Students take summer humanitarian trip to Tanzania

Going beyond their textbooks and lectures, two biology majors will gain hands-on experience this summer when they provide medical care to villagers in Tanzania.

Sophomore Lavina Ranja and junior Lauren Tagorda would work with members of the Masai tribe around Mount Kilimanjaro May 14-27 with International Service Learning, a nongovernmental health and education organization.

As the ISL website puts it, the young women’s trip will not be practice; rather, it will be the “real thing.” More than 300,000 people receive medical treatment from students in ISL programs annually, according to the website.

At the beginning of the trip, Tagorda and Ranja will attend a series of medical seminars and learn basic Swahili, they said. Then they will set up medical clinics in various villages. The students would also go on a safari and go shopping on their last day, Ranja said.

Tagorda said, “I’m just ready for the hands-on experience. I just don’t think we would have this opportunity here in America. We have to prepare ourselves mentally for the poverty we’re going to see, and the diseases we will see are unlike anything in America, like basic fungal diseases.”

Ranja first heard about ISL’s programs during a meeting with Alpha Epsilon Delta, the premedical honor society. Tagorda, who was already interested in doing some form of humanitarian work over the summer, decided to join Ranja.

The young women applied to the program, which was open to all students in premedical, pre-dental and nursing studies, in the late fall. They paid the program fee of $1,970, which covered two meals per day, all lodging and training costs, as well as their personal travel expenses, according to the ISL website.

Tagorda and Ranja would also buy and take medical supplies on their trip. Tagorda raised more than $60 with a bake sale, while proceeds from the Students for Asian Indian Cultural Awareness’ annual event “Experience India” benefitted Ranja, who performed in the event.  

Both young women said they were open-minded and prepared for the level of poverty they expected to see in Tanzania and said they looked forward to providing care for those who needed it.

“Someone’s health is so important,” Tagorda said. “Life is such a gift, and being able to maintain that gift for other people is such a rewarding career.”