“To heal a child is to heal the world” is the slogan of the International Hospital for Children. Senior Jenna Garber fully embraces the idea and the organization.

She volunteered and served her internship with IHC and now, as she prepares for graduation in May 2010, she'll be starting her professional career there.

The hospital isn't a traditional hospital at all but a leader in the health care industry for its innovative approach. In a world in which 90 percent of people have little or no access to medical resources, the Richmond-based "hospital without walls" fills a critical gap. The non-profit global network works in six developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean –– Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Guyana, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines –– to link critically ill children with the pediatric surgical, diagnostic, and preventative resources of the United States.

Sick children come to the states for treatment and medical volunteers also travel to partner countries. The organization works with local volunteer doctors from Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, St. Mary’s Hospital, Levinson Heart Hospital, and Virginia Eye Institute. 

As a summer intern in 2009, Garber worked directly with the children's families in Richmond, making sure they felt comfortable by spending time with them, taking them to their appointments, translating for them and buying groceries. She also planned for volunteers, coordinated the logistics of the families’ arrivals and departures, and assisted with publications.

During her senior year, she was a 10-hour a week volunteer with the "we send" program, which sends 25 surgical teams out each year. She managed medical suplies, raised funds, and made sure the teams were packed up and ready to go. 

That volunteer work will become a paid position as a program assistant in June 2010. She'll be continuing that work and will have the opportunity to accompany a surgical team as a team leader three or four times a year. 

A network of on- and off-campus connections and experiences supported Garber on her path.

The very program she works for was started by a University alumnus. Julian Metts Jr., R’59, was an orthodonist in nearby Chester, Va., until he retired in 2008. In 1991, Metts embarked upon his first dental and medical mission to Guyana. He returned many times, and in 1999, he started the International Hospital for Children. Since its inception, the non-profit agency has provided health care to more than 5,000 children. And, IHC has served as a learning and service site for students like Garber.

She is also supported on-campus by the Bonner Scholar program. Garber, who is from Pennsylvania, is a leadership studies major with a minor in Latin American and Iberian Studies. Her study abroad experience in Chile during spring 2009 prepared her well to talk to and translate for the families. “It was eye opening to see how people treated them differently because they didn’t speak English,” she said.

Garber might not have been able to accept an unpaid summer internship at IHC were it not for the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement. As a Deborah L. Marsh Civic Fellow, she received $4,000 for research and living expenses. 

In turn, the research project she did for her fellowship focused on global inequality and models of justice, and was tied closely to what she had studied in the required Justice and Civil Society course at Jepson. “That course can be kind of pessimistic,” she said. “It was nice to see people doing something about injustices. There are people out there who want to help. It just takes an organization to link them.”

In spring of 2010, Garber accompanied a plastic surgery team to Honduras. The team helped 49 children, performing surgeries including cleft lip and palate repairs, ear deformity repairs, and burn revisions. Garber provided logistical support and translated for doctors and the children's families.

After that experience, Garber said she could see herself continuing her work with IHC in the future. Her future is now.

As part of her internship project last summer, Garber created this short video: