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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

National Collegiate Volunteers effect change in New Orleans

Published: February 6, 2009
Section: Features

I believe community service has received new life these past few weeks, as President Obama has made it a point to call on the American public to make a difference in their communities. Brandeis students have been very receptive to this call – I’ve seen and heard about students showing up in large numbers to get involved in different community service clubs on campus. I would like take this opportunity to tell you about one such organization that is offering students a new and innovative way of making a difference: National Collegiate Volunteers.

NCV is a student-led non-profit organization that I founded in the summer of 2007 along with my life-long friend, Jonah Peppiatt, a graduate of Tufts University. NCV helped raise awareness about the impact of Hurricane Katrina and in just two years, we have organized three successful service trips to get Brandeis and Tufts students down to New Orleans to help with the relief effort. This year, however, we have decided to take NCV in a more innovative direction by working on a year-long project, which we hope will, upon its completion, effect profound change in New Orleans.

NCV’s current project, the Health Care Database Initiative, is a plan to fight New Orleans’ current health care crisis.

To date, 58% of New Orleans residents report issues with health care access and coverage. This is up 3% from 2006. For many people, the emergency room is their primary or only source of care. This has led to a dangerous combination of ER overcrowding and patient hesitancy to seek care.

More often than not, underinsured residents will delay seeking treatment due to costs and lack of trust in the health care system. However, through the establishment of an online database and toll-free hotline, NCV will be able to help low-income, uninsured residents conveniently access free and low cost health care services currently available in New Orleans.

Calling our hotline, which will be staffed by Tulane University undergraduate students, will help residents of New Orleans find hospitals, health clinics or physicians near them who can treat any ailment. Through our previous work in New Orleans and in meetings with scholars at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, we understand that the lack of information available to New Orleans residents on healthcare is a serious problem. We believe that through hard work, determination and creativity, the students of Brandeis and Tufts can truly make a difference and help alleviate that problem.

The Healthcare Database Initiative is in its early stages and National Collegiate Volunteers is looking for enthusiastic and diligent students to help effect real and long-lasting change on the ground in New Orleans. In an effort to encourage the development of strong leadership skills, NCV students take ownership of specific areas of responsibility, such as managing the database development team, or developing the publicity campaign, thereby giving them significant freedom to mold and shape these activities.

If you want to be part of an initiative that is going to bring a permanent change to those who were aversely affected by Hurricane Katrina, then come to the meeting Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. in room 314 of the Shapiro Campus Center. At this meeting, we will present to you the goal of National Collegiate Volunteers, tell you about our efforts and results to date, and present our plans for the future.

We invite you to come to this meeting and get involved in an on-campus initiative that you can truly be proud of.