Flavia, an 11-year-old Tanzanian girl, felt hopeless. One day when she was walking outside, a venomous snake known as a puff adder bit her leg, forcing it to be amputated at the knee. This left her stuck in a wheelchair—unable to go to school or help in her village, Magambua. At the time she had no idea students on the other side of the world would one day change her life.
In the fall semester of 2007, Josh Meyer grew tired of devoting all his time to class and studying, so after making a few phone calls and filling out some paperwork, he started HOPE at the University of Florida. As a student-run organization, HOPE supports a clinic in Flavia’s village by coordinating local fundraisers and sending students to volunteer in the clinic during the summer. “It’s really simple,” says Meyer, a senior at UF. “I’m passionate about medical missions, so I called an organization, and they set me up with the clinic—that’s all it took.” With money raised by HOPE, Flavia was given a prosthetic limb and now lives as an active girl in her village.
African Inland Mission put Meyer in touch with Dr. Jon Eager, the only doctor who operates the Magambua clinic. After talking through some details, they established an ongoing relationship that has since transformed many lives. HOPE raised $1,500 in its first active semester through dodgeball tournaments, a powder-puff game and some fundraisers at a local ice cream shop. Although that may not sound like a lot, that amount of money pays for a surgery team to perform multiple cataracts operations. “The surgery makes the blind see,” Meyer says. “If you pull a few strings and contact some people, you can do some pretty amazing things.” With the money collected in the 2008-2009 school year, HOPE paid for Flavia’s prosthetic limb and three mobile-medical outreaches, which provide treatment for malaria, cataracts and other ailments.
Sending students to physically help in the clinic is also a key part of the organization.
“You’re not just supporting it— you’re seeing with your own eyes and touching with your hands what your hard work has produced,” Meyer says. He and four other students went to the Magambua clinic last summer, and after returning they could not stop talking about the trip. Other students responded to their passion and enthusiastically joined the effort, expanding HOPE into a network managed by 20 students and supported by hundreds more.
“When you see what you can do as a college student and the impact you can really make, it changes everything,” Meyer says. 3