DHHS students bring hope to resource-constrained communities around the world
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By Erykah Forquer
Students at Dana Hills High School Health and Medical Occupational Academy were virtually transported to rural communities in Honduras, Ghana and Greece as they participated in a virtual and experiential learning program and provided assistance to areas in need.
Global Brigades is an international, student-funded organization dedicated to empowering underfunded communities through the deployment of volunteers who work to establish equal access to healthcare, capital and clean water. Traditionally, the humanitarian association sent groups of volunteers overseas, but as international travel halted due to the COVID-19 health crisis, Global Brigades has moved its program to a virtual format.
âWe knew we couldn’t break commitments or stop the work we do in the communities we partnered with,â said Dr Shital Vora, CEO and co-founder of Global Brigades. âSo we quickly put our heads together as a team and created this virtual program, which we call TeleBrigades for college students, and then TeleSquads for high school students. Then we created a complete program that would be able to really mimic exactly what they are doing in the field, but via Zoom. “
HMO, a state-funded academy designed for people pursuing careers in healthcare, requires its third-year students to participate in an internship at Kaiser Permanente. When juniors were unable to complete an internship at Kaiser due to COVID restrictions, a teacher at Dana Hills’ Health and Medical Occupational Academy stumbled across TeleSquads while doing a Google search for a replacement for the internship. annual program. After making a financial contribution to Global Brigades, HMO students enrolled in the TeleSquad online program.
âThey did a medical TeleSquad so they were able to take virtual learning programs in Honduras, Ghana and Greece,â Vora said. “They did live clinical days, where they could observe in real time where staff consulted and had appointments with patients and local residents, and these doctors then discussed the diagnosis with the team.”
HMO students participated in three brigades, or virtual trips abroad, during the school year. Students would log into their laptops twice a week and attend Zoom meetings with local brigade staff and community members in the three different countries. Each week, students were given different tasks, including creating diagrams and infographics, helping physicians diagnose patients, and presenting research projects.
While the program was conducted strictly on a computer screen, Elle Burnight, a senior at HMO, said TeleSquads had succeeded in immersing students in the rural communities they worked with virtually. Local brigade staff members would educate volunteers about the culture and health system of each community and organize virtual tours.
âOne of the great things that was so cool about the TeleSquads program is that they were able to take us on live tours on Main Street and their clinics,â Burnight said. âSo on clinic days we got to watch real-time doctors having appointments with local residents, so even though we were miles apart, we were right in the room. “
Global Brigades was started in 2003 when Vora was a student at Marquette University to become a physiotherapist. Unable to study abroad, Dr. Vora was eager to travel to Honduras with her friend, a doctor who was going abroad to treat patients. During her first âbrigadeâ, Vora and 20 other Marquette students joined a group of traveling doctors during their spring break.
“We thought we were just going to lug around drugs or kind of be the ‘gofers’ and work behind the scenes, but what we didn’t realize, and what totally amazed us, was that as a that young undergraduates we had had so much of an impact in just one week, âsaid Dr. Vora. “For me it was a life changing and truly transformational experience in terms of what I wanted to do for my career.”
Upon returning from Honduras, Vora looked for other organizations to get more involved, but was unable to find opportunities for undergraduates.
âWe kind of took a leap of faith and decided to create our own organization, which is Global Brigades, and we were a chapter in Marquette, and now fast forward 18 years later and we are now the largest organization. humanitarian directed by students in the world. We work in Ghana, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Greece, then we have more than 550 university and secondary sections.
Global Brigades is now working towards its goal of â100 empoweredâ, helping 100 rural communities in Panama, Nicaragua, Ghana and Honduras to rise out of poverty through its holistic model. Vora said the process of building an empowered community is a thorough one, as Global Brigades works with local governments and community leaders to determine their goals.
After Global Brigades meets with government and local community leaders, its research team conducts surveys to ensure that the needs of the community can be met through the various programs offered by the organization.
âCommunity leaders are woven throughout this process,â said Vora. âAgain, we facilitate and help bring these resources, but community leaders are actually the ones, along with our volunteers, who execute and implement the program and the work that really elevates them to a better quality of life. “
HMO student Edgar Artega said working with Global Brigades was an eye-opening experience that taught him to be grateful and compassionate.
âI personally grew up in a low-income household, so I’ve always been aware of economic and social disparities, but this experience put it into perspective,â Artega said. âGrowing up, we sometimes had a hard time paying the bills, medicines and things like that, but after seeing how these people lived in Ghana and the people in Honduras and the refugees in Greece, I could see how privileged I was just for living in America and having so many opportunities.
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