Carroll County Times

Capstone project leads to charity

Roger Voter's capstone project for graduation from the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School has become a global gift to others.

Voter, a 22-year-old Westminster resident, and classmate Homayon Ghassemi were in Ecuador June 6 to June 28 to launch International Medical Aid.

IMA is a nonprofit which strives to improve much needed access to health care resources to the citizens of impoverished and politically corrupt countries through fully staffed and strategically deployed mobile healthcare clinics.

Voter and Ghassemi developed plans for their joint capstone project and then traveled to Ecuador for implementation.

"For our last class we Skyped from Ecuador into the classroom to present the project," Voter said, "and it worked out very well."

Ghassemi carries the titles of co-founder and president of IMA, while Voter is co-founder and executive director.

"I handle the business side of things and Homayon handles the medical side," Voter said of the new nonprofit.

Ghassemi, 21, is a resident of Kansas. He has volunteered with charities across the globe.

"In many of these countries I worked with people in remote and often isolated areas where there was a discernable need for healthcare," Ghassemi wrote in an email. "That's how the concept of mobile clinics was born."

IMA partners with a local charity within a country. In Quito, Ecuador, they worked with United Benefit of Ecuador Children International, a nonprofit that works with street children.

IMA set up a tent in Ecuador and hired doctors to work either a full or a half day.

"Doctors in most remote areas are not expensive," said Voter.

The doctors diagnosed patients and offered referrals to hospitals if needed. Voter said most countries have a public health-care system.

"Citizens can get treatment but don't know where to find it or don't have the money or resources," Voter said.

"When we refer an individual in a remote area to a hospital we inform our [local] contacts within the community and allow them to handle the transportation arrangements," wrote Ghassemi.

Ecuador was only a starting point. Voter and Ghassemi traveled to Africa in early August.

In Mombasa, Kenya, they partnered with nonprofit Elective Africa. They found Phares Odhiambo and Isaac Afullo, African citizens who volunteered to work as their in-country coordinators. They also recruited Dr. Saeed Mumekaa as their East African medical director. He too is volunteering his time.

IMA promotes hygiene, giving away toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap with language specific instructions on how to properly use these items.

IMA is funded through donations from businesses and private individuals. Voter and Ghassemi have both invested their own money into the organization, Ghassemi wrote.

"We also created an Indigo money raising account [online] and raised $600 there," said Voter. "And, we paid for our own travel."

Ghassemi has spent the last two months in East Africa working at Coast Provincial General Hospital and establishing IMA's East African Headquarters.

"In Africa we expanded our use by filling prescriptions," Voter said. IMA worked with a prescription wholesaler. "These were all simple drugs. There are conditions there like ringworm that can be solved with a single pill," he said.

"In areas like East Africa where there is tremendous poverty, it is most rewarding to see the noticeable improvement in the health of a community after our mobile medical clinics," Ghassemi wrote.

Voter's parents own Gizmos Art in Westminster. He said he grew up watching their business go through stages of growth.

"I started my own business at age six, selling candy bars at flea markets my parents went to," he said.

Voter received an Associate's degree in business administration from Carroll Community College. While at Carroll, he had an internship with Congressman Roscoe Bartlett. Then he landed an internship at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.

"I worked in human resources on the business side, adding to my experience," he said.

Just as his internship at Goddard was about to end, Voter and his friend Eric Holniker of Westminster opened Save Point, a game store in the TownMall of Westminster.

"We already owned a couple of arcade machines that we rented to the mall," he said. The store has been so successful that they have expanded and moved three times.

Voter is also a supervisor for John Farr Lighting Design in Washington, D.C.

Voter's mom, Lyndi McNulty, was not surprised by his latest endeavor.

"He has always been philanthropic," she wrote in an email in which she listed his many volunteer activities. "He won the most volunteer hours in middle school."

Voter and Ghassemi plan to travel to China next, perhaps this coming winter. They are committed to IMA, whose motto is "Where there is health, there is hope."