Hearts for the Homeless International (H4H) began as an idea between three biomedical sciences students–Andrew Aboujaoude, Jennifer Carvel, Alexis Ghersi–at the University of Central Florida (UCF). They noticed that the homeless population is among the most vulnerable to cardiac diseases for a variety of factors, including lack of access to healthcare and information.
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In order to address this concern, they collaborated on a plan of action for a new program; they were invited to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) 2016, where they participated in the Social Venture Challenge.
H4H was selected as the Social Venture Challenge winner through CGI U which is designed to identify and support youth with innovative solutions for pressing global challenges. The Resolution Project provides generous seed funding for CGI U undergraduate student winners. Through this initial funding, H4H Orlando began providing free heart health screenings and information to the homeless population of Orlando at local food shares.
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Through partnering with local food shares and free healthcare clinics in the area, H4H hopes to help reduce the prevalence of hypertension and cardiac diseases in the homeless community. In addition, this initiative aims to promote awareness for the community by creating needed volunteer opportunities for university students. As of the Fall 2016 semester, H4H Orlando has been a Registered Student Organization (RSO) at UCF.
Hearts for the Homeless strives to increase their impact in the homeless community by reaching out to different universities and partnering with more locations and clinics. Currently, Hearts for the Homeless is at UCF, FSU, USF, UF and UNT. At these locations, our organization focuses on heart health education and screenings among the homeless community.
International Organization Officers
Andrew Aboujaoude is currently a medical student at UT Southwestern Medical School. He aspires to be a military physician who will one day serve his country and his surrounding community. He co-founded Hearts for the Homeless International when he was an undergraduate student at UCF. During his time at UCF, Andrew became very motivated to help his community. His experiences as a food share volunteer and a hospital volunteer deeply impacted him. As a result, he was inspired to do his part as a social entrepreneur to help improve the healthcare situation of the homeless community in Orlando. This is why he started Hearts for the Homeless Orlando, an organization that aims to counteract chronic hypertension in the homeless community. His organization works with community food shares and local healthcare clinics that treat the uninsured and homeless. Andrew loves the graciousness of the volunteers and the homeless community and is continuously inspired to lead and serve.
Jennifer Carvel is currently getting her Ph.D in psychology. She co-founded Hearts for the Homeless International as an Honors student at the University of Central Florida. Growing up in Downtown Miami, Jennifer stood witness to the struggle of homelessness and hunger surrounding her community. Even as a child, she tried to alleviate the plight of the homeless by offering supermarket gift cards and excess food from her school cafeteria. Her experiences led her to co-found Hearts for the Homeless, an organization that aims to provide free blood pressure screenings and medical resource information to the Homeless population of Orlando during local food shares. She hopes to raise awareness of chronic illnesses among the homeless community.
Kayla Ferro is pursuing her Masters in Public Health with Registered Dietician Training at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She started with Hearts for the Homeless Orlando in 2016 as a director for the president. In this role, she found Hearts for the Homeless Tallahassee in 2017. After working with expansion, she collaborated with other Board members to form Hearts for the Homeless International. She is also a Campus Representative for the Clinton Global Initiative University and a CGI U Scholar for the class of 2017 and 2018. She is a recipient of the President's Volunteer Service Award of 2019. Her favorite part about the organization is working with other passionate student leaders and collaborating on new innovative ideas to help out the less fortunate. She hopes to inspire other student leaders to become active citizens in their communities across the globe.
Ranya Awad is a fourth year Biomedical Sciences student at the University of Central Florida. When she first joined Hearts for the Homeless, she became a presidential director responsible for helping the smaller organization expand. During her time as a presidential director, she started Hearts for the Homeless Gainesville with the current Gainesville president Mary Cobty as H4H’s second chapter. After successfully expanding the organization, she emerged as Secretary of the Hearts for the Homeless International board as the organization grew. In 2017, she became a Clinton Global Initiative University Scholar representing H4H at the CGI U conference in Boston. Her duty in Hearts for the Homeless International is to keep the organization’s online presence going and maintain communication throughout the chapters as the organization continues to expand. She is very passionate about helping those who are hurt or in need and dreams of getting into medical school to become a pediatrician. She currently also serves as President of Hearts for the Homeless Orlando.
Kyle Swartz is a first year medical student at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. A former President’s Scholar at Southern Methodist University, Kyle graduated Summa Cum Laude and top of the Biochemistry department with a Bachelor’s of Science and honors in the Liberal Arts with a minor in English. With his experience in advocacy from feminist and sexual assault awareness groups, Kyle hopes to change the way homeless are treated in America. Kyle looks forward to working with Hearts for the Homeless to offer greater, more thorough, treatment to all those who have been marginalized by society.
Valory Vailoces is currently a sophomore at the University of Central Florida as part of the LEAD Scholars and Burnett Medical Scholars programs. She is pursuing a B.S. in biomedical sciences. Valory joined Hearts for the Homeless in 2018 and served as the interim Midwestern External Affairs Officer. When she becomes a clinical physician, Valory hopes to use the compassion H4H taught her with her patients and to continue to be an advocate for underrepresented populations in medicine. She now works as H4H's Chair of External Affairs.
Tri is a UCF alumnus who graduated with a B.S. in Biomedical Sciences. Tri started with Hearts for the Homeless Orlando in 2016 as Director of Treasury and then served for two terms as Treasurer of this chapter. Currently, he is a research intern at Florida Hospital. Tri is applying for medical school in the hope of serving the homeless as well as other marginalized communities. His goal with the organization is to bring awareness to the health of these less fortunate populations.
Anupa Thirmiya is currently a junior pursuing a B.S in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Central Florida. She joined Hearts for the Homeless Orlando in 2016 and was moved by the mission of the organization and the initiatives it was taking. She grew up seeing various homeless populations in America and India, and knew that volunteering with the homeless would be a true passion of hers. Currently, she serves as the Secretary of Hearts for the Homeless Orlando, and manages the organizational aspects of the local chapter. Wanting to be more involved with Hearts for the Homeless post graduation, Anupa joined the Hearts for the Homeless International board as the Director of Communications, in hopes of vocalizing the impact of the organization. After graduation, her goal is to attend medical school and eventually specialize in pediatrics, in addition to serving various underrepresented populations. Anupa also plans to continue working with Hearts for the Homeless throughout the many years to come.
Mary is the director of southeast external affairs and is currently a junior majoring in health education and behavior. She assists others in applying to universities to expand the organization. In addition to serving the national board, she is currently the president of the University of Florida chapter in Gainesville. Mary plans to pursue a career as a physician assistant in order to further help the under-served in America.
Jordan Dressel is currently a senior at the University of Central Florida and plans on graduating in May 2019 with her B.S. in Biomedical Sciences. Jordan began working with Hearts for the Homeless Orlando in 2017 where she frequently volunteers and works as a director of the secretary. As someone who is passionate about the organizations mission to help local homeless communities, Jordan later began working with the national organization as Northeast Expansion Representative. After graduation, Jordan plans to attend medical school and continue to work with Hearts for the Homeless wherever that may be.
Michael is the Director of West Coast External Affairs. He is based out of Plano, Texas, and enjoys working with aspiring student leaders. He is a student at Collin College where he hopes to use his skills to continue helping others in his community and in places around the world. His passion for reaching out to communities across the country has made him an indispensable servant-leader to our many homeless friends. Although Michael currently has many academic interests, he is sure that he plans to pursue a life of service to others.
Shani Abraham is an undergraduate Honors student majoring in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Central Florida. Shani joined Hearts for the Homeless in 2017 seeking to get involved in a movement that works to serve the underrepresented population in Orlando and extend a helping hand. Beginning as a secretary director for the Orlando Chapter, she now holds the position as the president director of the Orlando Chapter. In addition, Shani represents H4H international as the Director of South East Asia, External Affairs. Shani loves H4H because of the memories she has gained and the memories she looks forward to making whenever she engages with the community. Participating in something bigger than ourselves is what drives her to want to work hard and spread compassion to our H4H community. Shani hopes to pursue a medical degree in the future and become a cardiothoracic surgeon. She looks forward to continuing her work with H4H, to spread heart health awareness and assistance to our homeless friends
Alexia Ghersi is a second year medical student at the university of Pittsburgh medical school. She is very involved in working with the underserved community of Pittsburgh, especially with refugee children. She believes this love for serving her community flourished from helping the homeless community in Orlando, realizing how integral it is to help our brothers and sisters who need it most in this world.