IMAHelps was founded 12 years ago by Ines Allen, a Rancho Mirage, Calif. dental assistant and native of Quito, Ecuador who formed the non-profit humanitarian group after volunteering for many years on medical missions to Mexico with the Flying Samaritans.
Allen, 54, grew up in a poor family in Quito, Ecuador and lost her older brother to an undiagnosed heart problem that took his life at the age of 15. Her family was so devastated by her brother's death and by the poverty that prevented them from accessing specialized healthcare services that they immigrated to the U.S. to begin a new life with new opportunities.
Allen was only nine years old when her brother died, but she never forgot her brother's death or how poverty prevents people from accessing the healthcare services they need. She has spent the past 12 years building a network of more than 100 volunteers from across the United States who travel around the world working to help those in most need of care.
Her volunteers include Ping Tung Cheung, a physician's assistant from Garfield Medical Center in Los Angeles who has volunteered on several IMAHelps medical missions to Ecuador and Nicaragua and plans to lead a small team of IMAHelps volunteers to Tibet in early September.
Other medical mission volunteers include Dr. Christopher Tiner, a plastic and maxillofacial surgeon with offices in Pasadena and Beverly Hills, Calif.; Dr. Jeffrey Cassidy, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon from Grand Rapids, Mich. and Dr. Emilia Williams, a surgical oncologist at Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waimea who also teaches at Texas A & M University Medical School in Temple.
Other IMHelps specialists include Robert Openshaw, a San Bernardino, Calif.-based prosthetist who has fitted patients with artificial limbs in locations as diverse as the Amazon jungle in Ecuador and the coffee growing regions of northern Nicaragua.
"We are blessed to have talented people from all over the country, including Alaska and Hawaii, who see the value of helping those in need," Allen said.
But unlike most non-profits, IMAHelps exists solely as a volunteer effort. Allen has no salary and her volunteers pay for their own flights and help cover the cost of their food and lodging. As a result, Allen said IMAHelps is able to deliver $100 to $200 in medical care for every dollar in donations the organization receives.
IMAHelps is currently organizing a medical mission to Cuzco, Peru next summer as the group begins a three-year effort to bring critical healthcare services to some of the poorest people in the Andes Mountains of South America. More information about IMAHelps is available at www.imahelps.org.