Forty-seven students in the University of Denver’s Global Medical Brigades program traveled to Nicaragua March 17–23 to help operate a mobile medical and dental clinic in the town of Estelí.
The student group is a chapter of Global Brigades, the world’s largest student-led global health and development organization. Because of its good reputation within the organization, the DU group was asked to be one of the first brigades involved with the organization’s new Nicaraguan partnership.
“Our students are just so passionate about this. They’re really proactive and willing to make connections in the community,” says senior biology and music major Colin Jorgensen, vice president of DU’s Global Medical Brigades.
With the help of DU’s Undergraduate Student Government, the students — representing majors from international studies and Spanish to business and pre-law — raised $70,000 worth of medicine and supplies to use over three days in the clinic. During their time in Estelí, the volunteers assisted in treating 1,000 patients.
The trip was filled with 11-hour workdays, hours of prep time and about four hours of driving each day. The students left the Monday of their spring break and returned the next Sunday around midnight.
“We gave up spring break, but I’m sure all of our members would say we didn’t give up anything,” Jorgensen says.
Almost half of the population of Nicaragua lives in poverty. The communities with which Global Brigades works have limited access to basic health services; homes often are without sanitary water sources, have only dirt floors and are heated by non-ventilated wood-burning stoves.
Due to these conditions, Estelí’s population experiences a range of ailments, most commonly upper respiratory infections, parasite infections, dermatitis and diarrhea. To prevent more of these issues, students spent part of their spring break building clean water storage facilities and installing concrete floors and hygienic latrines for the community. They also replaced non-ventilated stoves with clean-burning eco-stoves, reducing respiratory issues.
A permanent staff from Global Brigades will maintain a partnership with the area, working toward sustainable development and determining what is needed from future volunteers.
The DU group’s next goal is to reach out to University of Denver alumni and the Denver community. The group needs professionals who have experience as physicians, dentists, lawyers or engineers to consult on the preparation for or to participate in future trips. The group also seeks alumni with experience working in rural cultures, community development or in business.
The group can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.