By Julia Puchi
This year, the Santa Clara University (SCU) Global Medical Brigades chapter traveled to Nicaragua for nine days during spring break to facilitate a temporary medical and dental clinic in two communities, and helped two families build sanitary units and concrete floors for their homes in a third community. The team was made up of 35 students and one doctor who is the father of one of the students on the trip.
Leading up to the trip, the team was responsible for raising $15,000 to buy all the medications and supplies necessary for the clinic. This included medications that were needed in the community, from antihistamines to anti-parasitics, gauze and novocaine for the dental clinic, and plenty of multivitamins for both children and adults.
Raising the money seemed intimidating at first, but with the whole team actively involved in the effort our goal was reached sooner than we had expected. We relied on each team member raising money at home over the Christmas break, reaching out to the Santa Clara community, doing fundraisers on campus, and our volunteer alumni committee to raise the funds. We also received generous donations of non-medication supplies that made a huge impact on reaching our goals. Each team member was also responsible for paying their own way on the trip.
Global Brigades is one of the largest student-led organizations in the world, with chapters at Universities all over the United States, as well as in Europe. They have brigades for everything from medical and dental to microfinance. The organization works on a holistic model, and their goal is to create sustainable communities.
During the first part of our trip, we saw patients at a medical and dental clinic. Stations at the clinic included triage, doctor consult, dental, public health, pharmacy, and OBGYN. Patients were able to receive medications for a variety of different ailments, and doctors were able to refer patients to in-country medical services if their medical issue was more serious. At the public health station, patients were educated on how to prevent disease through sanitation and clean drinking water.
For the last three days of our trip, we did a public health project in the community. We built a sanitary station, consisting of a shower, sink, and toilet, and concrete floors for two families. The families were responsible for paying for 10% of the project, and this money went into a community fund from which community members would be able to take out loans for future public health, business, or educational projects.
Having a share in the cost of the project also makes it more likely that the family will maintain upkeep of their new facilities. During the time of our trip, most families in the community that we worked in had already participated in this initiative and were happy that they had a new and clean sanitary station and a concrete floor in their home to avoid insect-borne diseases.
It was clear that Global Brigades had made a very positive impact in the community and that the work of the students was an essential resource to getting these projects done.
Not only were we able to help the people of Nicaragua in a positive way, but the trip was an invaluable experience for our team members. All of the students were genuinely invested in bettering the lives of the people in the communities we worked in, and they worked tirelessly the whole time we were in Nicaragua. For some, the experience solidified what they wanted to do in the future, whether it was being a doctor or working in the field of public health. For others, it influenced them to choose a new path. The success of Global Medical Brigades at SCU can also be credited to the values that SCU instills in its students, namely the emphasis that is put on helping others. Many of our team members are involved in other clubs on campus, such as SCAAP, that focus on helping marginalized communities in the San Jose area. There are also various immersion trips and programs that allow students to travel outside of the state and to foreign countries for the purpose of helping others in need.
Global Medical Brigades has the honor of being one of those programs that can offer students the opportunity to foster their longing to better the lives of others and to gain a better understanding of what it means to be a global citizen. We hope that next year’s team will have an equally fulfilling experience as we did in Nicaragua this year, and that they will continue to receive the support of the Santa Clara community.