VIDA Volunteer


"As an undergraduate student working toward professional school, I thought a trip with VIDA would be just another thing to add to my resume. It turned out that VIDA became much more than that. Packing up after a day at clinic knowing other people needed help, I knew I had to return and bring others. I coordinated 3 trips following that… not for a vacation and not to add to my resume, but to help others. Seeing other people from my University impacted by the experience was amazing. I am now beginning my second year in dental school and know my experiences on my VIDA trips helped me learn so much not only about dentistry, but other cultures, and myself! VIDA was an experience I am so thankful for. I would encourage anyone who is interested to do whatever they can to make it work with their budget and schedule!!!"
Melissa Gleason University of Wisconsin Eau Claire
"Words can’t describe how amazing the VIDA trip and the experience was! It was the best thing I have ever participated in. I worked on the medical team and learned so much from the Doctors. It was amazing to make a difference and truly help others! Not only was the experience great, but the staff and other volunteers were too! I have made countless friendships and learned a lot about myself on this trip! Can’t wait to go on another!!!"
Maggie Vogel Pre-med at Ithaca College, Ithaca College
" VIDA has once again surpassed all of my expectations. Traveling to Costa Rica last year and Nicaragua this year have been rewarding experiences that I will never forget. The trip as a whole was filled with life long memories that could not have been made without the heart-warming people of Nicaragua and the new friends I made. The hands-on procedures and the knowledge gained was all possible because of the wonderful teachers and guides our group had. I cannot pin-point my favorite part of the trip because every day was something new and something exciting. Clinic days were always a day of learning, cleanings, extractions, delicious lunch, and amazing people. Recreational days were filled with fun and relaxation. Helping the community, learning, and having fun…I couldn’t find anything else that can encompass those 3 things in 1 week. Thank you to the Dentists, Doctors, and VIDA Staff for making the trip a success!"
Nicole OchoaPre-dental Student, Georgia State University
"My VIDA experience will be unforgettable! I went with the Arizona State University Medical team to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The staff we worked with were amazing and made us feel welcomed since the second we got here. Thank you Katsy and Alejandra! I learned so much about the medical/health field and culturally. We were lucky to have home stays in both countries where we had the chance to stay with host families and really understand their way of living. I must say it was one of my favorite things from this trip. Even though you don’t need to know Spanish to attend these trips, I found it to be a great advantage. I’m bilingual and it was very nice to be able to communicate with our patients and the people there personally instead of having an interpreter. The interpreters were great and very helpful every minute of this journey, so if you don’t know Spanish, no worries they have people to help. Our group was kind of small (13 people) but they were amazing and I got the chance to know each one of them and make new friendships. We went to visit new countries that not many people get to do, but we also went to go work hard and change many people’s life who showed great gratitude to us and the smiles that they gave us after we finished helping, meant more than words can explain. It was very heartwarming. The doctors we worked with were amazing and they helped us tremendously in learning so many new things with hands on work. Dr. Eimy and Dr. Rebecca became more than just our teachers but also our friends and they made it comforting for us to ask questions for further understanding. All the cite seeing and fun recreations we had was just icing on top and an incredible experience. I really didn’t know what to expect from this trip but I must say that I am definitely satisfied with this amazing, eye-opening experience. Thank you VIDA for giving us this opportunity. I recommend this trip to everybody! PURA VIDA!!"
Mitzi OrtegaASU Volunteer
" I attended the 2012 Veterinary volunteer trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Our group was a mix of students from Kentucky, Georgia, and West Virginia; we meshed very well. I wasn’t sure what to expect on this trip, but I knew it would be one that I’d always remember. Through our trip, we were able to provide care to almost 300 animals in as short of 6 days and I couldn’t be more proud. I witnessed diseases I’d never seen, assist in surgeries that I won’t be able to assist in til I’m in my later years of vet school. I feel confident in my ability to adapt, as I was forced to adapt to the frequent changes in size and location of clinics, as well as coping with the fact that I was surrounded by clients whom I could communicate properly with due to language barrier. VIDA helped humble me; this trip opened my eyes to how lucky I am and to truly respect those who have to try to make ends meet on a day to day basis. This trip has helped me grow as a person, as student, and as a leader. I encourage everyone to try to volunteer through VIDA–I will definitely consider coming again, maybe even as a coordinator. ¡PURA VIDA!"
AmandaMorehead State University
" The VIDA trip was an absolutely amazing experience. It was very well organized, and there was a nice balance of clinics and recreational activities. I worked with the veterinary team, and the doctors all did a good job of teaching us how to do all the preparation for surgery, and letting us help with the surgeries too! Everyone on the team, both students and staff, was very supportive and helpful. I loved that we had to figure out how to set up a clinic inside of a church, a school, a community center, and at a “farm.” The conditions were much different from clinics in the United States, but that was part of the fun of it. Plus, we could really tell that we were helping a community in need. I loved being able to help and am looking forward to coming back next year!"
Sarah ApplebyUniversity of Arizona
" The two weeks with VIDA has taught me more about medicine and working with patients than my entire undergraduate career thus far. It’s taught me the value of patience, team work, and compassion, all of which I hope to take with me through my future career. The trip opened my eyes to the urgency of need that exists outside of my immediate surroundings and the possibility of working as a global health doctor. I really didn’t know what to expect from this trip but I must say that I am definitely satisfied with this amazing, eye-opening experience. Thank you VIDA for giving us this opportunity. I recommend this trip to everybody! PURA VIDA!!"
Mei Wangmeizi WenWestern University, Canada
" I can not express how grateful I am to have had this amazing volunteer experience. My VIDA trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua was the most rewarding experience I have had in my life. The feeling that you get seeing your patients smile back at you after giving them aid is unreal. This trip has inspired me to look at medicine in a broader sense and has given me a drive to want to practice in developing countries. I will definently be attending another VIDA trip as soon as possible!! I strongly reccomend anyone who is interested in medicine, denistry, or veterinary careers to strongly look into attending a trip. I promise you it will be a life changing experience!"
William James PickardLamar University
"I have been on two trips with VIDA and have traveled to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala for veterinary work. The experience was different each time, in an extremely positive way. The vets are very good at communicating what they expect of you and extremely patient while teaching you about the profession. I was able to see a variety of cases, some similar to those in the US and others characteristic to the area. I was happily surprised by how much cultural experience I received in each country. The friendships that form with the other volunteers and the VIDA staff are just another added bonus to the experience. I would recommend this trip to anyone that is interested in any of the medical fields! I could tell you all about my experiences but it will never do it justice. You need to go on a trip and experience the adventure for yourself!"
Lauren EmeryClemson University
"Words truly cannot describe the amazing experience I had while on my VIDA trip. I was part of the Dental team and learned so much not only about dentistry but also about myself. I met some of the most incredible people and have formed everlasting friendships with many of the other volunteers and also with the staff! I would go back in a heartbeat. If you’re reading this and wondering if you should take part in a VIDA trip– DO IT! It changed my life"
Emma CrawfordLa Crosse, WI
"I attended the 2011 first all-Honduran trip over reading week and to say that it was an incredible trip would be a huge understatement. I came into the trip with some expectations, but never did I think that this experience would surpass all those expectations and more. The staff at VIDA was perfect, I honestly cannot think of a single thing I would change about them. They are so kind and friendly and they do EVERYTHING they can to keep you happy. The interpreters too, are so welcoming and knowledgeable. Both doctors as well, Dr. Ramos and Dr. Faasch, have inspired me so much to continue my dreams to become a doctor. They engage and teach you so well during the clinic days that you can’t help but apply everything you’ve learned over those four days. Those clinic days were definitely the highlight of my trip. I would recommend this trip to anyone. Finally, to Lester and Marcos, thank you for being such awesome guides, you both made this trip so worthwhile and so memorable. We all miss you back here in Canada!"
Bernard Ho
"My VIDA adventure to Costa Rica and Nicaragua was a trip I will never forget. The hands-on experiences in the clinic, the cultural immersion of the home stays, and the community and newly-found friendships with the group members and staff made the trip extremely rewarding and fun! It was also a learning experience in the language department because I was able to brush up on my Spanish (which I had not practiced in two years!) with my host family. We were all able to make a difference in communities less fortunate than ours here in the states and the free days were exciting (but I won’t give away the details!). Overall, made me want to be a dentist even more than before and I highly recommend anyone who is considering a health career to participate in a VIDA adventure!"
Maggie CravenUniversity of Minnesota-Twin Cities
"My VIDA trip (June 2012) was undoubtedly one of the most amazing and most significant experiences of my life. I traveled with 14 other pre-veterinary students to Costa Rica and Nicaragua and, although I didn’t entirely know what to expect when we set off, I learned so much and loved every minute of it. From tons of hands-on clinic experience and introduction to several different veterinary styles (from working with 5 different veterinarians) to dance lessons and white-water tubing, every day was an adventure.
One great thing that VIDA does so well is to design these trips not only to help the communities of Central America who need it but also to educate us (the students) culturally. I saw a world completely different from the one I’m used to–both physically, in terms of the natural environment and the cities/towns we visited, and culturally, in terms of language, family life, and recreation–and although I was definitely glad to return home to air conditioning, substantial plumbing/sewage systems, and guaranteed hot water, I came home much humbler and much more appreciative of what I have and take so easily for granted. The staff we worked with (our amazing team leader Eli, our incredible veterinarians, and even our fantastic bus driver) helped immensely in this regard–they were knowledgeable, kind, and so helpful and eager to teach us all about their world
What I gained from this trip cannot in any way be adequately put into words, but I can say for sure that I will always be grateful to VIDA and to the communities we visited for the experiences they gave me and the friendships they helped me build. Pura vida!"
Katie XuUniversity of Kentucky
"Participating in a VIDA trip is a truly unique opportunity. A simple testimonial cannot do justice for the amazing experiences you have. As a campus coordinator it was a lot of fun gathering other ambitious individuals interested in volunteering for a worthy cause. The friendships and relations formed are reason alone to go! As a menial college student it is extremely rewarding to actually be able to help the impoverished communities that you visit. The VIDA staff is very knowledgeable, extremely helpful, and fun to work with. If you have any inclinations to go into medicine this trip will make up your mind. The trip is well worth the worries and I can not say enough good about VIDA!"
Miles CampbellBemidji State University
"I went on the Medical trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua on August 18th-30th with my school, University of Toronto St. George Campus. We just got back from the trip and I wanted to show my thanks to your staff. I was a little hesitant at first to go on this trip, but I can’t tell you enough how amazing it was. I am still so impressed by the trip’s organization and its leaders! I felt so comfortable, especially being in Costa Rica and Nicaragua for the first time."
Nicole FogelUniversity of Toronto
"cI heard about VIDA 2 years ago from the campus coordinator and never really made time to go on one of the trips. I participated in the winter trip and I am speechless. The experience I had in Guatemala has changed my perspective on my life and my aspiration to be a dentist. I learned a lot about the dental field but I also learned about healthcare on a world platform. I learned about the diseases and procedures associated with dentistry, in GUATEMALA! This was also a huge step outside my comfort zone. I have only been out of the country to Europe and never imagined myself traveling to Central America, but I am so glad I pushed myself to doing this. This experience is amazing and I am having a blast telling all of my other pre-dental/pre-med friends about VIDA and the moments I made that will last for the rest of my life. I hope to someday be a dentist associated with VIDA. VIDA has changed my outlook on my future and inspired me to be the best dentist I can be that gives back to others. Thank you VIDA! I cannot wait to travel to Nicaragua and experience this all again!"
Andrew HalversonUniversity of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
"As a Campus Coordinator and 2nd year volunteer, my words can never tell you enough of how dear this program is to my heart. I have a joy for kids–always have. I packed a extra whole suitcase FULL of stuffed animals and beanie babies. We all know there are plenty of these sitting around gathering dust in our households. Seeing the light and happiness in each child’s face was the best feeling you could ever want. This is the feeling that every person should seek when taking up this journey. It is all about the compassion and character. Even if you are not sure if you would like to continue your pre-professional studies, take a step forward and engage yourself for your own sake. What you gain will help you to become even more well-rounded and force you to see life through the eyes of the people you help. Along with the patients are excellent doctors, interpreters, other students and group leaders—and they all become FRIENDS :) This is an experience that will make you humble and grateful for everything you have, and it makes you wonder what else you can do to make a difference in our world. This program has inspired me to keep traveling and volunteering, and to never stop taking more steps forward towards medical school and also, in my own life!"
Heather Ann FelixBemidji State University
"I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived in Costa Rica for my VIDA trip, but I soon found out that everything was taken care of, the staff was phenomenal and I was about to make 31 new friends. My VIDA experience was a win-win situation in every way. I gained hands-on professional experience while helping people, learning, traveling, and having a great time doing it! On the last night of the trip, we went around the dinner table to share our thoughts of the trip, every single volunteer said the words: “This trip far surpassed my expectations.” Going on this trip was the best decision I’ve ever made! I am definitely going to participate in more VIDA trips in the future. Between the medical, veterinary, and dental teams over 6 days of clinic, 1,029 patients got free care. You can make a difference! Did I also mention I had an awesome time?!?"
OliviaPre-Dental, California
"Traveling to Costa Rica and Nicaragua was an awesome experience! This trip was my second with VIDA, and I can’t wait to return next year. It really assured me that I want to go into the healthcare field. Being a campus coordinator for a trip this year was such a privilege. The group and staff was amazing before and throughout the trip, and were so organized, starting with sending us the itinerary, and continuing throughout the trip, all the way until we departed for the airport. For example, the bus we were one had a flat tire twice, but both times, we immediately found a place to change it, and the staff helped out in changing it in a timely manner.I highly recommend the organization of VIDA to anyone interested in gaining amazing experience and learning about a different culture."
Presley PearsonCampus Coordinator – ASU
"I have participated in two VIDA trips. My first was to Costa Rica and Panama and my second was to Nicaragua. In my opinion, VIDA is an amazing program that allows individuals interested in medical careers (Med, Vet, Dental) the opportunity to gain hands on experience while helping poor communities in need of these services. The trips consist of 4-6 clinic days, about 2 travel days, and 1-2 recreational days. Interacting with individuals from other countries and cultures is truly rewarding and fascinating. I learned A LOT more that I every expected I would. As a campus coordinator, my duties were to recruit volunteers for my trip, set up meetings to inform the volunteers what to expect and what was required of them, choose a flight, and answer any other questions the volunteers had. As the fundraiser chair for the VIDA group on campus, my duty was to set up fundraising opportunities for the volunteers to decrease the total cost of the trip. Whenever I ran into questions or problems, I contacted VIDA personnel via phone or email. These individuals were very timely with their responses. It has been a great experience working with and through this organization."
Jessica HalbachUniversity of Wisconsin- Madison
"Mr. Larsen and Ms. Elizondo – As a parent, I was uneasy about her traveling out of the country. Thank you for helping to provide her with an outstanding life experience! You and your group are to be commended for organizing these events that enrich the lives for ALL involved. Thanks again!"
Jim StowellParent, UW Madison
"This trip was the most amazing and rewarding thing I have ever done! It was amazing to be a part of the veterinary team and get hands on experience work with the animals. The doctors I got to work with are extraordinary people and I learned so much from them! Being immersed in a totally different culture was definitely eye opening and an invaluable experience. You get to help the animals of the people who can’t afford a regular vet and you get to be a part of the team that educates them on what is best for their pets. All of it was a truly rewarding experience, and I would love to do it again!"
Ashley AllgoodUniversity: Cal Poly Pomona
"This trip was an amazing, eye-opening experience. I was sure that I wanted to be a doctor but after my trip I decided that maybe that is not what I really want to do. After having hands on experience I realized that my passion may be elsewhere. I absolutely loved everyone I met on my trip and it was truly a blessing that we could help so many people in such a short amount of time! It was a fun and educational experience, and now I am contemplating becoming fluent in Spanish to possibly become an interpretor some day. Thanks for the great experience!"
Tabitha PiehlUniversity: UW Eau Claire
"What an amazing experience! I have come back to Wisconsin with a new attitude about life. Sometimes you forget about all the little things until you are put in a place where those luxuries are not available to you. I had a blast submerging myself in a new culture and as uncomfortable as it might have felt at first, it soon felt like home. Managua, Nicaragua touched our hearts more than we were prepared for. Community board members gave us a speech, translated for us through one of the volunteer translators, and the community touched our hearts in every way possible. The CRN010313 trip crew all recieved hand made bracelets as a thank you gift and were told that we are welcome here anytime–this is our home too. I don’t think I have ever made that much of an impact on someone in my life, ever. It was rewarding, heart warming, and beautiful. I still am wearing that bracelet, and when if wears off I will place it in my scrapbook. Thank you, VIDA, for an amazing experience that I will never forget. Hopefully some day I can return!"
Kelli GutowUniversity: University of Wisconsin River Falls