Monthly Archives: December 2012

Another year, another step closer – happy holidays to all!

By Lawrence Loh, MD MPH

Our team is in the midst of final preparations now for our trip down to the Dominican this year. This time, our trip has a different sense of purpose – the thrill of experimentation and trying to see if our crazy idea to optimize short-term trips will be received by the community. Our website is in its final stages of completion, and we will be conducting a needs assessment in the community, using surveys and interviewing key people to figure out how we can best start to deploy the numerous volunteer teams that will come down in 2013.

We have also received tremendous support from family and friends who have given funds to support our volunteers in their expenses. Much of the money donated will go to helping students participate in the experience, which we hope will be both a valuable learning experience for them while allowing them to meaningfully contribute to improving the health of the indigent in La Romana. It’s not too late to donate still if you’re up for it, visit the website here at:

While our tax receipts this year will come through our partners at the Whites School of the Arts Community Development Programs, exciting changes are afoot for The 53rd Week. The plan will be to file for 501(c)3 status upon our return from the Dominican Republic to allow us to better source funding for our organization individually. At the same time, we are looking forward to welcoming new members to our team, and undergoing a website revamp here (the blog will continue, but we hope to be able to provide more detailed, exciting content about the work that we’re trying to put together.)

Being believers of collaboration and networking, we know the best ideas are spread if they come from those closest to us. It’s a great time to chat with our family and friends to ask the simple question of what we can do to make this world a better place and what work that would ultimately entail. With the holiday season coming up, it’s always a good chance to use the time with family and friends to push forward the cause of good. Instead of just remembering the less fortunate in your thoughts this year, consider quality time with family and friends to push and ask the wider questions of – what can we do about it? And why aren’t we doing something about it?

The old adage goes that nothing is more powerful than an idea—but beyond that, nothing is more powerful than an idea that has been challenged and vetted by those around us. Having our ideas and dreams challenged is a sure way to work towards making them more robust and feasible. Imagine how much would change if everyone just took this special time to truly describe their dreams and ideals and the opportunity and advice that could arise from sharing. In the busyness of our day to day life, the holidays are always a mind-oasis and respite.

The 53rd Week wishes you all a restful, relaxing, and meaningful holiday filled with the conversations that matter. We’ll see you in 2013!

Lawrence Loh is Chief Medical Officer of The 53rd Week.

A reminder of what we’re trying to accomplish – and why

This fortnight’s posting, which comes from Dr. Christine Thorne, comes on the heels of Thanksgiving and into the traditional holiday season of giving and our team’s trip down to the Dominican Republic. Using a recent World Bank publication, she reminds of us of the deeper purpose of The 53rd Week’s work: the idea that young professionals, given the right environment, guidance, and tools, can help to address the root causes of poverty and inequity that exist in our world… and that this is what makes our attempts to optimize their deeply personal investments ever more valuable – because of the opportunity to take something that seems otherwise futile and push it towards a belief in achieving greater things together.


Recently, I read excepts from a book, Voice of the Poor, published by the World Bank.  I was struck by the quotes of the impoverished people as to how they saw their lives and their futures and how this impacted the work we are trying to do as The 53rd Week.

All quotes in this blog post are taken from  Voice of the Poor and it’s subsequent document related to health, Dying for Change.

“For a poor person everything is terrible – illness, humiliation, shame.  We are cripples; we are afraid of everything; we depend on everyone. No one needs us.”

–          Blind woman, Tiraspol, Moldova, 1997

It is important for us to remember, especially as we head into the upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic, what our organization is working towards and whom it is helping.  We are working to help the poor, to eliminate ill-health and to end the shame associated with poverty.  To do this, The 53rd Week is working to achieve long-term change in the La Romana community of Haitian refugees so that there is adequate health care and long-term projects that provide a bridge out of poverty.

“We do not think that life will become any better for our children and even for generations to come.”
– a woman, Malawi

Together with our partners, we want to empower the powerless, to provide hope to the poor, to given them the idea that the future can be better for their children than it has been for them.  We all recognize this cannot be achieved only in 1 week trips that address downstream, short-term needs.  There needs to be long-term involvement in the community, a collaboration with the people locally and between groups working within the community, both internationally and domestically in order to provide lasting hope and change.

“To summarize: Poor people want institutions that are honest, accountable, treat them fairly and show respect.”

The 53rd Week is working to become an organization respected in La Romana and worldwide for providing sustainable solutions for the poor there and increasing access to basic needs and health care.  We know that providing for people’s health is an essential way to provide them with an opportunity to escape poverty.

“Poverty and ill-health are inseparable.  In 127 case studies in Voices of the Poor which examine why families have fallen into poverty, ill-health emerges as the single most common trigger for the downward slide.”

Thank you for following our blog and working with The 53rd Week to help us develop effective short-term volunteer models that might allow young professionals to lend their efforts towards tackling ill-health and poverty in La Romana and the wider world.

Dr. Christine Thorne is a resident physician in California.

Feel free to read the original document where all these quotations are taken from:
World Health Organization and World Bank, January 2002: Dying for Change