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Partners for World Health looks to benefit those in need

Spring semester is upon us, bringing with it the appeal of getting more involved on campus. With so many clubs to choose from, it may be hard to narrow down your choices. But if you’re interested in service-based clubs with a passion for making an impact, the UMaine chapter of Partners for World Health will be right up your alley.

The club, a spinoff from its South Portland origin, is entering its fourth year on campus and is looking to garner more interest in its cause. The student-run organization aims to “collect and distribute discarded medical supplies, reduce medical waste, provide primary care services to third world countries and educate people about global health.” They go about this by organizing weekly “recycling” trips to nearby hospitals, where students pick up medical supplies that are destined for the garbage. After that they execute trips down to their South Portland warehouse, where the supplies get sorted and eventually shipped to developing countries in need.

Co-president Annie Fitzpatrick explains the group’s middleman mission to salvage vital medical supplies “before they get to the landfill. We try to get them to someone who actually needs it.” Fitzpatrick, a fourth-year biology major, co-presides over the group along with Johna Doyle, a fourth-year nursing major. The group tends to attract majors that work in the medical field, but welcomes any students with a passion for a good cause.

The parent organization, Partners for World Health, was founded in 2009 by Elizabeth McClellan, who interacts with the UMaine chapter regularly. “If there was only one reason to come to a warehouse trip, it’s to meet Elizabeth.” The group aims for at least one warehouse trip each month and are open to any students looking for community service opportunities. For interested parties, the group’s Facebook page promotes upcoming trips.

The group has also coordinated several successful events in the past, most notably a medical mission service trip to Senegal last May. The trips are tailored to the specific communities they visit and focus on primary and wound care. Several group members attended and returned boasting of valuable experience gained and lasting memories made. The success has spurred talk of continuing the tradition and making a return mission to Senegal this upcoming May.

Some UMaine students may recall last April’s popular Blue Wrap Fashion Show, also coordinated by Partners. The wildly creative event fundraised for the group’s Senegal mission trip by repurposing blue wrap, a non-biodegradable material discarded in droves by local hospitals and transforming it into fashion forward dresses. The event showcases contestant’s outfits in a fun and supportive environment, all while raising awareness about the club’s mission to reduce medical waste. Partners plans to coordinate the annual fashion contest again this coming April.

Aside from the weekly meetings and recycling missions, the group also fundraises using bottle drives, raffles and 5K races. They have even created events specifically for UMaine students, like Orono based pub-crawls.

When asked what drew her to the group initially, Fitzpatrick spoke of her first experience attending a meeting.

“Johna and I went together to our first meeting and I felt like the people I met were dedicated and selfless and had an energy that made me gravitate towards the group as a whole. It’s a great way to do something effective for a community.”

The Partners for World Health UMaine group holds weekly chapter meetings in the Totman Room of the Student Union on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. For anyone looking for an impactful experience working alongside fellow passionate and like-minded students, it’s a great place to start.

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