Utahns are known for their generous spirit and devotion to service. And we wrote about six local Samaritans who are taking their skills across the globe to offer comfort and care in our December issue, on stands now. Dr. John Hanrahan, one of the altruistic Utahns we profiled, organizes medical intervention trips to impoverished countries all around the world.

Mission: Bringing training and infrastructure to impoverished communities around the globe, as well as organizing direct medical intervention trips for volunteers

Areas of Operation: Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Nepal, Peru and Sudan

It all started in Guatemala. Dr. John Hanrahan was on a medical aid mission when he, a new father, encountered a malnourished 2-year-old girl weighing no more than his own, healthy 6-month-old back home. He and his team did everything to save her but ultimately could not.

“She was very sick, and we just couldn’t keep her alive,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘This is just not right.’ ”

Hanrahan came back home, quit his practice and started The Hope Alliance with clergyman Joe Mitchell, who had initially dragged him on his first trip to Guatemala. At first, the alliance focused on direct medical interventions, like taking teams of medicos to remote villages to set up clinics and treat as many people as possible, which was often in the thousands. But Hanarahan soon realized that this method, while helpful, was not a real solution.

“You go in and do health care for two weeks. But if you don’t treat the water, well, then everybody still has parasites and they keep getting sick,” he explains.

So, now, the primary goal is to send smaller, lighter groups into areas to train locals in basic health care techniques and triage. They also work with local leaders to develop infrastructure. Each pin-point on a map is handled on a case-by-case basis with the locals directing the effort.

“You can’t come in and just say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do for you guys,’ ” he says. “You will help them for a little while, but without local buy-in, it won’t be sustainable.”

How to help:

The Hope Alliance funds itself largely through organizing volunteer-paid trips to its areas of operation. These humanitarian vacations connect hard-working people, medical and non-medical, with those in need. They also take donations in equipment, medical supplies and, of course, cash. For a list of upcoming expeditions and a checklist of needs, visit thehopealliance.org or call 801-952-0400.

By the Numbers:

9 Health clinics builty

$35,950 Average cost for one student-designed home

420 Volunteers for aid missions during 2010

1,192 Volunteers for aid missions since 2002