Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
May 03rd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Trip of a Lifetime

news-2UCSC volunteer group prepares for its second trip to Honduras
Two years ago, Ida Shahidi was an average college sophomore enjoying her spring break in Costa Rica. Call it serendipity or call it accident, but one lost plane ticket and a missed flight later, she was on an unplanned flight home, seated next to a young man from UC Santa Barbara, having the conversation that would change her life—and the lives of dozens of other UC Santa Cruz students, as well.

The mystery guy was the founder of the UCSB chapter of Global Medical Brigade, an international youth-led organization that sends thousands of volunteers to provide free aid to distressed communities in Honduras and Panama each year. In 2008 and 2009, 110 universities from around the world sent a total of 4,000 volunteers to provide health and economic services to more than 50,000 locals.

Inspired, Shahidi returned to UCSC bent on joining, only to learn that UCSC didn’t have a chapter. Unhindered, she and friend Daniel Truong got busy founding one. “To think that from that first conversation with [the UCSB president], I went to starting the brigade…you don’t realize when you’re getting into it how extreme it can be and to what extent you can carry the group,” says Shahidi.

After a year of endless grant writing and scrambled planning, Shahidi and Truong led their freshly formed 20-person group on its first trip to Honduras in June 2009. They weren’t able to find a doctor to go with them—an organization requirement—and were paired with another university that had one.

Now just days away from their second annual trip (June 15 to 21), the two young leaders are considerably more confident but every bit as excited. This is largely because the group grew exponentially over the past year: the Medical Brigade ballooned from 20 members to 45, including a dentist, optomologist, general surgeon, and a family practitioner, as well as some certified EMT volunteers and nursing students (“Whereas we had zilch last year,” says Truong). The group also grew to include two new brigades in addition to the medical component: a 13-person Water Brigade and an eight-person Microfinance Brigade, bringing the grand total to 66 volunteers.

Sonja Arndt is a second-year business management economics and politics double major, and—fittingly—the leader of the UCSC Microfinance Brigade. She says the Global Brigade system encourages expansion, like founding microfinance, water, law and even dance brigades. “All you need is one student to pitch it, and to have everyone jump on board,” she says. “In a lot of volunteer programs students are told what to do, but here the students have the power to take it in the direction they want.”

While the Medical Brigade treats patients, cleans teeth and distributes much needed basics (soap, shampoo, combs, toothpaste, toothbrushes, vitamins, and painkillers), the Microfinance Brigade will spend the week reviewing local business plans. At the end of the week, each of the students will award the Honduran applicant of their choice with a  $100 micro loan. “We don’t want to just give them money or tell them how to spend it—their community runs differently than ours,” says Arndt. “Here, everyone wants a laptop to start a business. There, someone [might want] to spend money to buy chickens and sell eggs. They come up with business ideas you wouldn’t even think of—they know what their community needs.”

The brigade’s members are global or business economics majors who jumped at the opportunity to “actually go and implement the system where micro loans can be dispersed,” says Arndt, adding that microfinancing, especially as aid to the developing world, is an increasingly popular concept.

Simultaneously, the Water Brigade will be addressing the dire issue of water quality in the poor communities they will visit. Camille Dickerson, a fourth-year health science major, founded the effort after an eye-opening observation on last year’s trip. “I spent one day shadowing a doctor, and pretty much every patient [we saw] had parasites,” says Dickerson. While the average American uses 150 gallons of water each day, Dickerson says that these Hondurans have access to between two and three gallons per day—and most of it isn’t clean.

The group will begin rebuilding a to-be-determined community’s water system (which will be continued by university groups that come after they leave), as well as do education on water sanitation and chlorination. “To use a Global Brigade analogy, they say the doctors see the people drowning in the river and they pull them out; the water brigades go upstream and figure out why the people are drowning in the first place,” says Dickerson.

With graduation on the horizon for Truong and Shahidi, they take pride in knowing that the growing group of students will continue with their vision, hopefully inspiring future generations of students to also get involved. “We are 18 to 21-year-olds and we are giving micro loans, treating patients, improving water quality…,” says Truong. His good friend and co-founder finishes his thought, “It’s amazing to have done something so hands-on at our age. If you’d asked us three years ago, I wouldn’t have thought we were capable of doing something like this.”


To learn more about the UCSC Global Brigade, visit their website at gmbslugs.weebly.com.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Mountain Mystic

When Cora Evans died in Boulder Creek in 1957, her thousands of pages of religious writings hadn’t yet been published. More than a half a century later, Evans’ fiery visions and spiritual devotion have inspired a crusade within Catholicism to make her the Santa Cruz Mountains’ first saint

 

Wesak (Water) Taurus Solar Festival, Buddha Blesses the Earth

A most important celebration occurs Sunday, May 3—the Wesak Taurus Buddha Solar Festival/full moon. At the moment of the full moon the Buddha’s presence enters the Earth plane for eight minutes. He brings the Will-to-Good from the Father, which, when reaching humanity becomes goodwill (Mother Principle). Held yearly in a valley hidden deep within the Himalayas, the Wesak festival is prepared for for months in advance (beginning at Winter Solstice). On festival day, amidst pilgrims, disciples and Holy Ones gathered in the valley, the Buddha is invoked through movement, symbols and mantrams. At the moment of the full moon, hearing the words, “We are ready, Buddha, come,” the Lord of Illumination (brother of the Christ) appears in the clouds above the altar to emanate forth the will and purpose of God to earth. The blessing of the father is then held in safekeeping for distribution at the June full moon Goodwill Festival. The day of Wesak (May 3, 8:42 p.m. West Coast) all disciples (east and west) place crystal vessels filled with pure water outside (in gardens, on rooftops, porches and steps) under the heavens. As the Buddha blesses the world, all waters, including waters within our bodies, are blessed. The Buddha is accompanied by the Forces of Enlightenment to illuminate humanity’s minds. Humanity then begins to express new constructive, productive and beneficial ways of the Art of Livingness. Wesak covers five days—two days (before) of dedicated preparation, the actual festival “Day of Safeguarding,” and two days (after) distributing goodwill (the NGWS to humanity). Join us in the Valley by reciting the Great Invocation, mantra of direction for humanity.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of May 1

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Hole in the Wall

Popular Aptos spot opens for dinner

 

How do you connect with the natural world?

My connection to the natural world is through my art. I totally feel it there very physically in nature and even right here on the street. Jonathan Rosen, Felton, Pastor

 

Hess Collection Winery

My friend Emma from London came to visit for a few days in early March, so I took her wine tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains—a rare treat for her, as there aren’t too many vineyards in the middle of London. Her visit reminded me how fortunate we are to live in this paradise of ultra-fresh produce, with grapes growing in wild profusion.

 

Springtime Walkabout

May Day Flower Festival, free tours of the UCSC Farm, and a nondairy chocolate indulgence