Daily Point of Light # 2221 Aug 8, 2002

Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) was founded in 1986 to improve global health through education. Since then, over 3,800 health professionals have donated their time and expertise to provide training and education to health care providers in the lesser developed nations of the world. HVO’s sponsors, ten of the best known professional associations in the health care arena, provide the organization with critical financial support, as well as visibility and credibility within their communities.

Each year a growing number of doctors, dentists, nurses and physical therapists volunteer at program sites around the world. These health care specialists are volunteers in the truest sense of the word — they pay their own travel and living expenses, averaging $2,000 per trip. Many also forgo income while away from their practices. Yet, one third of volunteers return annually. Health Volunteers Overseas has active divisions in anesthesia, dentistry, hand surgery, internal medicine, nursing, oral and maxillofacial surgery, nurse anesthesia, orthopaedics, pediatrics and physical therapy.

HVO volunteers improve the quality and availability of health care in every country where they work. By introducing new surgical techniques, volunteers have improved post-operative outcomes in countries throughout the world, saving thousands of lives and ensuring that countless others live free from disability. Volunteers in Vietnam developed a more modern and effective curriculum for teaching rehabilitation so that trauma victims receive the most comprehensive care available. In over 15 developing countries, volunteers have created medical libraries where, previously, no comparable research facilities existed. Volunteers have also identified, collected and donated over $13 million of needed equipment and education materials to program sites in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. These are just a few examples of the extraordinary impact HVO volunteers have made in the communities where they serve.

HVO volunteers are, perhaps, the best ambassadors the United States has to offer. They share their expertise with health providers in the world’s poorest countries and, at the same time, gain invaluable knowledge of other cultures. Volunteers typically report returning from trips refreshed and recommitted to their work at home. At Health Volunteers Overseas, this dedicated corps of health professionals is the cornerstone of the organization. Each volunteer makes his or her own small contribution to improved health for the millions of people in the world without access to basic health care. These volunteers are, indeed, making the world a better place; each volunteer a point of light and hope.