Ines Allen and her husband, Tracey, established IMAHelps in 2000 after Ines had spent nearly 20 years volunteering as a dental assistant and Spanish language interpreter for the Flying Samaritans on dental missions throughout Baja California, Mexico. Headquartered in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the organization was originally called International Medical Alliance or IMA. The name was changed to IMAHelps in 2011 after Ines and Tracey discovered that two other humanitarian organizations were using variations of the same name.
While IMAHelps initially began as a family effort, drawing volunteers and financial support from both Ines and Tracey as well as several members of their families, Ines has been the driving force behind the organization, which provides healthcare to people who suffer from the same kind of poverty Ines and her family endured when they lived in South America many years ago.
Ines was born and raised in Quito, Ecuador. But her family was poor and could not afford to take Ines’s older brother, Raul Gonzalez, to see a specialist when he developed heart problems as a young teenager. Raul died from heart problems at the age of 16 and his death so traumatized Ines and her family that they immigrated to the United States when she was nine years old with the hope of escaping Ecuador’s poverty as well as the pain of Raul’s untimely death.
Ines and her siblings all pursued their US Citizenship, university degrees and developed careers in their adult lives that brought them into American middle class life. But Ines could never let go of the memories of growing up in poverty or the fact that poverty itself had prevented her family from providing Raul with medical care that could have saved his life.
Haunted by the pain and memories of growing up in Ecuadorian poverty, Ines came up with the idea of recruiting doctors, surgeons, dentists and other medical specialists to conduct medical missions to some of the most impoverished locations in Ecuador (and ultimately, around the World). She initially recruited volunteers through her contacts with the Flying Samaritans and her network grew by word of mouth. Ines and Tracey began to promote IMAHelps’ medical mission work in the press and in the medical community.
IMAHelps became incorporated in 2002, becoming a 501 (c) 3 mutual public benefit non-profit and a Board of Directors was established. Between 2000 and 2009, Ines and IMAHelps organized annual medical missions targeting Ecuadorian cities (South America) which included three missions to her home town, Quito (Nations Capital) and then, Salinas and Manta, in the Coastal areas , El Puyo, in the Amazon jungle, and the Andean mountain cities of Latacunga, Ambato and Ibarra.
Ines and IMAHelps subsequently organized medical missions to some of the poorest cities in Nicaragua (Central America), with major medical missions to Somoto in 2010, Estelí in 2011, Jinotega in 2012, and Matagalpa in 2016. IMAHelps also organized major medical missions to China in Yushu in 2011 and the Nangqian County of Qinhai Province (on Tibetan plateau) in 2012 and Huinan in 2013 as well as Vivek Vihar Colony-Mainpuri, India in 2013. Huacho, Perú (South America) in 2013 and to Zacatecoluca, El Salvador (Central America) in 2014 and 2015.
Working in collaboration with the Nicaraguan community in Los Angeles through various nonprofit organizations such as the “Nicaraguan Relief Society,” which provided fundraising support, IMAHelps organized small surgical missions to Nicaragua (Central America), focusing on Juigalpa in 2013 and to Jinotepe in 2014.
IMAHelps also makes a local impact each year with IMAHelps volunteers joining the Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, Inc., Coachella Valley Medical Volunteers, Coachella Valley Unified School District, Los Medicos Voladores and the Tzu Chi Foundation in their annual medical and dental missions to Thermal, Calif. in the Coachella Valley (Riverside County, Calif.).
IMAHelps is seeking volunteers and support for it’s upcoming mission to Itaugua, Paraguay, July 19th to July 30th, 2017 where IMAHelps expects to treat its 100,000th patient since its humble beginnings.
The IMAHelps Difference
IMAHelps is different from other organizations that organize medical humanitarian missions. Here are several characteristics that make IMAHelps unique:
We Offer More Medical Specialties
Most humanitarian organizations offer only one medical specialty. A typical IMAHelps medical mission offers as many as a dozen or more medical and surgical and dental specialties, including internal medicine, urology, pediatrics, gastroenterology, obstetrics and gynecology, general surgery, orthopedic surgery, maxillofacial and plastic surgery, general dentistry, endondontics, prosthetics and physical therapy.
We Organize Short Missions With Volunteers of All Ages
IMAHelps medical missions are generally 10 days in length. They typically include seven days of medical mission work, two days of travel time and one day of sightseeing after the mission work is completed. Because its medical missions never exceed 10 days, IMAHelps attracts volunteers of all ages, from young men and women fresh out of medical or dental school to doctors, surgeons and dentists who are at the height of their careers. This distinguishes IMAHelps from other groups such as Doctors Without Borders, which usually relies on retired doctors because of its six-month commitment requirement for mission work.
We Offer Fun Team Building ActivitiesWhile the objective of every IMAHelps medical mission is to provide medical and dental care to as many poor people as possible, IMAHelps also works with host countries to provide frequent team building activities and entertainment for its volunteers. Activities may include everything from evening tours of local attractions to presentations of cultural dance performances and outings to local dance clubs. Involvement in these activities helps relieve stress from the workday while helping IMAHelps volunteers build friendships with one another and with their host country colleagues.
We Have A Core Team of Repeat Volunteers
While IMAHelps has new volunteers every year, the organization has developed a core group of volunteers who have developed close friendships with one another and participate in virtually every IMAHelps medical mission. These core volunteers work in every division, from surgery to dental, and have enabled IMAHelps to develop effective mission management procedures so that patients can be screened and evaluated and provided with medical, dental and surgical services as quickly and efficiently as possible. These core volunteers also have the experience to help new volunteers familiarize themselves with medical mission work and become effective members of the IMAHelps team.
We Share Our Medical Knowledge and Donate Medical EquipmentIMAHelps volunteers often provide educational seminars for their host country colleagues. They also share best practices and donate medical equipment and supplies to the hospitals where IMAHelps medical missions take place.
Return on Investment (ROI)IMAHelps delivers a far higher return on investment (ROI) than most non-profit medical humanitarian organizations. The reason is simple: IMAHelps has no paid staff and volunteers pay for their own flights, food and part of their lodging while donating their time and medical expertise.
But while IMAHelps has no administrative overhead, the organization usually has to raise anywhere from $80,000 to $130,000 in donations each year to cover the cost of shipping donated supplies and equipment and to purchase additional medicines as well as medical and dental supplies that cannot be obtained through donations.
IMAHelps also uses donations to help cover a portion of its volunteers’ food and lodging costs as well as their in-country transportation costs while working over-seas.
However, because IMAHelps medical missions include volunteers from virtually every medical specialty, IMAHelps delivers an extremely high return on investment (ROI), often exceeding $100 or more for every dollar the organization receives in donations.
Here are several recent examples:
In 2009, IMAHelps volunteers raised $79,283 and provided $10,706,647 worth of medical, dental and prosthetic care through 4,794 patient consultations and treatments in Ibarra, Ecuador. That’s an ROI of $135 for every dollar donated to IMAHelps.
In 2010, IMAHelps volunteers raised $86,980 and delivered $9,419,400 worth of medical, dental and prosthetic care through 8,446 patient consultations and treatments in Somoto, Nicaragua. That’s an ROI of $108 for every dollar donated to IMAHelps.
In 2011, IMAHelps volunteers raised $60,000 and delivered $11,234,600 worth of medical, dental and prosthetic care through 12,277 patient consultations and treatments in Estelí, Nicaragua. That’s an ROI of $187 for every dollar donated to IMAHelps.
In 2012, IMAHelps volunteers raised $85,000 and delivered $13.4 million worth of medical, dental and prosthetic care through 13,733 patient consultations and treatments in Jinotega, Nicaragua. That’s an ROI of $158 for every dollar donated to IMAHelps.
In 2013, IMAHelps volunteers raised $95,000 and provided $3,077,135 worth of medical, dental and prosthetic care through 5,314 patient consultations and treatments in Huacho, Perú. That’s an ROI of $32.39 for every dollar donated to IMAHelps.
In 2014, IMAHelps volunteers raised $130,000.00 and provided $3,689,560 worth of medical, dental and prosthetic care through 5,213 patient consultations and treatments in Zacatecoluca, El Salvador. That’s an ROI of $28.38 for every dollar donated to IMAHelps.
In 2015, IMAHelps volunteers raised $69,782 in cash donations and provided $3,474,858 worth of medical, dental, surgical, ophthalmological and prosthetic care through 5,923 patient consultations and treatments in its second consecutive humanitarian mission in Zacatecoluca, El Salvador. That’s an ROI of $49.74 for every dollar donated to IMAHelps.
In 2016, IMAHelps volunteers raised $73,966 in cash donations and provided $3,488,355 worth of medical, dental, surgical, ophthalmological and prosthetic care to 4,998 patients in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. That’s an ROI of $47.16 for every dollar donated to IMAHelps.
The ROI was lower on our recent missions to Huacho, Perú and Zacatecoluca, El Salvador because more routine surgeries were performed as opposed to major plastic surgeries. But even in these two cases, our volunteers delivered $28 to $32 in care for every dollar donated to IMAHelps.
We’re quite confident that you will be hard pressed to find another medical humanitarian organization that can deliver that kind of ROI on your donation.