When senior Nathan Dhablania traveled to Panama during his spring break last year, he noticed several health risks, such as access to clean water, food and education.
“I’ve also noticed the same disparities in the United States, specifically in Los Angeles,” said Dhablania, who is majoring in health promotion and disease prevention. “It’s surprising to me that in Los Angeles we have so much money and resources and not much is being done.”
Dhablania said the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles inspired him to take the knowledge he learned abroad and tackle those disparities locally. Currently there are 57,794 individuals experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County, according to the 2017 Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. That’s why he founded the student club WorldMed @ UPC on campus.
Since last spring, WorldMed has aimed to bring students together to promote awareness of health disparities within Los Angeles and to train emerging leaders in the global health field. The club primarily focuses on four kinds of disparities: nutrition, education, clean water access and homelessness.
Since the club was founded, WorldMed members have held health fairs at 32nd St. School, an elementary school near the USC campus, fundraisers for breast cancer awareness and Wednesday Night Missions. Held every two weeks, Wednesday Night Missions have club members join together to make several hundred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to deliver to homeless people on Skid Row.
According to vice president Sammy Cohen, the shoes and clothes drives have been the most notable events the club organizes this year. Before the end of this semester, WorldMed members say they hope to hold one more drive. Coordinated with Pathways Homeless Shelters, WorldMed members host drives at USC Housing, the University Gateway Apartments and the Lorenzo Apartments, to give donations to homeless people in the Los Angeles area.
“I think the shoes and clothing drive was the pinnacle event,” Dhablania said. “Everyone had to pitch in. It’s not like Wednesday Night Mission where sometimes there can be too many people that you can’t get involved … With the shoes and clothing drive, everybody’s accountable for a different area.”
The new events that began this semester include hosting students from Roosevelt High School to share their college experiences, volunteering at the St. Eugene science fair with the chapter at the Health Sciences campus, presenting on health care with Press Friends and working on Shower of Hope, an event where members assist the staff of a mobile shower unit and hand out sanitation supplies. Shower of Hope is held by a nonprofit organization called Lava Mae, which turns old transportation buses into showers and toilets on wheels to bring hygienic resources to homeless people in Los Angeles.
“I would definitely love to have a bigger impact on the homeless community,” Sabrina Barrow, the WorldMed philanthropy director, said. “[We] probably should be doing something to help them get back on their feet. Listening to members and what they want to do is also important.”
Cohen said the club hopes to focus on tackling one issue at a time so they can address them on a deeper level.
“Because we have so many people, we can do a lot of good work in one specific area,” Cohen said.