UNH students bring health care to Honduras
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 16:02
For the past two years, a group of medical-bound UNH students has traveled to Honduras during their winter break to give basic health care over a four-day brigade. This past January, a group of 10 health-care professionals and 35 UNH students traveled south, seeing over 800 villagers throughout their stay.
The basis of the clinic was to give basic health care to the Honduran people over the extent of the brigade.
The Global Medical Brigades of New Hampshire is a group of doctors, medical professionals and UNH students who travel with medical supplies and set up pop-up clinics in third-world countries.
The group works under the umbrella of Global Brigades, a holistic development program in 2004, which is now the largest student-run health and sustainable development program in the world. In addition to the medical field, there are eight other brigades: architecture, business, dental, environmental, human rights, microfinance, public health, and water.
“Medical brigades prides itself on being the largest… sustainable brigade,” said Ben Claxton, co-president of the organization. He is a junior biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology major. Elizabeth Burgess, a senior studying genetics, is the other co-president.
“Ben and I were part of the executive board and then took over the chapter in April 2012,” Burgess said.
Hannah Eldred and Liz Eden, two former UNH students, started the New Hampshire chapter of Global Medical Brigades of New Hampshire. It has no affiliation with the university.
“The only UNH connection is the students,” Claxton said. Honduras is currently on a list of “dangerous” countries to travel to, making the organization unable to receive university affiliation at this time.
While in Honduras, the group spends its time rotating through clinic stations. The breakdown is as follows: intake, triage, data informatics, consultation, dental, prescription drop-off, and prescription pick-up. Through these different stations, patients are treated for basic medical problems and, if they want, given dental care.
“Most of it is run-of-the-mill,” Claxton said. “It is primary care in the most basic form. It’s what most needed.”
While waiting for prescriptions, the Hondurans attend charlas, a Spanish word meaning “speeches.” The charla is an area where both adults and children are given basic medical education. The adult charla is for family values, sanitation and “things that Americans grow up knowing,” Claxton said.
The child charla gives children dental information. “I organized the ‘children’s charla,’ which teaches kids the importance of how to brush and floss their teeth and shows them how to properly do so,” Burgess said.
Once they’ve completed their charlas and picked up their prescriptions, they leave.
“They are always so grateful and appreciative, even if they’ve been waiting in line for hours,” Burgess said. “Sometimes you’ll get a kiss on the cheek or a hug.”
For each new brigade, the group participates in two types of fundraising: personal and group.
“We come back fall semester (and we) fundraise, fundraise, fundraise,” Claxton said. “We’re in the reset phase now.”
The group will put on benefit concerts and other events in and around the Durham area in order to raise money.
Past events have included grilled cheese nights at The Knot on Main Street and a donations table set-up outside of the Durham Marketplace. Passers-by would be able to donate over-the-counter medications.
“It is definitely a challenge (to fundraise), especially where we are not a recognized organization, so we can’t hold any fundraising events on campus,” Burgess said.
Global Brigades of New Hampshire is looking into a second brigade to Ghana in May, “right after graduation,” Claxton said. Also, a few members of the medical brigade have begun the process of setting up a Water Brigades of New Hampshire.
The week preceding spring break, Global Medical Brigades of New Hampshire will hold information sessions for anyone interested in the brigade.
“I just hope that our organization continues to grow and expand,” Claxton said. “I hope to keep making a lasting impact each year.”