Student-Athletes reflect on Global Medical Brigades service trip

Student-Athletes reflect on Global Medical Brigades service trip

Albion College student-athletes continued to work on service projects even after many of their teammates and classmates returned home for the first week of the break between semesters.

Britons from the men's lacrosse (Alec Palmer, Chase Palmer and Harrison Palmer), women's lacrosse (Cait Gaitley, Molly Hubbell, Taylor Nelson, Ari Ruiz, Kristine Taladiar and Lauren Wiegand), men's soccer (Sam Coleman and Erik Vanfossen), women's soccer (Riley Burnette, Haley Kennedy, Samantha LaRocca, Alex Radzville, Claire Stoddard, Kameryn Szalay, Jenna Urso, Maddie Willerer and Emily Wolford) and volleyball (Haven Hill and Mackenzie Moore) teams were among the 40 students who traveled to Sonora, Nicaragua, as part of the Global Medical Brigades service trip from Dec. 9-15.

According to Morgan Leadbetter, '19, an exercise science major who organized the trip, the Albion group spent a day packaging medical supplies for the three-day clinic. During the clinic, students performed triage where medical history and vitals were taken, assisted dentists, shadowed doctors in consults, helped in the pharmacy, and held a children's charla while teaching proper oral hygiene. The last work day was focused on public health as the group mixed cement by hand to lay flooring for six homes in the community of La Corneta.

The student-athletes who went on the journey were asked to submit their reflections for

Riley Burnette, a sophomore from Livonia, Mich., is a member of the college's Institute for Healthcare Professions and one of the women's soccer representatives to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She is majoring in psychology with a minor in exercise science.

"This experience was important to me because of my passion to help others. I wanted to help those who truly needed it and this was a perfect opportunity to do just that.

"Something that surprised me was how content these people were with their lives despite how little they had and how limited their resources were. They welcomed us with open arms and were so grateful for the simple things we were doing for them, it was amazing. Prior to this trip, I very much appreciated what I had and was thankful for my health but seeing the people of Nicaragua with their untreated medical issues and lack of resources made me reflect and gain even more appreciation for what I have.

"I learned an abundance about illnesses and their treatment while also learning individuals' stories. I continue to try to find the words to describe this trip but seem to keep coming up short. Nicaragua was beautiful and the people were wonderful. I am so thankful to be attending Albion College where I can have opportunities such as these. This trip has made me realize that I would like to continue doing things such as this and look forward to working with the college to do just that."

Haven Hill, a sophomore from Traverse City, Mich., is majoring in exercise science with a double minor in sociology and psychology.

"This experience was important to me because we were able to give people access to healthcare opportunities and learn more about the medical field by shadowing doctors, dentists, and pharmacists.

"Parts of this experience that had the most impact on me were when this trip made me realize how fortunate we are in the United States when it comes to our access to healthcare. Even though I knew it was going to be a different culture and had been prepped on what to expect, it was completely different being there in person.

"What I can take away from this trip is to never take anything for granted. This experience in a developing country made me even more grateful for everything that I have and have access to back home. The people in Nicaragua live a very simplistic life but were always humble and joyful. This trip also made me realize how important it is to give back to communities. It is such an empowering feeling knowing even the smallest things we did had such a positive impact on these people's lives by giving them access to healthcare. This trip added to my educational experience at Albion by reconfirming my decision to go into the healthcare field and helping those in need. I will forever be grateful for the perspective this trip has given me."

Samantha LaRocca a senior from Clinton Township, Mich., is majoring in psychology and minoring in exercise science.

"Deciding to go on this trip completely took me out of my comfort zone. I had to go into this trip very open minded, because being a first time Brigader, I did not know what to expect. It was a very eye-opening experience for me and many others I talked to. Experiencing this definitely made me have more appreciation for the opportunities and lifestyle that I have.

"In the U.S., you hear about how much help these people need, not just in Nicaragua but people all over the world. But you do not actually understand how bad it is or how bad it could be until you are submerged in it yourself and until you can actually see first hand what these people experience every day of their lives.

"I shadowed the doctors and dentist throughout one day and I believe this experience had the most impact on me. You get to see each person individually and listen to them and their stories. This individualized experience had the most impact on me because you learned about the health issue each person was having. We saw people from all ages... babies, children, teens, middle-aged, & elderly. We saw many diseases and chronic illnesses, from parasites and flu to cancer and orthopedic injury. Some were worse than others, and I felt guilty that I couldn't do more to help these people get the treatment they really need. You see that these people are struggling and you understand that they cannot just go sign into an urgent care and get treatment like you can back home. Their access to health care is nearly impossible, with the closest hospital being 2 hours away by vehicle (MUCH longer on foot) and the wait time being multiple hours on end. If you had a medical emergency, almost always you would not be able to get help in time to stay alive.

"I learned that perspective is everything. Amongst all of the pain and struggle these people were going through, you could always see a smile on their face. They were genuinely happy and appreciative of all the help that we were providing to them. Most of them have never had medical treatment before in their lives. Some of the people did not have the most basic necessities to live, but they always focused on the good and what they did have. They were truly grateful for whatever help they were receiving. This was a huge take back message for me. You shouldn't focus on what you don't have or the bad situation you are in, but you should focus on how blessed you are for what you do have and the loved ones that you are surrounded by. Having meaning in life and a drive to help others brings more happiness than any physical item will ever bring.

"Going forward, I believe that I am going to go about tasks and learning with a completely new perspective. When you find meaning in what you are trying to accomplish, you can do anything you want to do."

Mackenzie Moore, a sophomore from Quincy, Mich., is a member of the college's Institute for Healthcare Professions, Prentiss M. Brown Honors Program and is one of the volleyball representatives to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She is majoring in biology and psychology.

"I set a personal goal my freshman year at Albion to become more cultured. During my time in Nicaragua, I was able to do just that while also helping people who don't have access to healthcare. The biggest impact this experience had on me was when I realized just how easy we have it in the United States. Here, the majority of people do not have to worry about not being able to get antibiotics for an infection, or having emergency responders arrive in an emergent situation. In Nicaragua, they have very few areas where healthcare can even be accessed, and in those few areas, they often don't even have the medicine for treatment. The perspective this trip was able to provide me is something I will always remember and hold close to my heart."

Alex Radzville, a junior from Howell, Mich., is an exercise science and communication studies double major with a minor in management.

 "Nicaragua was such an eye-opening experience. It allowed me to view the world, both mine and theirs, in a completely different light. This experience helped me find a new way to see life, and inspired me to live life to its fullest capacity.

"Something that surprised me was how open and friendly the people who were visiting the clinic were. They were so accepting and patient, especially with me because I am not fluent in Spanish at all.

"This experience has really sparked an urge in me to continue my education in the medical field. It is a direct link to helping those around you and I believe that is an extremely important aspect in life. If we have the power to give back and show others a helping hand, it is our duty to extend that hand. 

"This was the first mission trip that I have participated in and I was so impacted by the amount of people we were able to help in such a short period of time. I look forward to seeing what Global Brigades brings to the community or Sonora, Nicaragua, over the next 5 years and I look forward to working with Global Brigades again in the near future. I have so much left to learn about the vast world around me, and I am eagerly waiting for my next chance to make an impact."

Harrison Palmer, a senior from Spring Lake, Mich., is a member of the college's Carl A. Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management. He is majoring in finance with a minor in business and organizations.

"Traveling to Nicaragua with Global Brigades was my first real snapshot of a third world country. This trip was an extremely eye opening experience and a bit of a culture shock for us all. It was amazing to see first hand how empowered the people were when they were living off of so little. I am grateful and humbled to have had the opportunity to serve the medical needs for surrounding villages of Sonora. Many of us have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season."

Ari Ruiz, a junior from Glendale, Calif., is a member of the college's Institute for Healthcare Professions.

"With 40 of us, four doctors, two dentists, three interpreters and dozens of community volunteers, we were able to do something so beautiful – 670 consults in three days. Words are incapable of describing the emotions I have felt over this trip, but I can say that I am feeling humbled, grateful and empowered."

Jenna Urso, a senior from South Lyon, Mich., is a member of the college's Institute for Healthcare Professions. She is a biology major and psychology minor.

"This experience has been something I have wanted to partake in for a long time. It was a great experience that allowed us all an opportunity to give back.

"The part that had the biggest impact on me was how little some of these people had; yet, they were filled with so much love and gratitude. They were some of the most incredible people I have had the opportunity to meet.

"I learned that, no matter what, I will always make sure to give back. And I learned so much about the country and the people! 

"This experience was the icing on the cake of a great four years filled with countless opportunities for growth and learning. Being a part of Global Medical Brigades will hold as one of my greatest experiences at Albion. It was amazing to see teammates, friends, and other students all work together for a greater good."

Follow Albion Athletics on Twitter: @gobrits

Global Medical Brigades trip to Nicaragua