U de Moncton Global Brigades: Follow-upPosted: January 3, 2012
From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.
Frequent readers of this column may recall a column written earlier this year in March about a group of students from Université de Moncton who were planning to embark on a Global Brigades humanitarian trip to Honduras at the end of the winter course session. These students recently returned from Honduras and discussed their trip with me.
Jacques Bellefleur, a 2010 graduate from l’École L’Odyssée who is currently in studying health sciences at Université de Moncton, served as vice-president on the trip’s organizing committee.
He explains that he decided to take the trip to better understand how life is for people in poverty-stricken counties like Honduras, to see medicine from a different perspective, and to help alleviate the suffering people without adequate access to health care must endure. Jacques was not disappointed.
Jacques says, ”I think the greatest thing that I will retain from this experience, is the realization that we are extremely lucky here in Canada to have an amazing health care system. The villagers we helped in Honduras have limited access to health care facilities, some must travel hours and spend money ordinarily used to buy food to get to the nearest clinic only to find that there is no doctor available that day. The living conditions of villagers vary, but are very poor for the most part. For example, I saw many living in make-shift houses pieced together with wood, a mixture of dirt and clay, and cheap sheet metal, while I saw only one family with a brick house and a few with cars .”
Jacques says the trip permitted him to see and to help remedy poor living conditions in the villages they helped and to gain practical medical experience through observing and assisting the four doctors that accompanied the group of Université de Moncton students. ”All the thanks and appreciation shown by the people in the village of El Escarbadero (the village the group aided) makes me believe that I made a difference by taking part in the trip.”, says Jacques.
Katharina Brousseau, a 2010 graduate of École Mathieu-Martin who is also studying health sciences at Université de Moncton and who also participated in the brigade, echoes Jacques, she too having gained a newfound appreciation for Canadian health care during the trip as well as confirmation that medicine is the right field for her to pursue.
The group set up their brigade in a school in El Escarbadero and provided care for four days. Villagers who visited the brigade first completed a document and provided their medical and dental history and condition to the team with the help of fellow villagers and brigade group members. The temperature, weight, and blood pressure of all patients were measured by brigade group members before the patients went to see the doctors on the team for medical consultations and prescriptions. Patients also had access to the services of a dentist, Pap tests, and hygiene information sessions. A pharmacist and a few brigade group members would help fill the villagers’ medical prescriptions before they left the brigade.
Following their volunteer work at the brigade, the Université de Moncton students visited with children at an orphanage in Honduras called Nuevo Paraiso. For Jacques, this was the most memorable part of the trip. Says Jacques, ”The kids reacted immediately when they saw us knowing they would have people to play with and to see the joy in their eyes was just amazing. These kids have had a tough upbringing, and for us to be able to go over there and do something as simple as play with them, listen to them, or even just hold them, made a big difference to them that day.”
Katharina says, ”My favorite part of the brigade was interacting with the members of the communities. Even though the language barrier sometimes complicated our communications, we managed to form bonds with the villagers and the kids from the orphanage we visited. It was obvious in their manners and their expressions that they were grateful for our presence.”
The Université de Moncton group would like to thank the following special individuals and companies for making their trip to Honduras a reality: Lawtons Drugs of Mapleton Road, Shoppers Drug Mart of St-George Street, Pacrim Hospitalities, Newco Construction Ltd., Dentech Dental Lab, Chantal Thibodeau and Hélène Beaulieu from the Barry Spalding law firm, Dr. Pierre Beaulieu, and Noëlla Bellefleur.
The group hopes to organize another Global Brigade, tentatively to Ghana, next year.
Originally published in the Times & Transcript on May 28th, 2011.