October 19, 2015

Georgetown Students Volunteer in Honduras through Medical Brigades Organization

Every year, Georgetown undergraduates travel to a rural town near the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, to offer medical care and treatment to under-served communities.

The students teach children songs about conducting oral hygiene, distribute large suitcases filled with medication, and work with American and local doctors to make a lasting medical impact in the Central American communities.

In March 2015, the student volunteers reached 1,466 patients.

Medical Brigades 

Georgetown University Global Medical Brigades (GUMB) is the student organization that orchestrates these annual weeklong service trips to Honduras.

Part of the national organization Global Brigades USA, the Georgetown chapter seeks to make a global impact while living out the Jesuit value of service that is emphasized by Georgetown University.

Jeannette Joly (NHS’17), the student president of GUMB, describes the group’s mission as “striving to create sustainable solutions in communities that don’t have access to a lot of our day-to-day resources.”

The Georgetown chapter, consisting of undergraduate students, has been organizing service trips since 2011. 

Community Building 

According to Joly, GUMB establishes a charla or “chat” station on their trips to further immerse students in the community.

At these stations Hoyas are able to connect on a personal level with Honduran patients, helping to create trust in the patient-caregiver relationship.

Many students interact with the Honduran community in Spanish, and those who are not proficient in the language use translators from the community.

John Whitmore (NHS’16), who has gone on the trip twice, says that “one benefit of serving the same village every year is establishing personal relationships with the patients and the community.” 

The Importance of Reflection 

Reflection is an important aspect of the service trip, and students are encouraged to actively contemplate their impact in the community.

“Every night after dinner we engaged in group reflection,” noted Whitmore.

“Reflection and discernment inspire us to always act in the interest of those on the margins of society such as those patients we saw,” he added. 

Medical Brigades on the Hilltop 

GUMB students actively prepare for their service trip in Honduras throughout the academic year. Students recruit medical doctors and dentists to volunteer their services for the trip. Additionally, GUMB fundraises extensively to arrange their travel and to purchase the $6,000 worth of medicine that they distribute annually.

GUMB also cooperates with other Medical Brigades chapters to ensure that the Honduran community is receiving consistent and coordinated care every four to six months.

These efforts have not gone unnoticed. GUMB has seen increased student interest and applications over the last few years. According to Joly, the group plans to accept over 50 student members this year.

GUMB is currently planning and fundraising for their trip in March 2016. More information about the Georgetown University chapter of Medical Brigades can be found here.