After a year of fundraising, recruiting and preparing, the Global Medical Brigades at UC Davis (GMB) is almost ready for its first week-long venture to Honduras.
The campus group, a chapter of a larger national organization called the Global Brigades, will head to Central America on June 13 to set up a mobile clinic for seven days. GBM will provide temporary medical treatment to the population of a rural Honduras region.
According to the Global Brigades website, there are typically no doctors within a 20 mile radius of rural Honduras and 20 percent of patients have never seen a doctor outside of GMB. GMB goes into these regions with limited access to health care and provides every resident with basic medical services.
Tram Nguyen, a senior neurobiology physiology and behavior major, is one of the 25 UC Davis members that will participate in the project this year. She believes the concept behind the brigades is simple.
“How it works is that we recruit medical students and doctors to travel with us to a country,” Nguyen said. “We go to rural areas within the region and set up clinics.”
Brigade trips last a week, but mobile clinics are typically open for one or two days. Former UC Davis club president, Katherine Tom, says this is because of the training volunteers must complete upon arrival.
“Typically a school goes down for a week,” Tom said. “The first two days are a lot of preparation. Next, in-country staff coaches you and then the clinic opens up for a day.”
While the focus of the trip may be health and medicine, volunteers do not have to be medical or science students. Nguyen said anyone is welcome on the trip – all they have to do is join the club.
“We train participants in Spanish terminology. You don’t have to be a science major or pre-med,” Nguyen said. “Anything you need to do, we will help you learn.”
These week-long brigade expeditions are funded by the participants themselves. Airfare is around $1500, and campus brigade groups devote much of their school year to fundraising for the trip.
“These trips are mostly funded personally, out of pocket,” Tom said. “Our main focus throughout the year is gathering medication, recruiting doctors and professionals and fundraising. Fundraising pays for medications.”
Tom says the patients they treat have pretty basic needs by American standards. Prenatal vitamins, basic vitamins, anti-parasitics, antibiotics and pain medications are just some of the supplies the organization has purchased for the trip.
Global Brigades determines regions for the clinics with director-visits to various areas.
“Directors go down and assess the different needs of the area and how much we will be able to do,” Tom said. “They work with local communities to set up living arrangements and security for us. [Selected regions] are based on the need and how much we can provide.”
Tom said that while most brigades consist of 40 or 50 people, the UC Davis brigade will travel with 25 volunteers.
“There is no limit on how many people can attend the trip, but the number of participants often determines how much can be accomplished,” Tom said.
However, she said that 25 people can still make a significant impact.
The Global Medical Brigades is only one of eight sections the Global Brigades covers. Other sections include public health, dental, water, law, business, environmental and microfinance. Different brigade groups often try to team up and assist the same region together.
Ben Erker, a former UC Davis student and current co-director of the Water Brigade in Honduras, said this team effort approach is often the most successful strategy. He attended the UC Davis Water Brigade trip to Honduras last year.
“Global Brigades works in over 100 rural communities in Honduras, the majority of which are only worked in by Medical Brigades at this point,” Erker said. “But with newer programs like Water, Public Health and Microfinance Brigades, working in some of our most in need communities, the goal is eventually to have a holistic approach to development in many more.”
GMB at UC Davis is still accepting donations to fund their trip. Donations can be made at sites.google.com/site/ucdglobalbrigades/
AMANDA HARDWICK can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.