Students in the new Grinnell chapter of Global Brigades take community-building seriously. As they prepare to host a three-day medical and dental clinic in rural Honduras, they are reaching out to everyone they think can help.
Joe Abraham ’14 first learned about Global Brigades, the largest student-run global health and sustainable development organization, from an Emory University student. “It’s a really great way to volunteer in a field I’m interested in myself,” says Abraham.
Last fall he started the Grinnell chapter. He announced an application process for those interested in a trip to Honduras and a student-run executive board. To gain field experience, he traveled with a brigade from St. Louis University in January, and this spring the Grinnell Brigade began preparing for its own trip. “I really just can’t wait to go back,” Abraham says.
During their planned trip to rural Honduras in June, the Grinnell Brigade will provide free basic services — such as blood pressure tests, basic blood tests, inoculations, mammograms, and dental care — to anyone who needs them. “We expect to see more than 500 patients,” says Lisa Eshun-Wilson ’14, fundraising chair of Grinnell Brigade’s executive board. “Some travel from great distances to get their needs met,” she says.
The 21 students going to Honduras each pledged $1,700 to cover transportation, room and board, and a sizable donation for medical supplies. “We all play a large role in the administrative work, and all of the networking [and] communicating,” Eshun-Wilson says.
The students reached out to the larger Grinnell community for help making their inaugural trip a success.
After scheduling conflicts made it difficult to enlist the help of Grinnell alumni, the brigade found a physician to serve as a mentor during the trip through President Raynard S. Kington’s outreach to the Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Joel Post, an orthopedic surgeon from Michigan, and Tamela Post, his wife, volunteered to oversee the brigade's visit.
In order to provide the type of care Hondurans might need, the students trained in basic medical procedures, such as blood pressure tests, with equipment supplied by the Student Health and Counseling Center (SHAC).
McNally’s Foods, a local grocery store, and Walmart hosted donation drives, garnering tremendous support from the community. These drives help provide medical and dental supplies for the trip.
The brigade reached out to the campus community with additional fundraising events. Their Valentine’s-Day-themed fundraiser encouraged students to “buy a can of Crush for your crush,” and a recent benefit dinner celebrated Latin American culture and featured student artwork, performances, and traditional Honduran food.
Finally, the brigade reached out to J. Montgomery Roper, associate professor of anthropology, for insight into the ethical and cultural issues of the trip. Roper discussed with them the power dynamics and potential negative effects such trips can have, as well as what students can do to help mitigate them. The largest benefits, Roper says, come from “the impact the trip has on the students and how this makes them better able to understand poverty and their place in the world. It can make them better global citizens, which will help them to effect changes in their own countries (e.g. in foreign policy) that can affect the structural conditions of poverty abroad.”
With the support of the larger Grinnell community, the lessons the Grinnell Brigade participants learn from the Honduras trip can help them have a positive impact on communities around the world.
— Kelsey Roebuck ’14