As a student in the Robins School, Austin Kirts, ’21, knew he wanted to pursue a business degree, but was struggling to find his path. So, he decided to take some time off from school to explore his passions.

“I wanted to put myself in an environment where I could reevaluate what I wanted to do with my career,” Kirts said. “As a business school student, it’s easy to find yourself caught up in formulas and calculations and momentarily set aside some of your other passions. I needed to get back in touch with those passions and see how I could combine them with my appreciation for business.”

He decided the best way to do that was to pursue volunteering abroad. Throughout the fall 2019 semester, Kirts spent time in Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, assisting with different volunteering projects and seeing how he could incorporate his time there into his pursuit of a career in business.

“The past couple months have felt like something out of a dream,” Kirts said.

While exploring the region, he met a young boy named Courage with severe epilepsy at Akosombo Hospital in Ghana.

“I couldn’t get past the idea that many people like Courage don’t have access to basic healthcare. He inspired the idea behind Freedom for Health, because everyone in need deserves free healthcare,” Kirts said. 

He and two other volunteers founded Freedom for Health Asuogyaman, an NGO whose goal is to provide medical aid and education to the most isolated and poverty-stricken areas of the Asuogyaman District. 

“We aim to cater to all healthcare needs within these rural communities and, in partnership with the department of health, eventually found a government run hospital within the district,” Kirts said.

He has worked as the NGO’s marketing manager for the past six months, focusing on global networking with those in the medical field to provide funding and mentorship, and create positive media for the NGO. The group has connected with John’s Hopkins Medicine and experts from multiple continents including England, Canada, and India.

“To be in a position to help over 100,000 individuals in a community that has absolutely touched my heart and welcomed me in as one of their own... honestly, I don’t have the words for it,” Kirts said.

He believes taking time dedicated to volunteering was the right decision for him, because it allowed him to begin to realize his dream.

“I’ve never worked harder for something in my life and I’m entirely confident that this experience has helped me find the career path that I want to follow,” Kirts said.

He says seeing another part of the world, and the struggles people face to get basic healthcare opened his eyes to how businesses can make a difference, even from far away.

“The way that I’ve been accepted with open arms into every community, all while being surrounded by inspirational volunteers, has been a reminder of how powerful human connection is. Being able to see the gratitude on people’s faces has reassured me of the value of the work that volunteer organizations do and is always a reminder to appreciate the little things. Work like this will surely be a large part of the rest of my life and is hopefully something I can incorporate into my career,” Kirts said. 

He plans to return to campus in the spring to continue to grow Freedom for Health Asuogyaman from Richmond. Those interested in learning more about the NGO can visit their website for more information.