When you volunteer, you inevitably learn new skills. These can be skills specifically pertaining to your future career but you will also learn valuable life skills: how to work as part of a team, how to adapt to difficult surroundings, how to rise to challenges and solve problems, and so on. You may even learn a new language.

Volunteers Around the World

3. It’s Great for Your Career

When prospective employers see that you have volunteered, they will know that you’re anything but an entitled, self-absorbed snowflake who will crumble at the first sign of pressure. Volunteers already know how to deal with challenges and get along with other people. They can see the bigger picture and have already shown that they are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good.

2. It Helps you Find Your Passion

An unexpected benefit of volunteering is that it can help you find your passion. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, really: because most volunteer projects require you to be involved in a wide variety of tasks, you’ll soon learn which ones you love and which one you hate. Maybe you’ve never really liked children but after being in regular contact with little people who trust you, accept you unconditionally and show you a new way of seeing the world, you may find that you want to dedicate your time and skills to children’s health or education. You may even realize that the way things are done at home isn’t for you and that you want to do things differently.

Volunteers Around the World in the DR

1. You Help Make the World a Better Place

When you read all these reasons to volunteer, you may find yourself wondering why you shouldn’t just become a contestant on a reality TV show. It’s true that you can get most of these benefits from being on a show like Survivor, but volunteering has something that reality TV can’t offer: it makes a real difference. You may think that your contribution is just a tiny drop in the ocean of challenges facing the world but remember this: by its very nature, the ocean is made up of tiny drops. Like Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Besides, in the bigger scheme of things your help may not have made a huge difference but for every person you did help, it has made all the difference.

Volunteer with Us!


Portraying the Essence of VAW- A Profile of Drs. Reynaldo Diaz and Yokasta Paulino

May 3, 2016



When you first meet and get to know Doctor Reynaldo Medina and his wife Doctor Yokasta Paulino, it is easy to see they are a loving couple and a pair of doctors with a true passion for medicine. Having worked in both our Dominican Republic and Panama sites, the two have been with us longer than most of the doctors we work with today. Their love for each other is heartwarming to say the least, but the way in which they share that love with their patients is a true gift to witness.


Reynaldo and Yokasta began working with us back in 2013, when we first opened our site in the Dominican Republic. Since both are native to the DR and to the region in which our clinics are held, you could tell the two of them were eager to begin working right from the start.


Like all beginnings, the first few weeks of work with the communities were extremely chaotic and challenging. We had to find new communities and create relationships with complete strangers. We had to gather funds and find ways to supply clinics in a completely new environment. Needless to say, Reynaldo and Yokasta (along with everyone) were exhausted, but they showed no signs of quitting.


In memory of those early weeks, Mark Stanley, the CEO and founder of Volunteers Around the World, had this to say: “I had negotiated a deal to pay the hospital where Reynaldo and Yokasta were both formerly employed. The hospital, in turn, “lent” us a few of their employees (Reynaldo and Yokasta) to get us started in the region. Those first two weeks in the DR were rough, because, back then, we didn’t know we needed to control the number of patients per day. Our experience in our first Medical Outreach Site in Guatemala had always been in small communities so we could see the entire community in one day. In the DR, however, the communities were much larger and there were days when we had over 500 patients per day coming through our door! After the first two weeks were done, I asked Reynaldo and Yokasta about the money we were paying them. Since I didn’t really know the going rate for the daily wages of a doctor in the DR at that time, I wanted to know if the compensation we were paying them was a good wage. They both looked at me like I had 3 heads! They had no idea they were being paid! The hospital we had paid told them the job was a volunteer job! I was so impressed that they had the desire to work so hard as volunteers that I knew I wanted to hire them permanently and make sure they would get paid a fair wage for their labor.”


Drs. Reynaldo and Yokasta have since taken on the positions as co-Medical Coordinators in our site in Panama. The two are extraordinary examples of VAW at work. Stories such as these capture the essence of why we do what we do, and we can only hope that as we carry on our work we can find people as amazing as Reynaldo and Yokasta.


Volunteer your time. Donate your energy. Volunteers Around the World.

Supplemental Outreach Projects: Beyond clinics

April 21, 2016

Volunteers Around the World is an organization that is unique in many different ways. One of the qualities which sets us apart from many other volunteer organizations is that all of our projects were developed by our volunteers (you can read Our Story to learn more). One thing that we still encourage to this day–even as our Medical and Dental Outreach projects continue to expand at an exponential rate–are smaller, supplemental projects from our volunteers, alumni and partner organizations. We have learned that the best projects can come from the most unexpected places. For example, the Toy Donation Outreach Program for hospitalized children and their families at Hospital Docente Universitario DR. Dario Contreras in Santo, Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Laura W photo

Laura Whiting, the founder and toy maker of the Toy Donation Outreach Program

The Toy Donation Outreach Program was started by Laura Whiting, an old high school classmate of VAW’s Founder and CEO, Mark Stanley, who saw the work VAW was doing online. Laura herself has been bedridden for the majority of the past 9 years due to an unrecognizable and incurable disease. When she saw pictures Mark had posted from a recent trip to the hospital in Santo Domingo, she felt a connection and a calling to serve the children who were also bedridden at the hospital. Although she did not have a lot of resources, Laura knew she wanted to do something to help children who were at the hospital for weeks, or even months, at a time.

Hospital 2

This young girl received some jewelry and dress up costumes.

Knowing the pain and suffering she herself was experiencing, Laura channeled the little energy she had into handcrafting toys for the boys and girls at hospital. During the Fall of 2015, Laura began her project; she said, “I spent about 2 months while in bed working on these toys and it gave me a renewed sense of purpose.” In January 2016, the first round of toys were distributed at the hospital by the VAW Dominican Republic Site Coordinator, Carol Gallego, and the hospital staff (see the full album of joy at the hospital on Facebook here).

Carol recounts going to the hospital and the looks of joy that were on the children’s faces. Many of the children were exhausted from their surgeries and recoveries, and some were crying due to the pain they were experiencing, but the huge smiles that broke across their faces upon receiving a toy was heart warming. For many children, it’s one of the few personal possessions they have at the hospital, or even at home.

Hospital 6

This strong young girl was in accident and is now in cast from her stomach to her toes due to both legs and a hip being broken. She received a blanket and crocheted stuffed animal.

The Dr. Dario Contreras Hospital is a public trauma hospital in Santo Domingo that is underfunded; they do not have games, toys, television or other distractions available for the children during their stay simply because they cannot afford it. The staff at the hospital do their best to take care of all of the patients, and they are all very kind and caring. The donated toys were an especially welcome treat in an otherwise bleak environment with little variation in the day to day activities for the children.

The hospital receives many different patients. In January, there was a seven year old girl who had broken both of her legs and a hip in an accident. She had to have a cast from her stomach to her toes and was unable to get around. Her mother was staying with her at the hospital, but had been unable to return home since the accident, meaning all they had were the clothes on the were wearing upon arrival.

Hospital 4

Baby Dario was abandoned by his mother due to birth defects and adopted by the hospital and staff. He received one of the crocheted stuffed animals.

Another little boy was abandoned by his mother at birth because of a physical disability. Since then, the hospital staff and pediatric ward have adopted him as their own, because the orphanages are overcrowded and underfunded, and they all believed they could give him a better quality of life by keeping him at the hospital. All of the staff take turns caring for him and making sure he gets attention and love.

For children such as these, Laura’s crocheted stuffed animals, blankets, hand made jewelry and carved wooden cars were such a special gift. Although Laura herself does not have many economical resources and has had to make many personal sacrifices, including postponing her own bills, to be able to fund the project, along with the help of some donations from
family and friends, she believes it’s well worth the sacrifice. After seeing the joy that came from the January donation, she says “I knew that this was something that I needed to do” and “I was ecstatic
to see the pictures that Carol and Mark posted.”

It is special outreach projects such as the Toy Donation Outreach Program and special people with a heart of gold such as Laura that make Volunteers Around the World able to help make the world a better place. Volunteer your time. Donate your energy.

Hospital 3

There are patients of all ages in the pediatric ward. This young baby received a blanket.

A Look Inside Albania: A land of history and exploration

March 31, 2016

With spring budding in the trees and exam season just around the corner, you may already be considering your future travel plans.  If you’re torn between doing some work that can have a real impact on your future and just going out and trying something new, VAW has you covered all around. One of our newest sites in Albania is great for those interested in medicine (and for others whom are just curious), as it provides our volunteers with a full week of hands-on clinical work run by a truly spectacular staff of doctors and site coordinators. What you may not know, however, is that Albania is also a place where everyone can have an amazing time through its diverse array of geographical landscapes, multicultural history and stunning architecture.


With 280 miles of coastline sitting across from Italy on the Adriatic and countless miles of mountains, Albania’s geography is a playground that everyone can enjoy. Our site is located in Central Albania in a small town in Berat which sits in the heart of the mountains and on the bank of the Osum River. During your trip, you won’t have to travel far to find great hiking and views of the mountains while also being able to visit the riverbank and do some white water rafting. If it’s the ocean you are looking for, you are also just a short ride from many of Albania’s incredible Mediterranean beaches.

Now if you are more of a museum goer and prefer to explore history, art and architecture, Berat is a perfect place to see aspects of history with roots in cultures all over the world. The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization named Berat one of its cherished World Heritage Sites for its multidimensional history of Islamic, Ottoman and Christian backgroundsIMG-20160331-WA0010 with architecture that weaves Venetian, Romanian, Moor and Arabic styles together. Some landmark destinations include the National Ethnographic Museum in Berat, The Gjirokaster Castle, and the original Berat Castle (Kajala e Beratit in Albanian). While these destinations will be sure to wow you, the beauty of Berat hardly has to be sought after, as you can take in the ambience of the city by simply walking its cobblestone streets and grassy knolls.


So as you begin to think about your next service trip abroad, just remember there is so much to gain out of every country you visit. While Albania may be a new destination on your list (or perhaps you’ve never even heard of it before), you’ll have a hard time leaving this beautiful country the moment you step in it.

To see more, check out our VAW Albania Trip Video!


Putting a Face to the Name: Brazil Site Profile

November 20, 2015

brazil pic 5

Alter do Chão, located in the municipal district Santarém, part of the state Pará, sits in a jungle landscape in Amazonian Brazil along the breathtaking coastline of the massive Rio Tapajós. With arguably one of the most beautiful fresh water beaches in the world, Alter do Chão gives you a Caribbean-type escape in the heart of Amazonia. The Guardian ranked Alter do Chão the #1 beach destination in Brazil, and considering the thousands of miles of coastline Brazil offers, it’s quite amazing that you can find such an incredible beach in the middle of the Amazonian region. However, while the landscape of the region is undeniably breathtaking, VAW chose to expand to this part of Brazil for much more than just a great beach day.

brazil pic 2

The Amazonian region of Brazil holds some of the most isolated indigenous tribes and populations not just in Latin America but in the whole world. The communities we will work with in our clinics will range from tribes very similar to if not including some of the same the tribes as in the article above. Serving these communities is truly unique from most other VAW Medical Outreach trips in that the patients we see will have had little exposure to western medicinal practices prior to our clinics. While we hope to help introduce and integrate some modern medicine practices with the communities’ traditional beliefs, we also believe it’s equally as important that the volunteers attending the trips be exposed to a different way of viewing medicine from a more natural, traditional approach. The relationship between volunteer and patient will be one in which educational practices will flow in both directions, and both parties will experience something completely new. We hope that as a result, our volunteers feel enriched from their unique experience and that we can help communities revolutionize the way they view healthcare and sustainability.

brazil pic 4

What makes our new site in Brazil quite different from any of our pre existing sites is the way in which our groups will travel and live during the outreach trip and the level of immersion their lifestyle will have in the local communities. While we are very confident this site will be a spectacular experience for our volunteers, it is not necessarily the trip for everyone. During their ten-day stay in the region, the teams will live and travel through the Tapajós River on boats fully equipped with a kitchen staff, crew and all the necessary equipment to sleep on the boats. Each group will be able to experience an brazil pic 3 entirely new way of living, as the volunteers and on-site staff will be living on a boat with very little running water or electricity and will sleep in hammocks at night. In addition, there will be nights where the teams will dock and spend the night with some of the communities. In the process, we will create group educational programs with the local communities in which traditional rituals and forms of medicine will blend into one with modern medicinal practices, creating an environment in which both students and community members learn from one another and teach one another simultaneously.

brazil pic 1

Our new site in Brazil, like all our sites, has its own setting and its own personality. As Volunteers Around the World continues to grow and expand into different regions of the globe, our organization will continue to provide more dynamic opportunities to volunteer your time, donate your energy, and share new, incredible experiences across cultures. We hope you take the time to explore all that VAW has to offer and, in turn, all that you can offer to the world.

Team Leader Profile: Q&A with Saad Hasan, Founder and President of VAW-UT Dallas Dental

November 10, 2015


This week VAW had the pleasure of sitting down with Saad Hasan, one of our team leaders at UT Dallas who founded the dental outreach chapter there and has done an excellent job developing his chapter on campus and bringing that success to his teams’ missions as well. Saad was kind enough to answer a few questions in a brief Q&A session that provides great insight into the UT Dallas dental chapter and the creativity and hard work behind their success.

Saad showed his enthusiasm and charisma right from the beginning of the interview, and it was clear that his approachable and outgoing personality has been one of his biggest attributes to his success. We hope you enjoy reading and learning a bit about Saad and the work he’s done for both VAW and his school!


So just to begin, could you give me a brief background about yourself and what drew you to VAW?

Cool! So I am currently a senior neuroscience major with a minor in microcell biology and I just have a very big passion for dentistry. I’ve been involved with dentistry since my freshman year of high school and in that experience my love for dentistry sort of blossomed from there.

20150523_135919What did you learn about yourself and your team after your experience both in preparation for and during your trip to the DR this past summer?

When I got to college, I started to become focused exclusively on my path toward dental school. My dad had told me, “you know what, it’s probably better you focus less on extracurriculars and just on your schoolwork,” so despite always being super involved in high school, my first two years of college I really didn’t do anything besides school. I got super irritated though because I had been so used to being involved, and so when I finally went out and started looking for places to get involved, I came across VAW on one of my school’s pages, and I was like, “hey, this is a pretty fantastic idea! That’s like EXACTLY what I was thinking about doing!” So I went ahead and contacted Briana and David who were the recruiters at the time and filled out an application and then it all went from there. It was all pretty exciting.

One thing I learned that really stuck with me was that VAW is more than just a trip abroad. As an officer for the organization on my campus, I think my purpose is to serve my team members and it is our team’s purpose to serve those around us both locally and during our time abroad. We can’t have our members serving other people if we’re not serving our own members. So I thought one of the greatest aspects of VAW would be to encourage us in our enrichment of the profession. So I started bringing local medical and dental professionals onto campus and have them teach us about all sorts of medical specializations and their connections to dentistry. I also wanted this enrichment to be one of cultural value as well; I wanted everyone to be well versed in the culture of country we were visiting. So, I had a student from the UT Dallas Dominican Society come and talk to us and she was just fantastic. She brought a friend who grew up in the Dominican Republic and the two of them did a great job giving us a big overview of the DR, and she even brought us a little bit of Dominican food, so we got a little sneak peak on the awesome food culture as well!

Now, I want to point out that you were part of the joint team along with Rice Dental that succeeded in fundraising $2450 for your trip to the DR, which was the most of any team both as a gross total as a weighted total of money raised per volunteer. That said, what sort of leadership and collaboration went into your team’s fundraising success? 

Well right when we started we reached out to a Beverly Hills-based cupcake company of all things called Sprinkles Cupcakes. They make these huge amazing cupcakes and actually were generous enough to donate 500 cupcakes to our chapter, and I was like, “Whoa! That’s so awesome thanks!” We were able to sell them for a dollar less than the price at their store, took in 100% of the profits, and ended up raising a little over $1000 in that one event. We also hosted other events such as a flag football tournament that we accompanied with other fun stuff like a bouncy house, snow cones and pizza. By working together as a team and getting the word out for the tournament we had a resounding response. We made a $10 entry fee per player, and with 10 teams of 10-12 people on them we ended up raising a little over $1000 in that event as well.

The real strength of all of our effort was the ability for us to work collectively to put together larger scale, very fun events and fundraisers. But really overall I wanted to make sure my team members could work together in order to help pay for some of their program fees because if you can work hard enough as a team it can really pay off. Another aspect of fundraising that I think is so great is the importance of thinking about your community as part of your team. You know as long as you make an effort to support them they will always reach out and support you as well.

Lastly, as you’ve begun to mature within this role and have had a good amount of experience with VAW, what do you think is the one most essential quality necessary for being a good team leader? Volunteer? Are they the same?

20150518_124535I would say so; I think it is the same quality. I think they both encompass ideas about communication. Sometimes I can be really lenient on my officers and teammates, because I don’t want to burden them with too much work. But, it has been so helpful that my team members and e-board members communicated with me and said, “hey I can take on some of your work and lighten your load.” Having a team willing and able to maintain that two-way communication both from me to them and them to me has been so helpful, and essential, in the way our team goes about their work and planning. Going back to the flag football tournament, even though it ended up running smoothly and we came out successful in our fundraising, there were a lot of moving parts that went into making it happen and in a lot of ways it was very difficult. Our team had to learn to communicate with one another well to fully understand what sort of collaboration was necessary in order to bring it all together, and it was great to see that learning take place and create such positive results.

And this sort of communication carried over into our time country as well. Obviously learning new communication skills and methods with patients is important, but beyond that we learned how to communicate better as a team during our time in the DR. Very often there would be team members for example who were taking on a ton of work in the sterilization station while other volunteers were sitting around, and in order to effectively work together the team members had to effectively communicate with each other. Our team learned this very quickly both on campus and in country, and it made a huge difference all around.


After the interview came to a close I was taken aback by how open and honest Saad had been about the complexities of his learning process throughout his experience and the deep connections he created with his team members throughout the year. I thanked him sincerely for taking the time out of his day to share his thoughts and incredible experiences, and fortunately in the end we came out with an outstanding model of how to create, plan, and execute a phenomenal trip and chapter with Volunteers Around the World.