The first time I applied for this fund was some weeks before the March Meeting 2018 in Egypt. Because of my current position in my NMO (National Officer on Research Exchange in IFMSA-Honduras) and my motivation and work within it, I was elected in my country’s delegation for that event and I remember being really worried about how to pay for the event, the flight tickets, all the preparations, etc. One day, one of my local officers sent me a link to an article talking about this precise fund. So, without hesitating, I applied for it. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t win the contest (haha), but I was really happy for the person who was elected and realized that maybe it wasn’t my time to attend my first General Assembly.
Some months later, I was elected again to represent my beautiful country in the next General Assembly, this time, the August Meeting 2018 in Canada. I remember checking the fund’s webpage so that I could know when the application deadline was, stressing myself out on how I could actually pay for the event and all the costs it implies. So, got my CV prepared, my motivational letter, and also prepared myself psychologically if I didn’t win the contest again.
The preparation of the documents took about two or three days to make sure I was writing everything in which I had worked, all the events I had been too, opportunities that had been presented to me, my goals and expectations for the event, what I plan to do in my NMO and at an international level, etc.; all I could think of was “why should I win the Prof. Erik Holst Fund?”, “what makes me so special?”. At the end of the day, it was just me pouring my heart into my motivational letter, speaking with all the world’s honesty at all time.
Some weeks later, specifically on Saturday, May 12th, I randomly woke up in the middle of the night and checked my phone for group messages on WhatsApp on any other relevant information. I saw I had some emails, so I opened the app. and to my surprise, one of the emails subject was “[URGENT] You have been chosen for the Erik Holst AM2018 GA Scholarship!”! When opening the email, tears were dropping down my face while reading “Dear Javier Shafick, regarding your application for the Prof. Erik Holst AM2018 GA Scholarship, we are pleased to inform you that you have been chosen to receive the scholarship of 500 EUR for your participation at the upcoming IFMSA GA - August Meeting 2018 in Montreal, Canada! Congratulations!”.
If I’m really honest with you, I thought it was a dream, I couldn’t actually believe what had just happened, so I went to the bathroom and washed my face, came back to my phone and the email was still there (haha). I immediately sent a message to my family and close friends telling them about this while tears were still dropping on my cheeks. It had been one of the most beautiful and heart warming moments in my life and I will be forever grateful for this huge opportunity.
For the ones who don’t know, Honduras is a developing country, meaning that it is really hard to find this kind of opportunities or finding particular people who want and/or can help students for this kind of events and purposes, so I was absolutely blown away knowing I had just received a help of €500.
The next steps for me to attend the GA was applying for the Canadian VISA and buying my plane tickets, which were more difficult than what I thought. For the plane tickets, I started to send letters to family members and friends, to my university, to NGOs in my country, explaining all about the event, how important it was for me to attend the event as I had to contact other NOREs from the world for the exchanges contract signing, etc. For my luck, a family friend spoke to me and told me that he was going to pay for the tickets, that he was really proud of me and what I have been doing on my country and that he felt in his heart that he wanted to contribute for my trip. Believe me, I was happier than ever.
The last thing I needed was my VISA, so I applied for it and, to my surprise, it was rejected. I couldn’t believe it, my heart felt so broken... I contacted the organizing committee from the event explaining this, so they sent a letter to the embassy explaining about this misunderstanding because I was an international delegate for the event. At the end, they told me to reapply for the VISA, so I sent my application again and this time, they told me they required my passport to finish the process. Since we don’t have a Canadian Embassy in Honduras, the passport was sent all the way to Mexico and, at the time of writing this, about 1 week away from the August Meeting, I still haven’t received my passport back and the VISA approval letter. However, I’m not worrying because, if God had opened so many doors down until this point, I know He would help me get my documents back just before the event so I can arrive on time.
Since this is my first IFMSA international event, I’m really excited for it, receiving conferences on the theme event, participating in my Standing Committee sessions, interacting with people around the world, exchanging culture, and, most of all, learning about public health, educational activities I can implement and research projects ideas we can begin working on my country.
I hope this isn’t my last GA, but this will definitely be a GA that I will forever cherish and take in my heart, specially because of the help I received from the Professor Erik Holst Fund and their will to help those students who need it.