Global Brigades started as a medical relief organization for impoverished communities abroad but has now grown to include eight other types of brigades; including Public Health, Dental, and Engineering. Global Brigades is a secular non-profit organization that relies on student and professional volunteers to promote a holistic method when providing aid. The holistic method educates and empowers the members of the community to continue the work that Global Brigades began when the student-led brigades have left the country. Using this method allows the aid the volunteers bring to have a lasting impact!
Global Brigades is a relatively new campus organization, entering their third year as an official campus organization. The past years, they have completed two medical/dental brigades and two public health brigades to Honduras that have collectively aided over two thousand people. Each brigade is nine days, with three days in the community clinic and three days completing a public health project. This past year their project was building eco-stoves to decrease the number of pneumonia and lung cancer cases caused by smoke inhalation in kitchens. Over winter break Global Brigades will be returning to Honduras to continue providing care for rural communities.
This past winter break was Rebecca Joel's, current Global Brigades president, first brigade experience. On Rebecca's brigade, her eyes were opened to the differences in health care across countries. Over the six days of the brigade, Rebecca's group provided medical care to the 646 members of the La Candelaria community. As a pre-med student, such a trip was not a vacation; it was a deeply humbling experience because Rebecca was shown how important medical care is to the well-being of the citizens in a community. Getting to work with people who needed health care reminded Rebecca of why she is set on this path. The goal of Global Brigades is to help the community become self-sustaining through their Holistic Model. With this model, the volunteers are enlisted for only as long as the community is needing supplies and care. During Rebecca's brigade, she was able to sit with dentists, watching them extract and clean teeth, learn directly from their doctors, and interact with the children of the community. Being part of this model made Rebecca feel that the work that she put into this community was going to help improve it because the steps Rebecca took were going towards the larger picture instead of ‘right-now.’
Cassie Huff, former Global Brigades president of the public health department, was unsure of what her path would be her junior year of college. Cassie states that she felt lost as a college student not sure what her calling for this life is, Cassie felt that she had no passion for the subject she was studying, which in turn led to her not knowing what she was going to do in school or as a career. She had always had an interest in helping people and the medical field, but was unhappy as a biology major. A friend told her about the Global Brigades Chapter at the University of Kentucky, and was immediately interested. Although she was unsure of what she wanted to do in her future, she knew this would be one-in-a-lifetime opportunity and would look great on her résumé. Cassie was enlightened by the importance of public health and inspired by the determination of the community and volunteers to improve the health of the community as a whole. She realized, because of this organization, that global and public health was her passion. Global Brigades taught Cassie the importance of helping the community become a fully sustainable community. This goal is implemented through Global Brigades holistic model. Cassie was inspired by Global Brigades and the passion of the communities she had worked in, that she then became an intern for the summer and was able to work with more communities in Nicaragua. Cassie was also able to see the “behind the scenes” work of this organization, which only increased her love and respect for how amazing this non-profit is. Cassie has participated in several brigades and states that she full heartedly believes that Global Brigades has led her to her life passion.
This year, UK’s chapter is adding a station to the winter brigade, few other chapters are able to do this. Global Brigades is going to start an optometry station in the community they provide help to; with Honduras only having one optometry school there are only a handful of optometrists in the rural country. Most people do not have adequate eye protection i.e. sunglasses. Because of the dust many have eye infections and go blind. Opening up this station will allow Global Brigades to bring sunglasses, reading glasses, and regular glasses to those people who need eye protection. It will also give pre-optometry students a chance to learn more about optometry in another country. We are very excited about this addition that’s in the works presently! Global Brigades is a wonderful opportunity that allows you to become integrated into the workings of the community while providing medical, dental, and now optometry care to those that need it. If you’re interested in joining Global Brigades or would like to learn more about a different brigade, please email email@example.com for more information!