Connecting ideas from Damascus, to Chicago, and then to Lima, Peru: my IPRO with MEDLIFE:


Last year Nearly 50 Illinois Tech students with academic majors across all of the academic disciplines formed a chapter of MEDLIFE (Medicine, Education, and Development for Low-Income Families Everywhere), a national organization that supports the advancement of health care in Central and South America.

The main objective of MEDLIFE is to supply medicine, education and development to low-income areas in Central and South America via mobile clinics and a series of ongoing community development projects. During these mobile clinics, dedicated, local physicians and administrators provide free medical services and educational events on hygiene. Clinics held include dentistry, pediatrics, pharmacology, gynecology, nursing and internal medicine.


This past year, ten IIT students and a faculty member were sent to a mobile clinic in Lima, Peru during spring break (2014). Today IIT held a panel discussion where those students told us about their experiences, feelings, and the challenges during this trip. President John Anderson attended the panel as one of the sponsor of this organization.

To spread these ideas further, IIT launched an advanced IPRO project that will discuss the challenges that the students faced during this trip. The mission of our IPRO team is to find an innovative solution that could help the residents of Lima, Peru.

In our first class we started the brainstorming and tried to categorize the problems. Frankly after this discussion and attending the panel discussion I was shocked to learn just how bad the situation in Lima. Thousands of Peruvians live without regular access to pure water, healthy food, fuel or even secure shelter.


One of the primary problems that IIT students noticed was the large number of people who had cancer – relative to the population and the incidents of cancer in other countries. These high rates of cancer have been traced to traditional methods of heating and cooking. Since residents of Lima can’t offer fuel, they burn plastic so they can take advantage of its heat. The toxic fumes generated from this harmful smoke contributes greatly contributes to lung cancer.

An idea came into my mind to apply the “Organic Digestive Technology” that will help Peruvians to avoid cancer. Organic Digestive is a very simple technic that was introduced to me in The University of Damascus in Bioenergy class. The idea uses anaerobic fermentation to recycle the organic waste from every house and produce methanol that could be used for cooking, heating and even lightning.

While exploring this idea further, I learned about a plant near Chicago where they apply this technology so I asked for a tour in the plant during the weekend. The managers were very friendly and supportive and they offered to host the trip for part of our IPRO team. We had the chance to see the practical application for these technologies.

My hope is that our team will be able to recognize additional opportunities to deploy these ideas and technologies throughout the Americas. In addition, I hope that each of us will continue our innovative and often unconventional thinking to help people so many countries in my country of Syria and throughout the region where so many people are displaced – and wherever there is need in the world.

By working to solve this one problem of how we cook our food, heat our homes, and clean our clothes we can make so many other improvements to the quality of the lives of so many mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles …. around the world.

Safouh Takrouri

IIT Armour College of Engineering | Expected graduation, December 2014

Safouh can be reached at

About the author:

Born in Damascus, Syria, Safouh Tak is currently a 4th year student at Illinois Institute of Technology with earlier studies at Damascus Univeristy. Safouh’s concentration of study is Electrical Engineering at Illinois Tech with an extensive focus in the areas of renewable energy and sustainability.  While in Syria, Safouh was a participant in one of the earliest cohorts of students whose focus was centered upon the new field of sustainability.  Since arriving at IIT, Safouh and his colleagues are working to develop a “beta organization” to document the current research projects of Syria’s undergraduate and graduate students and to create a forum and platform for knowledge sharing and exchange and to provide a “virtual incubator for ideas” during a period of extreme stress to the higher education network in Syria.  Safouh can we reached at:

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