U de Moncton Global Brigades

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

This May 2011, when most university students will be rejoicing over the recent arrival of summer and most high school students will still be in school, a group of about twenty Université de Moncton students will be traveling to Central America for a week-long Global Brigade* along with medical doctors and medical school students in order to provide medical care to the people living in a small village in Honduras.

Honduras, according to the CIA’s World Factbook (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ho.html), has a population of approximately 8 million people and is the second poorest country in Central America; 65% of its population is below the poverty line. It is a poor country with limited medical support.

Jean-Phillippe Gagnon, the president of the project and a first-year diploma of health sciences student at Université de Moncton after graduating from the Moncton Christian Academy, had the opportunity to participate in a Honduras Global Brigade with a group of Dalhousie University students last year.

Says Jean-Phillippe regarding his experience in Honduras in summer 2010, ”I initially decided to go because volunterring overseas has always been something I have a passion for and that I enjoy doing. The fact that it was in my area of interest (medical) was also very enticing. My experience was incredible! I didn’t want to come back after my time there. The people were very inspiring. The fact that they live in these conditions and go through so much but still have a smile on their face and are grateful was a beautiful thing to see. To be able to reach out to them and help them was very rewarding. My impression [on the trip afterward] was that we have so much to be thankful for and it makes me sad to see that sometimes in North America we tend to forget that. It has affected me in that I don’t see things the same way when it comes to the humanitarian situation of the world. The trip made me realize the huge impact even a small team of volunteers can have on a community. I decided to organize the trip to Honduras because I wanted to provide the opportunity for the students of U de M to volunteer overseas and to be able to have the amazing experience I did last year. ”

When Jean-Phillippe spoke about his trip to Honduras with now vice-president Jacques Bellefleur and secretary Adèle Bourgeouis, both graduates of L’École l’Odysses in the same program as Jean-Phillippe, at the beginning of the year, they were quickly convinced to help organize a Global Brigade at Université de Moncton.

For Amila Landry-Darisme, a graduate of Polvalente Roland-Pépin in Campbellton and a first-year university student in Université de Moncton’s diploma of health sciences program, traveling to Honduras this summer to volunteer will be an opportunity to witness the everyday realities of life for people living in Honduras and to further contemplate a possible career in medicine.

Amila was previously interested mainly in pharmacy, but now hesitates between possible paths after completing her diploma. ”I want to have an experience where I can see medicine from a different perspective than the one I see it from now.” she says. Amila, who took Spanish courses during high school, will be a monitor during the trip, helping students who are unfamiliar with Spanish (the language principally spoken in Honduras) communicate with the people they will meet in Honduras.

This Global Brigade will be her first humanitarian trip. ”I previously heard of other people I knew participating in humanitarian trips when I was younger, but this is the first time an accessible, concrete opportunity has been available to me.”

To be able to offer adequate care to the people treated in Honduras, the Université de Moncton Brigade group will be fundraising and accepting donations in order to be able to buy a variety of medical supplies and will be recruiting hopefully a few extra volunteer doctors. Corporate sponsors would be very much appreciated and would be recognized for their help.

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on February 12th, 2011.

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