Here is something from last spring break. I was blessed to have the opportunity to go to Nicaragua for 1o days with Global Brigade for a hybrid trip – medical, dental, public health, and pharmacy. It was UNC’s first hybrid trip and therefore the majority of us were uncertain about the experience from the trip. But a little spoiler – it is MORE REWARDING than pure medical or dental that Brigade also offers.
Here are some highlights from the trip:
We live in a gated “resort” like area along with Brigaders from other universities and every 5 people share a cabin. For our safety, we cannot travel outside without prior approval and only eat food prepared by the staff (with the exception of our last meal).
Clinic (7 days):
During the day, we were assigned to a morning and afternoon area. The options were: Shadow the doctors, shadow the dentist, work in triage (take blood pressure, measure glucose level, ask about their condition…), pharmacy or public health awareness with the mothers and children outside.
We later learned from the doctors that many residents there have parasite infections, but it is in the water and treatment is not long term. We gave vitamins to everyone who came and other medications as needed.
Outside with the kids, we realized that all of them understood the importance of hand washing, tooth brushing, boiling water… but are not practicing. It could be due to lack of resources or the failure of translation from their learning to action.
While shadowing the dentist, I witnessed many teeth removals and many older residents with a few teeth left. The dentist is a volunteer from the city and explained to us that a lot of these teeth problems are easily fixed with access to a dentist, but the treatments are usually too inaccessible for them, therefore her best option is to remove the teeth to prevent future damage. However, many patients forget to take the medicine after or further infect the site causing more problems.
The last few days, we moved to a village where we continue with the public health activities. We met two families, and my group worked with the family to build a sink, a shower, a toilet room, and a sewage hole and also place cement in their bed room and living room. The family currently sleeps on the dusty, sandy floor and several generations have slept there. However, the particles are very detrimental to their air passage. Maybe three families here have a shower, toilet or sink, it costs them ~$80 (USD) with the help of Brigade and our fundraising. But $80 takes these families years to save up.
It was very touching for me to see the father after coming back from his family farm, and the three brothers who return from their day job in the city, all begin to help us built because they were so thankful. Humbling, compared to how in the United States, when we pay for something, we expect and demand the workers, but they were nothing but grateful.
At the end of the built, we donated a few dollars per person and went to the stores to give the two families a gift basket with toilet paper, towels, toothbrushes, and other essentials.
Although we gave them monetary assistance, they were selfless in showing us happiness and altruism. It was a rewarding experience that grounded me during the chaotic school life.
There are many options to volunteer abroad as a college students, I would strongly recommend experiencing at least one!