I took a Sunday from my schedule to volunteer with the recent Remote Area Medical (RAM) mission in Oakland, CA on 25 March 2012. I had first heard of RAM from an episode of CBS News’ 60 Minutes in 2008 and was fascinated with their work. I wanted to volunteer with them if I could.
RAM began its work in the Amazon rain forests in 1993 and quickly established itself as a major provider of medical care throughout the world of health care missions and camps. A few short years later, RAM (then renamed as Rural AMerica program) established an American presence with missions and camps in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern United States. With the economy still reeling from high unemployment, the need for basic health in the medically indigent in the USA is real and growing.
I had volunteered a year ago when RAM came to California and again volunteered this year. As with most repeat performances, this year’s RAM expedition did not have the press attention or public figure exposure that the first one did last year. But the people in need were real. They still numbered in the hundreds. They still lacked basic medical, dental and eye care.
I was pleased to see a complement of optometry students from the area’s University of California, two local eye surgeons, a half dozen community optometrists, opticians and general volunteers participate this year. It is a well-organized event and truly, the professionals just get to do what they do best and leave the administrative details to others.
There are many reasons to volunteer, and I think very few. Depending upon your skill, your availability, spreading the benefit of your skill to those that are in need are appreciated, if not by others, certainly by your inner soul. Do not “trash” that email from someone asking you to volunteer. Take the extra time to read it and say “yes” if you can.