Students from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine have been busy with two campaigns that aim to help people in Haiti and Pakistan.

Student-led campaigns at OUWB aim to help Haiti, Pakistan
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(From left) M2s Mary Drekh, Shahrukh Naseer, and Marisa Stratelak hold items donated and/or purchased with monetary donations that will be sent to Haiti.

Students from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine have been busy with two campaigns that aim to help people in Haiti and Pakistan.

For Haiti, OUWB’s Friends of MSF — a student club at OUWB that supports the work of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières — collaborated with fellow OUWB student organization Advocates for Global Health and Human Rights (AGHHR) to collect hygiene items. The two-week drive ended Feb. 28.

For Pakistan, DWB is leading a fundraiser that included an online trivia night with their colleagues from Wayne State School of Medicine. Monies raised will be used to help build much-needed water wells in the country.

Shahrukh Naseer, M2, vice president of International Affairs for OUWB’s Friends of MSF and secretary for AGHHR, says it’s all about helping others with compassion via collaboration, innovation, and a quest for excellence.

“As medical students, we learn a lot in our coursework about interacting with so many different communities, but it’s really the action that you do after being taught this information that makes a difference,” says Naseer.

Haiti’s challenges

AGHHR is a relatively new student organization at OUWB. It aims to develop leaders within the OUWB community who are dedicated to the promotion of global health through participation in service, advocacy, and engagement with the international health community.

AGHHR also aspires to address and raise awareness regarding human rights issues within the facet of health care, both locally and internationally.

President Marisa Stratelak, M2, says that’s why it makes sense for the group to collect items for Haiti. As a nurse, Stratelak has visited the country several times and witnessed the need.

“Haiti is the poorest country on this hemisphere, in a location plagued by natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, and has a lot of political instability right now,” says Stratelak.  

When countries are struck with headline-making disasters as Haiti was in August — when an earthquake struck — there can be an outpouring of support. However, that initial wave can subside relatively quickly, though the need for help remains, says Stratelak.

“Just because there was a lot of help for those couple of weeks doesn’t mean that they don’t need things now,” she says.

Stratelak worked with representatives of Action Chrétienne pour Combattre la Pauvreté et l’Analphabétisme (ACCOPA) to identify specific items of need: tampons; soap; toothbrushes; toothpaste; towels; hand sanitizer; deodorant; bleach; and more.

Additionally, AGHHR collaborated with DWB on the project. DWB’s goals are to unite students who are interested in global health and to provide members with the resources they need to flourish in their respective medical careers. The group has about 30 members.

“We thought it was a really good idea and wanted to support the cause,” says Mary Drekh, M2, president of OUWB’s DWB.

Victoria Whiting, M2, vice president of marketing for DWB, says such campaigns are “simple things that students can partake in and make a big difference for people.”

“When we have these events and (we realize that we) could change someone else’s day in a big way, it’s motivating to do those things,” says Whiting.

Items were collected in OUWB’s Student Lounge. Additionally, funds collected were used to buy additional goods. Stratelak’s car trunk was full of items that will be sent to ACCOPA for distribution.

“I’m super excited because there are many people who need these items,” says Stratelak. “It’s really cool to see the medical students who have a very limited income right now really standing up and helping people.”

Water crisis in Pakistan

Friends of MSF’s campaign to raise money for wells in Pakistan is through the Paani Project, a nonprofit based in Ann Arbor.

According to its website, “Paani primarily alleviates water scarcity and increases access to clean water in Pakistan through the construction of handpumps and deep-water wells.”

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Naseer, who is Pakistani, says he connected with the nonprofit when seeking a way for Friends of MSF to help with the current water crisis in Pakistan.

He explains that monies raised via such fundraisers go a long way in helping others. For example, $600 can help build a deep well that is able to provide water for up to 200 people. Wells also feature plaques with donor organization names.

Donations of $10 to $200 have been received so far via the PAANI x OUWB Doctors Without Borders page that can be found here. The campaign runs for about 30 more days and was coordinated to end when Ramadan begins on April 1.

Further, more than $300 was raised via a trivia night fundraiser held Feb. 25. Participants paid $3 per person or $13 for a group of five.

Held virtually, teams of students and/or faculty answered various questions about TV and movies, food and beverages, science, logos, and more. After a light-hearted competition with lots of laughs, the winners were a team of M2s called "Full House." They were Naseer, Mohsen Mokhtari, Hashem Mohilldean, Faris Alkhouri, and Prasun Sharma.

The trivia night included students from the Wayne State University School of Medicine chapter of DWB. Drekh says one of OUWB Friends of MSF’s goals has been to collaborate with others.

Naseer says he hopes the OUWB Friends of MSF continues to hold the fundraiser for Pakistan annually.

“It’s one thing to say your part of a project…but to actually see it coming to life in front of you makes you feel something deep inside,” he says.

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected]

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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