GREENVILLE — After graduating from Greenville Public Schools and going their separate ways to two different universities, two college students reunited to spend their spring break helping others in Honduras.
Seth Barker, who attends Central Michigan University (CMU), is president of a new organization on campus called Global Medical Brigades-CMU (GMB-CMU), which is the largest student-led social responsibility movement in the world.
“This was our chapter’s first year in existence, and on March 4, we embarked on our very first brigade — medical humanitarian trip,” Barker said.
Overall, 29 students were able to go on the adventure and provide medical and dental assistance and supplies to people in El Canton, Honduras. Of those students, three of them participated from the University of Michigan, including Greenville graduate Julie Casalou and her two roommates.
“I have always aspired to help people and to do so on a mission, and I also love to travel,” Casalou said. “When I found out both at once, with and incredible group of students from CMU, I knew that was how I wanted to spend my break. I was very fortunate that they let myself and my two roommates join their brigade even though we attend the University of Michigan.”
Barker said the goal of the trip was to increase the quality of life for less fortunate people by giving them access to doctors, dentists, nurses, community-health workers, essential medicines and supplies.
GMB-CMU worked closely with Carson Health Network, Trinity Health Systems and medical professionals to secure more than $60,000 worth of medication, vaccines and supplies.
Also accompanying the students was a graduate student from Virginia, a pharmacist and an OB/GYN technician.
“During our weeklong trip, we were able to give 607 people access to healthcare that they could not before access,” Barker said. “In working with Global Brigades’ staff, we were able to gain hands on experience in international medicine as well as get an in-depth look at the poverty and lack of access to healthcare that plagues communities like El Canton.”
Casalou described the trip as “eye opening.” She said many of the 607 people they treated walked more than three or four hours to receive medicine and care.
“I realized how much I take our amenities like health care, clean water, public safety and public education for granted,” Casalou said. “I have so much respect for the men and woman that I encountered — they were some of the strongest, hardest-working and most hopeful individuals I have met.”
Also while in Honduras, Barker said the group had the opportunity to visit a local orphanage, noting in Honduras, malnutrition affects four out of five children.
“It’s an alarming statistic,” he said. “Yet people in Honduras sell most of the nutritional food they grow because they need money for other aspects of life.”
Although this was the first trip for GMB-CMU, the group has set goals to not only lend a helping hand in the future, but to expand to include other life-necessity brigades such as water, public health and increase awareness about the lack of healthcare availability in the world.
“I really hope to go on many more trips like this as it was one of the best experiences I have ever had,” Casalou said. “If our school schedule permits, I hope to go with CMU again next year — possibly to Nicaragua or Ghana.”