Group: Salud

Category: Center for Social Concern


Name: John Shea

Position: Vice President

Background: Hello! I am John, the current VP of Salud, and I am excited to tell you about what our group does. Salud was founded in 2001 as a project intending to make a difference for the Hispanic/Latino community in Baltimore.  The founders originally meant to provide student bilingual interpreters to local clinics and hospitals, but the surge of initial volunteers and new ideas for projects created an even more multidimensional group. Today, we have four main projects- Bilingual Interpreting, Family Health, Wolfe Academy, and International Services.

Projects: Bilingual Interpreting allows anyone who speaks fluent Spanish and has general knowledge of medical terminology to be a student interpreter for the Eastern STD clinic on Caroline. Training is offered each semester, and one must commit to a weekly shift. Family Health gives volunteers with conversational Spanish an opportunity to help patients at the Esperanza Center at Fells Point to access healthcare, pharmacy, and financial assistance. Again, training is offered each semester, but you are free to go at your own convenience.  Wolfe Academy involves tutoring and mentoring mostly Hispanic children at the Wolfe Academy School. While it requires no Spanish-speaking skills, one must commit to a tutee/mentee for each semester.  International Services operates on a more global level, giving writers the ability to create articles that raise awareness about important causes in Hispanic nations.

Why did I become involved?

I joined freshman year to take advantage of the free food with some of my friends =), and because I wanted to get involved with campus volunteering.  I joined two projects that seemed like great volunteering opportunities, one focused on sending aid to Peru (where I was born), and the other playing sports with school children.  Unlike some volunteering I did in high school, which was just to fulfill NHS or other requirements, at college the motivation really came from within, and the true passion that I felt toward making a difference for others drove me to put in a lot of effort.  I volunteered with other organizations on campus as well, but I chose to focus mainly on this one because that is where, for me, I felt most motivated to volunteer and help others.

What is Salud all about?

Salud is all about volunteering, membership, and having a good time.  In this way, we try to get freshman and other new members into projects as soon as possible so they can begin training.  Training is necessary for some projects so that our volunteers are qualified to offer real, specialized help to those who need it.  This makes the work we do even more fulfilling.

While the majority of our members are Hispanic and Spanish-speaking, neither of these is required to join our group, and only one of our projects requires fluency.  Through our interactions with many of Baltimore’s Latinos, our members are given the chance to practice and refine their Spanish.  Also, our group focuses a lot on the bonds between our members.  Interacting with the people in the same projects, with other pre-med students (our group tends to attract many pre-meds), and with other Hispanics allows our members to form meaningful relationships.  Above all, Salud’s members are very selfless, highly motivated, and diverse people who bond over our common goals in and outside the group.

From our meetings, to projects, to our yearly events, we strive to involve all our members in on-campus and community activities. Our monthly Wednesday meetings are something we hope everyone will look forward to.  After being updated about each of the projects, we have free food and drinks, and normally a guest speaker will join us.  In the past, we have had a nutritionist, an AIDS researcher, and an academic advisor each foster very interesting discussions. We also try to do something fun each semester, like a karaoke night or Spanish-themed dinner. Outside of projects, we volunteer at a variety of health fairs throughout the year, and recently have started hosting an annual Hispanic Research Symposium so that students can present the research they have done.

What I have learned:

Salud has given me a chance to volunteer, take on leadership roles, and build meaningful connections with the Baltimore community and Salud members.  From my first semester of volunteering, to this semester as the Vice President, I have learned how a good student-run volunteer group should be run.  One of the main problems with student groups, especially volunteer-based ones, is that members (even board members) do not have much incentive to stay proactive within the group.  Schedules become busy, interest wanes; college life is a very hectic experience.  Yet most groups take this as a sign to enforce rules on attendance, consequences on skipping meetings, and even exclude members from participation within the club.  Within Salud, our members do not have to worry about this, because our outlook is more relaxed and informal.  We are very chill. We would like to see everyone put in effort and time into what they do for the group, and we reward this at the end of the school year with award recognition.  Our environment and group social culture is more about being helpful and nice about everything, which is exactly what we should be doing in a volunteer organization.  This philosophy pervades our organization from the board meetings, to how our volunteers treat patients, and I think it is something valuable to learn.