OU students participate in Global Brigades, volunteer in Honduras

Image courtesy of Brandon Hanna
Image courtesy of Brandon Hanna

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Post

The days leading up to Christmas were an “absolutely amazing, life changing experience” for Oakland University senior Brandon Hanna.

Hanna traveled to Santa Rosa, Honduras with the OU Medical and Dental chapter of Global Brigades.

“Everyone should try volunteering,” Hanna said.

For Hanna, the Student Activities Funding Board chairman and a biology major, volunteering is not  new. He also traveled to Kentucky and Alabama earlier this year to build houses for underprivileged and storm-impacted areas.

Through Global Brigades, though, Hanna had the opportunity to practice his studies by providing free health care for residents. He said conditions were harsher than in the U.S., because the country receives less government and community financial support.

Global Brigades was founded in 2010 by alumnus Laura Collier, the organization’s medical advocacy intern. The group started with the medical chapter and expanded to include architecture and public health brigades.

Collier was formerly the organization’s president and stayed as a mentor after graduating. She said the goal is for separate programs to operate  together to create sustainable work with a lasting impact.

“Global Brigades is definitely a great opportunity to travel with OU students and volunteer abroad,” Collier said. “You get to use what you have learned in class to help and impact communities around the world.”

Hanna’s group took supplies including soap, toothpaste and vitamins to Honduras. They also provided medical services.

“The trip opened my eyes to how people in poor parts of the world live,” Hanna said. “It’s hard to explain in words, but when you see it, you connect with the people.”

One U.S., two Honduran physicians and three Honduran dentists provided treatment, according to Hanna. In addition to testing for illness, the medical professionals educated Hondurans on hygiene and health issues.

“I found Brandon to be one of the most outstanding students with great promise in medicine. He did a great job with his willingness to learn and compassion for people. I’d be happy to have him as a colleague someday,” Dr. Tracy Snell said. “Part of the concern is having the appropriate attitude toward people; they notice all of your mannerisms. Brandon was very approachable and passionate about learning.”

While the volunteers’ work impacted the residents, Snell said the greater impact was on the students.

“One thing I was very surprised about in Honduras was the fact that people have so little — no food, old clothing, no health care, some people don’t even go to school,” Hanna said. “But at the same time, these are the happiest people.  They are a close-knit, wise community with a true understanding of life.”

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