This article is part of an occasional series that focuses on FIU students, employees and alumni who contribute to either the local or global community through volunteer service.
In spring 2012, Ephraim Mansour ’14, was one of nine students to participate in a Students Taking Initiative Through Collaboration in Honors (STITCH) Alternative Break trip to Nicaragua. The group became FIU’s first medical brigade to work in Nicaragua during Alternative Breaks (AB), a tradition that now takes place twice each year.
Mansour, who has volunteered 400 hours through various health and environmental project and participated in two AB trips, said his original motivation was to explore his interest in the medical field. Now, he says, it’s about the importance of having a connection with people.
“I wasn’t thinking about money and a job,” Mansour said. “It was one of those experiences that just being there, I learned a lot more and got a lot more out of it than any other job I could have had.”
While in Nicaragua, the group set up a clinic alongside dentists and doctors from the local medical school. Together, they performed check ups, checked blood pressure, heart and respiratory rates, and recorded any aches and pains by patients. Using this feedback allowed Mansour and other volunteers to refer some patients to Nicaraguan doctors, who could provide a free evaluation and, in some cases, medication.
Mansour credits the trip with securing his interest in medicine and is currently in the process of applying to medical school.
“You really learn just how much of an effect you can have on people,” he said. “Regardless of what kind of work I was doing – giving a free check up or supplying medication – it’s crazy how these people were affected just by having a conversation with somebody.”
Since being a site leader in Nicaragua, Mansour now serves as a recruitment coordinator for Alternative Breaks, trying to help others connect to service.
“For people who are on the fence about service, try to find something aligned with what you’re interested in,” he said. “I have friends who are in computer science and they volunteer to code for different organizations, who can’t afford to pay for people to set up their websites, one day a week.”
No matter what kind of service people may choose, Mansour challenges others to “see the kind of effect you can have on people regardless of the day to day job you might have.”
For more information on Alternative Breaks and to find out how to get involved, visit their website or send an email to FIUaB@fiu.edu.