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Offering a helping hand: Students in Chapman Global Medical Brigades bring care to countries in need

Last summer, Chapman’s Global Medical Brigades went to Nicaragua to provide medical and dental care and help build foundations for homes. Photo courtesy of Jordan Carrasco

Dental procedures, physical exams, vaccinations and preventative care: These are just a few of the services that Chapman Global Medical Brigades brings to countries in need, said Isabella de Jesus, a junior political science and peace studies major.

Global Medical Brigades is an international nonprofit organization that provides medical care to countries through university volunteers and local teams, according to its website. This year, Chapman Global Medical Brigades will be in Panama for eight days at the beginning of the summer to bring dental and medical care to the country.

“We are able to provide basic medical care to people who don’t normally have access to amenities we are so used to,” de Jesus said. “They don’t have Advil or the care that we take for granted every day.”

Jimena Ramirez, a junior biological sciences major, is the president of Global Medical Brigades and has been part of the club for three years.

“I’ve known I want to be a doctor for a while, and I was really interested in Doctors Without Borders,” Ramirez said. “When I came to Chapman and heard of this organization, I immediately was intrigued and decided to apply and got in.”

Jordan Carrasco, a sophomore business administration major, went on the Global Medical Brigades trip to Nicaragua last year.

Sophomore business administration major Jordan Carrasco spends time with one of the children she helped in Nicaragua. Global Medical Brigades also teaches basic medical and hygiene practices to kids. Photo courtesy of Jordan Carrasco

“That was my first time being exposed to the medical field at that level and my first time seeing how the little things you do can have such a large impact on someone else’s life,” Carrasco said.

For Mac Vail, a junior health sciences major, this is his first year getting to experience bringing aid to another country.

“I’m excited to get out of my comfort zone and see the reactions of the people we help,” Vail said. “It’s an awesome organization, and we are excited to do whatever we can in the community.

Since the club functions through the nonprofit organization Global Brigades, there is an application process before students can join. Once the club is established on a university’s campus, the president must work with an employee from Global Brigades as well as the risk management team of the university to be able to go to another country.

“People don’t normally see the side that the president of the club deals with,” Ramirez said. “It involves a lot of legal dealings and making sure the university doesn’t get sued. It’s a very long, complicated process.”

But the challenges are definitely worth the outcome, Ramirez said.

Once in the country, the brigade is responsible for helping at clinics and assigning levels of urgency to the patients as they come in.

“We help check patients in, take their vitals, weigh the children and asses their health before they go to the actual doctor,” Carrasco said.

When the brigade is not in a foreign country, they are busy fundraising for the supplies and their transportation, and attending training sessions so that they are prepared for the trip.

“I think that is something that is criticized of groups like this,” Ramirez said. “People want to know what we’re doing the rest of the year. So this year, we worked really hard to volunteer at local clinics and places that need help.”

While the club’s main focus is bringing medical care to an impoverished country, there is still time to have fun while abroad.

“My favorite part is playing with the kids and getting to interact with them,” Carrasco said. “They love to dance and play games, and we work to teach them basics of health care while also having fun with them.”

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