FREEMED was established in 2008, when a Yonsei medical student, Song Ho-won, recognized that most medical volunteer groups did not provide consistent medical attention to patients. Instead, most of the volunteer projects ended up as one-time events, constantly on the move to find new people to treat. However, Song felt the need to take care of underprivileged patients regularly, just like an ordinary hospital would.
Currently, FREEMED operates with 88 student volunteers. They recruit new members twice a year, and the recruited volunteers help provide the public with well needed medical services and education for at least one year before they leave the organization.
In this particular medical organization, the student volunteers working in the clinic are not all from the medical field, but rather come from various majors. In fact, one of the most distinguishable characteristics of FREEMED is that it recruits both undergraduate and graduate students regardless of their majors, not just for their clinic but also for their four departments – medical, business, design and IT.
FREEMED’s longest running project, the free clinic, serves as an example of how they provide consistent health care for the underprivileged. Every Saturday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., students and licensed doctors volunteer to examine patients at the exit number eight of the Seoul Subway Station. Most of the visiting patients come to the clinic for regular checkups or to receive prescription medicine.
In addition to their free clinic service, FREEMED is also active overseas. After providing their service in Seoul for a couple of years, they realized that there were already numerous medical volunteering services within the country. Therefore, it decided to launch the Maternal Healthcare Initiative (M.H.I.) in Kenya.
Listed as one of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations, which addresses the world’s most time-bound and quantified targets for resolving extreme poverty, the organization decided that maternal health was an issue that was in need of attention. Therefore, FREEMED built ambition to lower the maternal mortality rate by providing health education and medical resources to mothers in need through the establishment of the M.H.I..
In the process of developing the M.H.I., an acquaintance working for a non-governmental organization in Africa introduced FREEMED to the poor health care of Kenya. It was at this time that FREEMED volunteers learned that many Kenyan mothers lost their lives due to simple complications such as poor hygiene.
After deciding to plant their M.H.I. on Kenyan grounds, FREEMED flew to Kenya in January, 2012. While in Kenya, FREEMED was able to sign a three year contract with the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation of Kajiado, Kenya, and they delivered 20 medical kits to women in need.
“I remember a Kenyan mother’s tears when she heard her baby’s heartbeat for the first time with our Antenatal Diagnostic Tool Kit,” said An Su-yong, a student studying economics at the University of Seoul, and the current president of FREEMED, recalling his most touching memory during his time in the organization.
Most recently, in July of 2014, FREEMED sent their fourth group of delegates to Kenya to distribute both delivery and antenatal diagnostic tool kits, while providing health care to mothers.
Now, as one of the biggest medical service organizations in Korea, FREEMED continues to aspire to reach more people in need.
“We are now working to bring the M.H.I. to Korea,” An said. “As the first step to bringing M.H.I. to Korea, we are currently preparing a campaign to raise awareness of cervical cancer and HPV(Human Papilloma Virus).”