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Trip summary by Ashwin Leo, President of Rice Global Brigades 2017-2018
Rice University Global Brigades (Rice GB) successfully completed a medical/dental and public health brigade trip to Honduras from May 3 to May 10. Their team of 29 Rice university students spent the week setting up medical clinics and completing public health projects in various rural Honduran communities. These communities were often impoverished and located miles away from the amenities of the city, with many of the rural residents lacking access to both regular healthcare and crucial basic health infrastructure like running water and bathrooms.
For the first part of Rice GB's efforts, they set up and ran a 3 day health clinic, consisting of a triage station, a physician consultation station, a vision station, a gynecology station, a dental station, and a pharmacy station. With the clinic based in a local schoolhouse, they worked with licensed Honduran physicians, pharmacists, and eye specialists to treat hundreds of rural patients. Throughout the previous school year, they collected hundreds of eyeglasses, hygiene materials, and other similar supplies to bring to the clinic. They also spent the year preparing an education station, where they emphasized the importance of dental hygiene and menstrual health through posters, songs, and activities for children. For the remainder of their trip, they did public health work involving pipe and bathroom projects. Under the supervision of a local Honduran construction team, they helped dig up land to set up pipes to provide water to rural residents and constructed basic brick bathrooms in the homes of these residents.
Throughout the duration of their trip, they took the time to bond with and really understand the communities and people they were serving. Cultural awareness was a massive part of their yearlong pre-trip training, and their team members got incredible new perspectives by interacting with the locals around them. They ended up receiving just as much, if not more, from the Honduran locals as we gave to them. Finally, as a part of the GB organization, their efforts were all part of a sustainable model. Even as the Rice team leaves Honduras, GB ensures that other university teams will come in throughout the year to continue providing these rural communities with care and resources that they can build on. There are also a variety of brigades in addition to medical/dental and public health, including business, engineering, and water. The end goal is self-sustainability: by experiencing the entire model of brigades over a long-term basis, each community can get to the point where it is able to run on its own with a strong, robust base of basic infrastructure, finance, and healthcare.
Travel Scholarship Information
The Arthur Guyton Foundation provided a $200 travel scholarships for five Rice University students on the trip:
John James Ahn, age 19, is an undergraduate pursuing his Bachelor’s of Music degree at Rice University, under Professor Norman Fischer. Since his freshman year, he has been a part of the MusicMD organization in Houston, which is dedicated to playing therapeutic classical music for patients and their families, medical staff at the Houston Methodist Hospital. As a member of the 2018 Global Medical/Dental Brigades Entertainment Committee, he helped teach fellow members about global health topics (proper hygiene and body care), and aspects of Honduran culture and daily life. By serving in underprivileged and rural communities, he hopes to help spread awareness and inspire committed, socioeconomic change.
Spoorthi Kamepalli is a sophomore at Rice University, majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in Business. In the future, she plans on attending medical school and becoming a physician. At Rice, she is involved in a variety of activities, from researching nanomaterials in the Jones lab to writing policy papers for the Rice Journal of Public Policy. On this trip to Honduras, she not only supported the brigade’s mission of improving the community’s health services and education, but also learned more about the medical field in the context of international service.
Jessy Feng is a junior at Rice University majoring in Biological Sciences. She is part of a hip hop dance group, volunteers as a piano player at a local hospital, and serves as a peer academic advisor. After college, she plans to go to medical school. She chose to join Rice Global Brigades to become more culturally aware and explore how other countries are handling healthcare issues within their communities. She is part of our education committee, so I help create charlas for our brigade. She was excited to interact with the local people of Honduras and build meaningful relationships with them.
Yanghwa Hong is a senior at Rice University. He is currently studying English while maintaining his passion for medicine. He plans on applying for medical school to become a physician after graduating from college. Yanghwa is currently an undergraduate research assistant in Natalia Kirienko’s research laboratory at Rice University and is also a counselor for Camp Kesem. Yanghwa joined Rice Global Brigades to take part in and experience medical outreach, and he plans on focusing on helping the health of people outside of the US after he becomes a doctor as well.
Manny Arhewoh is a Rice University alumnus and first year medical student at Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis.