Global Medical Brigades battle poverty and disrepair in Honduras

They aren’t performing heart surgery.

Sometimes, though, the smallest bit of Western medicine can make the biggest difference. This is the concept behind the Global Medical Brigades, where volunteers take their knowledge into the depths of impoverished countries like Honduras and work to set up clinics for local people whose own crumbling infrastructure denies them basic health care.

Saint Louis University has made a wise decision to participate in the Brigades, both because this allows them to use their resources to reach across social, cultural and national borders, and because it allows students the experience of working in a foreign country so starkly different from their own.

The disease, poverty and hunger that besets Hondurans have roots that stretch deep. Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the world; it was a victim of colonialist powers throughout the 19th century. According to the Central American Business Consultants, American companies like United Fruit were established and Honduras became part of the Banana Republic, subjecting the country to gross labor standards.
These things, along with turmoil within the nation, like the recent attempt at a political coup, have produced the poverty we see today.

Fortunately, the boon of mission trips is that, beyond the immediate dispersal of health care, they teach their volunteers these very things. They expose students to some of the deep issues that belay developing nations, breed an international awareness that is crucial in this increasingly globalizing world, and above all, help students understand that saving the world is no simple task. All social issues are vague and knotted up in years of history and cultural institutions. Yet by viewing the poverty firsthand and interacting with the people, students hopefully come away with a necessary acknowledgment of the complexity of life and politics.

Hopefully, after their work with the Global Medical Brigades, students will then return to their respective countries and lobby their governments for further improvements. The Brigades has the power to energize students to commit themselves to understanding the finer intricacies of a free-trade system that creates a hierarchy of nations and leaves many in the dust. Hopefully, it motivates them to work against that machine.

This is, perhaps, the most necessary effect of all.