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Once a week, Beyond Boulders runs a five-question interview with either a first-year Schweitzer Fellow or a Schweitzer Fellow for Life (ie, a Fellow whose initial year with ASF has been completed, but whose commitment to lifelong service continues).

Today, we talk with Erin Bendure and Ryan Van Ramshorst, students at Baylor College of Medicine and members of the inaugural 09-10 class of Houston-Galveston Schweitzer Fellows. Aiming to improve and promote literacy in the clinics and emergency center of Ben Taub General Hospital (BTGH), the duo is expanding and reinvigorating two formerly separate programs: Reach Out and Read and the BOOKS Program at BTGH. (Click here for background on those programs, as well as on BOOKS at the Ballpark, the Sept. 21 event with the Houston Astros Bendure and Van Ramshorst helped to bring about.)

Bendure and Van Ramshorst discuss their project, and their commitment to service, below.

Why did you develop your particular project?

We developed this project to address the issue of early childhood literacy.  As the ability to read is paramount to forming a child’s foundation for success, we wanted to extend literacy resources to Houston’s most at risk children.  We hope to ensure that every child treated at Houston’s largest public hospital will leave with an age-appropriate and language-appropriate children’s book, as well as information regarding obtaining a library card.  We also hope to educate parents about the importance of reading to and with their children while giving them the tools to do so!

What do you hope will be the lasting impact of your project on the community it serves?

We hope that the lasting impact of this project will be cultivating a newfound focus on reading in Houston children through increasing awareness of the importance of reading, extending public resources to at risk youth, and garnering community support for our program.

What do you think is the most pressing health-related issue of our time, and how do you think it should be addressed?

The most pressing health-related issue of our time is that there are 9 million children living in the United States without health insurance.  In a country with such wealth and resources; it is unacceptable that we allow this to occur.  These children have severely diminished access to vital preventive medical services, including vaccinations and well-child checkups, which are essential to ensuring a quality and successful life for our children.  This issue must be addressed, and can no longer wait.

What has been the most surprising element of your experience as a Schweitzer Fellow?

For me, the most surprising element is the great diversity in background of the Fellows.  We are from all professional disciplines, yet rally together around the importance of community service.

What does Albert Schweitzer’s legacy mean to you, and how will you carry it with you after your initial year as a Fellow draws to a close?

The legacy of Dr. Schweitzer serves as a guiding light for my professional aspirations – as service is revered above all things.  I will always have Dr. Schweitzer’s words in the back of my mind, especially those from my favorite quote: “Therefore search and see if there is not some place where you may invest your humanity.”

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