“Gracias” Global Health Trips, better known as GGHTx, is a global non-profit founded by Dr. Arash Hakhamian and Avi Kerendian that aims at addressing the vital global health challenges many underserved communities face across Latin America.
[New York] dated December 17th, 2019 – “Gracias” Global Health Trips (GGHTx) is a thriving global non-profit organization that was established in early 2017 with the single aim of addressing the medical, dental, and preventative global health challenges underserved communities across Latin America face daily.
This organization is spearheaded by Avi Kerendian, a magna cum laude graduate from YU in New York, who was appalled when he realized the kind of palpable conditions a large segment of the people in Latin America were living in. Avi Kerendian had initially started a career pursuing cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York, NY where he trained in multiple research-related specialties focused on finding a cure for glioblastoma (GBM) and triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Though he found his work rewarding and exciting, he decided instead to pursue a mission focused on making a more immediate impact on a more globalized scale.
“I originally got immersed in following the MD-PhD route because I thought that was the most effective way to help others. At my heart I’ve always been a humanitarian that cares for everything living, both animal and human,” Avi Kerendian discussed on what drove him to pursue cancer research in the first place. After a year at Sloan-Kettering, that is when Avi Kerendian decided to set out to give back to the community in a less traditional way for those his age, by instead focusing his time and efforts on creating GGHTx, the global non-profit success that it remains to this day.
Along with offering regular trips filled with volunteers providing 100% free emergency and preventive medical and dental care to rural indigenous residents, Avi has also created different educational outreach projects there as well. These projects mainly have to do with health-related practices that teens and adults can benefit with at large. One recent project spearheaded with the help of local indigenous leaders was on promoting awareness on HIV prevention, an unfortunate condition that marginalizes countless people due to the strong cultural stigma it carries in the rural regions GGHTx operates is. When asked on this project Avi Kerendian discussed how: “GGHTx started to aim at prioritizing helping specific sub-populations such as the youth naïve on safe-sex practices, vulnerable sex workers, and men who lead active homosexual relationships,” since it is these subgroups that are most prone to contracting HIV.
It is owing to this incessant attempts that things have taken a turn for the good. On this Dr. Hakhamian had commented: “The sense of humanity needs to prevail and just like Avi Kerendian got the impetus to do something, we are thrilled to see that more and more people realize how important it is to help pay forward the cause of humanity and contribute towards it.” Before helping co-find GGHTx, Dr. Hakhamian had been an ardent volunteer and philanthropist who’s been an international volunteer for decades now and has had considerable experience leading over 25+ mission trips around the globe with other national and international non-profit organizations such as “Faith in Practice.”
To date, more than 50 volunteers have packed their suitcases and joined hand with GGHTx to help make a difference in the world. These volunteers include American and Latin American doctors, dentists, surgeons, and of course, dozens of pre-medical and pre-dental students who are willing to roll up their sleeves to help. Avi Kerendian is hopeful that in the time to come his non-profit organization will gain further momentum and become the kind of force that leads to a world of greater justice and health.
“Like others who come on a GGHTx trip, once there, you realize what a humbling experience it truly is; you realize you can’t just ignore what is happening in places like these villages around the world any longer. Witnessing with your very own eyes children who do not know how to use a toothbrush since they’ve never had one, mothers crying to you in despair about the lack of vitamins needed for their family, the elderly worrying about not having access to the basic antibiotics that make them now more susceptible to illness because of their old age... you realize how blessed we truly are to take these needs for granted here in the US.”
It is this epiphany that solidified Avi’s resolve and promise to continue with leading more mission trips and scaling GGHTx. “I suddenly appreciated what a powerful life-saving tool a toothbrush, multi-vitamins, and antibiotics in the right hands with proper education can be,” Avi Kerendian remarked. “When I would return back to New York., I just could not sit idly by knowing and worrying about what was happening to these children and women in rural villages, ignored and neglected.”
It is this core idea that inspires Avi Kerendian to continue leading GGHTx’s mission trips. When asked what he thought on the extreme wealth inequality the world is experiencing today, Avi was recorded stressing what he though we embodied as inhabitants of the earth as: “a single nation of people caught in this inescapable network of mutuality tied by a single garment of destiny.
“I believe,” Avi continued, “that whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” It is this world philosophy that echoes Avi Kerendian’s deep and lifelong pursuit towards global health outreach. “You look at the hundreds of millions of human beings that are living in such extreme poverty, many living on less than $1 a day, millions dying from totally preventable conditions… while at the same time there are more record world billionaires than ever before! You wonder to yourself, where is all that money going when the poor are only getting poorer?” From this, instead of feeling hopeless and pessimistic, Avi lets it be his drive and fuel his passion, “It just does not sit well with me at all. It makes me want to go out there and recruit more volunteers and lead more GGHTx mission trips.” Kindness has nothing to do with ethnicity and for Avi Kerendian these words are much more than a slogan.
But as Avi Kerendian matures as a non-profit director and as an individual, he had determined that a legal career as a lawyer might be the most effective way to tackle the world’s current global health challenges. “Seeing these communities being so neglected on such a macroscopic scale makes one question the efficacy of the world’s current laws and policies on international health issues. ’Why aren’t governments getting involved nor being held responsible for their actions or lack thereof?’ I mean, at the end of the day, there is just so much an individual can do as doctor or volunteer. How much dental work and life-saving vaccines can we provide before having our volunteers return to the US for their normal work? What we need is a global system that is more sustainable and that starts from the top.”
Central to this, Avi says is his desire to pursue an outcome that will make a more long-lasting difference. “This is what compels me to pursue a law degree so that I could get more involved on the intersection of global health and international law.” Avi hopes that once he starts law school, together with the help of other attorneys and advocates passionate about public interest he can: “help scale GGHTx to the point that it will support legal innovation and policy change that can create a more just world and a more communal humankind that will also get as many others as is possible to get involved in this pursuit too.”
Those who would like to know more about the remarkable work being done by “Gracias” Global Health Trips (GGHTx) and Avi Kerendian should make it a point to visit https://gghtx.org/ where they can learn more on how to volunteer, support, or donate towards enabling GGHTx to continue to meet their goals and improve world conditions.
About Avi Kerendian
Avi Kerendian is a diehard philanthropist who believes in giving back to the community. He spearheaded the growth of the global non-profit organization, GGHTx that aims at helping those rural communities especially in 3rd world countries. He aims at uplifting the conditions of those who are in dire need of it through mission trips and educational health initiatives and bridging the gap between developed and underdeveloped nations.