Providing support for medical services in Honduras – and building empathy

Medical brigades group photophoto/courtesy

The Brandeis chapter of the Global Medical Brigades

For Aishwarya Surendran '25, the most memorable part of spring break was working at a vision screening station in Honduras, where she helped a little girl pick out a pair of pink glasses. 

"We brought hundreds of pairs of glasses with different designs and prescriptions with us, and we went digging through the collection to find a pair for her," Surendran said.

Surendran was among 21 members of the Brandeis chapter of the Global Medical Brigades who headed to Honduras to provide support to doctors and other medical service workers in February. 

Many communities around the globe struggle with finding accessible and affordable healthcare. In Honduras, many communities rely on local traveling doctors who come by every few months. For many people, this is their only chance to get medical attention. The Brandeis students worked with one of these traveling doctor teams, assisting them wherever possible.

There were few options for pink glasses to begin with, so it was extra challenging to find a pair of glasses that the little girl loved. After digging through their entire inventory, Surendran and her fellow global brigade members found the perfect pair for the little girl.

"I can't even describe how amazing her reaction was, the joy on her face," Surendran said.

The student club is part of a national organization Global Brigades, where students use their training from their university degrees, such as science, law, business, and engineering, to work with professionals within communities worldwide to bring sustainable improvements to these communities. Like many other groups of similar nature, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the club on a long hiatus. But the wait is over.

This moment was more personal for another member of the Global Medical Brigade. 

"I remember the first time I put on a pair of glasses as a child, and it was almost like I can see a new world," said Olivia Zarzycki '24, the president of the club.

Along with the vision screen station, the group also held health education information sessions  on preventing and treating diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases.

Most students in the Medical Brigade are pre-health track students. And the trip taught them lessons they would not have otherwise learned in classrooms. The club is already planning another trip next spring.

"The medical process in the US is very robotic. And this trip kind of slows you down and reminds me of why I wanted to become a doctor in the first place," said Zarzycki.

For many of the students, including Cyriac Joyce ’24, the experience was eye-opening. The club is already planning another trip next spring. 

"It taught me that empathy and genuine care transcend language barriers and cultural differences,” Joyce said. “It's incredible how we could connect with the people we served, even though we come from different worlds.”

Categories: International Affairs, Student Life

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