Spring Into Action Over Break in Panama
Santa Clara’s Medical Brigade assists abroad
Published: Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2012 13:04
The average college student usually places the words “Panama” and “Spring Break” in the same sentence only if the first is immediately followed by “City Beach, Florida, home of the Guinness World Record-breaking 450 woman bikini parade.”
This spring break, however, a group of Santa Clara students foreswore bikinis entirely, choosing instead to travel to the country of Panama on a humanitarian medical mission. Thirty students enrolled in Santa Clara’s Global Medical Brigades program stayed in Panama from March 25, to April 1, operating a health care center in a rural region of eastern Panamanian province of Panama.
The Global Medical Brigades program is a chapter of Global Brigades, an international organization. Chapters work in each country as individual non-governmental organizations. Global Brigades operates programs relating to many different areas of college study. For instance, in addition to medical programs, the Global Brigades website lists architectural, business, law, microfinance and other options for Panama, as well as Honduras and Ghana.
Mackenzie Zorkin, senior and biology, anthropology and public health triple major, is the president of Global Medical Brigades. Zorkin believes the experience was a powerful one.
“I’ve done it for three years,” said Zorkin. “Something keeps drawing me back… You learn something new regardless of what community you’re in… it’s entirely different every year.” Zorkin, who ran the trip for the first time this year, enjoyed her new responsibilities.
Keele Shaw, vice president, also praised the program’s benefits for local communities in Panama as well as the Santa Clara students on the trip.
“What I love is that (the program) combines the immediate service of these small communities (with) long-term sustainability of providing health care,” said Shaw, a junior Spanish major and Physics minor. “Every six months a different college group comes in to replenish the medications and help spread public health.” Shaw believes medical care is among the most important goals for Global Medical Brigades and similar programs to pursue.
The brigade hopes to make sure the people are healthy, before they provide educational and architectural services.
Both Zorkin and Shaw agree that access to clean water, in particular, was an area in need of desperate improvement. The water in the area contains dangerous microbes and bacteria. The members of the Global Medical Brigades started teaching locals ways to disinfect water by boiling, chlorinating and using solar power.
The members of Global Medical Brigades were accompanied by Dr. Murray of the Biology department, along with several volunteers.
The group was far removed from the relative comfort of Santa Clara life for their week in Panama.
“We were in the jungle,” said Zorkin.
Compared to previous years, this year’s trip was especially busy. “In past years we were able to see the Panama Canal, but this year we weren’t able to do any excursions like that,” Zorkin continued. Still, there was some free time — Zorkin particularly enjoyed playing soccer with the locals.
Next year, Shaw plans to take over as president of the club. “I have big, big shoes to fill,” said Shaw. “Mackenzie did a wonderful job this year, but I’m already looking forward to things we can do next year as well.” It is currently unclear exactly where Global Medical Brigades will visit next year, but Shaw is confident the program will be a success.
“We’re definitely planning to go back to Panama. Global Brigades is also active in Honduras, so that’s a possibility too,” said Shaw. “It really just depends on what people in the club want to do.”
Contact Joseph Forte at firstname.lastname@example.org or (408) 554-4849.