SMI Student FAQ

Do you have to live near Philadelphia to participate in SMI?

No, most students come from healthcare campuses from Philadelphia or the east coast, but students also apply from all over the United States. Some years we even have healthcare students from overseas participate! All students are typically housed together in the local community, with separate housing for men and women.

If I live in Philadelphia can I live at my home/apartment and commute in to the project each day?

During SMI we usually live at or near a church (often one of our partner churches) that can provide group housing. Typically, we require that all students live together in our housing location for multiple reasons (the value of community/fellowship for our participants, the benefit of immersion in the community, evening activities, safety, avoiding time lost to commuting, etc.). Please feel free to ask the SMI director any specific questions you might have.

I may not be able to make it to the whole program, but can I still do SMI?

Not usually, but there may be exceptions. A legitimate excuse from your school or work or for a wedding you are in may be an acceptable absence for a day or two, but SMI typically requires that all participants attend the entire program for multiple reasons.  Permission must be granted for any absences and certain exceptions may be made, but please talk with the SMI director about your individual circumstances. We realize that post-pandemic, there are many changes in academic schedules, and for this reason, we are trying to provide reasonable flexibility. Please contact the program director at [email protected] to discuss your individual circumstances. 

Is it possible to do SMI if you are married?

Yes! Even if your spouse is not formally participating in SMI it may be possible for them to visit, join us for meals, or even come on an outreach, although we don’t usually provide housing for married couples. We do want you to be present for the entire program. Talk to the program director about your individual circumstances.

I’m an upper level student. Can I get credit for a rotation by doing SMI?

Yes, each year we have one or more students receive school credit by participating in SMI. Rotations are possible depending on your school requirements and availability. Esperanza Health Center can provide you with information to provide to your school, and the SMI program will make sure you have a supervisor in your discipline. If your school requires you to complete an additional week, this can be arranged. It also may be possible to use that week to help work on our post-program efficacy research. If you’re interested in this option, contact the SMI director early on in the year at [email protected] to begin inquiring into the process. 

What's a typical day like?

A typical day begins with breakfast, early morning group devotions, announcements and then the start of the work day, unless there is a scheduled breakout teaching session some mornings. The core of the work will be to provide door-to-door health screens, health education and referrals in the neighborhoods. Students wear scrubs, and wear medical backpacks. On outreach working days, there will be a brief transition for all to get in working groups (typically accompanied by faculty and interpreters who arrive each morning) and stock daily supplies, followed by group prayer before teams head out with a one-hour break for lunch back at our main location. Immediately after returning at the end of the workday, the entire group participates in a debriefing led by one of the leaders or faculty to process the day’s work, allowing the students to ask questions and share insights on relevant aspects of the health education we are doing. Debriefing is an important and meaningful time to hear about the encounters each group had with those they screened (many times, the work and conversations we have with people in the community are deeply moving). Debriefing is typically followed by homemade dinner, made by volunteers. Finally, the first hour of most evenings is spent in various activities including small group Bible study or work on tasks such as our follow-up-call project, planning the end-of-program banquet and slide show, writing blog entries, etc. After about 8 PM is free, filled with conversation, spontaneous games, a chance for alone-time, etc.

Do you have to do SMI Philadelphia in order to participate in the Albania project? (on years when the Albania project is offered)

Since we are only in Albania two weeks, we have a limited amount of time to learn the screens, become comfortable working door-to-door and get to know our new Albanian team members, while simultaneously learning about the new culture and surroundings in Albania. By participating in SMI Philadelphia, students are able to become adept at the functional work of the screens, and develop close relationships with their American team members. This allows them to focus more meaningfully on other aspects of working and learning in the international context. It also prepares students to work soon after arriving and allows them more ability to provide support to the Albanian students, if needed.

If you have attended a full SMI Philly in previous years, the Albania trip may be open to you too. A small portion of additional fundraising will be required, in addition to the Albania cost. Please contact the SMI director at [email protected] if you are interested in this option.

How much does it cost to participate?

The student cost for participation in SMI 2024 is $1600, which is tax-deductible if donors itemize deductions. Many students choose to raise support to cover this cost. If you choose to support raise, we can provide sample letters, forms and guidelines to help you, and will provide support and information throughout, while tracking your progress each week.

After Applying

Accepted Students: Please submit your commitment form as soon as possible–the deadline in 2024 is April 7. You should have received the link by email along with your acceptance letter.

Waitlist Students: We will notify you no later than April 30, 2024, if a spot becomes available for you to attend SMI Philly, and must provide us with your decision by May 7.

Here’s an awesome video, courtesy of the student participants, with highlights from SMI 2022!