On summer vacations, Savanna Carson travels the world as a dedicated volunteer helping others in need...

She’s traveled the world from Thailand to Tanzania, but she’s no ordinary tourist. Savanna Carson, a senior biology-chemistry major, has gained more than just cultural experiences and global perspectives. Since she was 13, she has reached across borders to lend underprivileged people a helping hand.

Throughout her life, the Santa Paula resident has been taught by her parents to help others who are less fortunate. Through such volunteer organizations as the local Interface program, she has traveled to places such as Thailand, Spain, France, and Mexico, always with the goal of assisting people and their programs.

Two years ago, she went to Costa Rica as part of a Global Volunteers program to help with construction projects for local villages. “We have so much in this country,” Savanna says. “There are so many people living in third world countries who don’t have even their basic needs met. We’ve got to help. I realized that in Costa Rica. I realized how important it is that I do that.”

Last year, she began looking for summer internships and heard about the Duke University Engineering World Health Program. Savanna was accepted and assigned to a hospital near Moshi, Tanzania, where she helped to maintain and repair medical equipment.

“It’s amazing how much of the hospital equipment isn’t functioning—blood pressure machines, ultra-sound machines, monitors, you name it,” Savanna said. “We learned how to fix many of the problems. We got to the point where we knew what to look for and could figure it out. Our goal was to get the hospital to be sustainable, on its own, and to train the staff there to be on their own.”

Back from her summer in Tanzania, Savanna says, “This trip has really influenced my life, my outlook. There are so many problems in Africa, including the economy, AIDS, and malaria, one of the biggest problems. There are so many stereotypes. It’s a huge eye-opener to go there.

“While we were working at the hospital, we saw three funerals a day. It’s just incredible. I know now that I have to go back, to continue to help them. I want to go back next summer, perhaps to assist a doctor.

“Savanna is a once-in-a-lifetime student who is outstanding, and a caring individual who volunteers her time unselfishly in service on international causes,” says Phil Hampton, professor of chemistry. “I am honored to have had the opportunity to get to know her as a student and a colleague.”

Hampton has helped Savanna with her education as well as her future career. She is currently considering work in public health or possibly as a physician’s assistant.

One thing is certain. Savanna Carson will likely be traveling again next summer, and for summers to come. You won’t often find her in a comfortable hotel. You’ll see her among people. Right there. Helping out and making a difference.