When Jossy Onwude heard that his friend Kristine Bless might have to leave medical school because of financial difficulty, he thought it was absurd. One, she was “brilliant student,” he says. Two, the Philippines, where Onwude is from, really needs doctors.
“I was thinking ‘Oh god, we lack doctors across the world and here is a student who is really brilliant about to quit because of finance,'” he says. “I knew I needed to look for a solution.”
What he created is Medifund, a crowdfunding site for medical students in need. It currently features about a dozen campaigns, each with a video and a personal appeal. Here, for example, is Dollyne Beltran, whose family was devastated by Typhoon Yolanda:
“We are trying to encourage more people to go to med school by having the funds,” Onwude says. “Because, in third-world countries, unlike in the States, there are no student loans. It’s just what your parents can give you. If they can’t afford school, you don’t go.”
The World Health Organization estimates the total of shortage of health workers at 4.3 million, with the highest burden falling on Africa and South East Asia.
Medifund, which launched last year, hasn’t been particularly successful so far (only one student has been fully funded). But Onwude still hopes to gain traction. He’s also looking at adding peer-to-peer lending (where students would repay loans once they start their jobs), and micro-tasking (where students would complete health-related jobs in return of cash). Hopefully, they’ll still have time to complete their studies.