From Houston to Boston: Global Brigades Conference @ BU

After a tiring day of packing and moving all of my things out of Baker, my summer dorm at Rice, into storage and another exhausting day of traveling from Hobby to Boston Logan and taking Boston’s confusing (but largely FREE) public transportation, I have finally arrived in the heart of Boston for the Global Brigades (GB) North America Student Leadership Conference hosted by Boston University. Click here for more info.

For those of you who don’t know yet, I am THRILLED to be leading a brigade of Rice students next summer through the same organization (GB) that coordinated our medical/dental brigade to Honduras earlier this summer. My leadership team–Neena, Olivia H., Charlene, Monica, and Olivia A. (all good friends of mine who went to Honduras with me)–and I all have huge shoes to fill, but we are excited to take on the challenge this school year!

While one portion of the brigade will definitely include medical and dental rotations, I am here to learn more about other brigade programs (i.e. microfinance, architecture, engineering, etc.) as well as to get some tips and contacts for planning the trip. I attended the GB exchange at the University of Texas in Austin for Texas chapters earlier this year and found the discussions quite productive and thought-provoking, so when Sajani, our Honduras trip leader, told me about the opportunity to come to BU, I definitely seized it.

It is exciting to meet so many young people who believe in the GB holistic model. Having been a loyal subscriber to the Doctors without Borders email newsletter since my freshman year in high school, it’s been my dream to plan such a trip: everything from the location to the clinical rotations to the name tags. However, now that I have been on a brigade before, I’ve cultivated a sensitivity towards how I phrase this passion.

Recently, there has been so much talk about “global voluntourism,” and as we are going on to engage others to apply for these brigades, I do have concerns as to how medical brigades, in general, are perceived by my peers, friends in the community, greater organizations, and the public overall. While I am obviously biased (having been on a GB brigade and going on to lead another), I am so impassioned by the holistic sustainability philosophy. We WANT to make communities self-sufficient within a time frame of five years or less. And this goal can be accomplished by introducing different programs (medical, microfinance, etc.) at appropriate stages in the communities’ development and introducing accessible education systems. Yes, I do have concerns with answering those difficult questions, but I’m hoping to gain some wisdom here in Boston and assuage any concerns that might be felt back at home on campus in Houston (and wherever else the Rice chapter may be in contact).

Oh yeah, and today I visited a good friend Jamasb, whom I regret not staying more in touch with this past school year. He toured me around Harvard and the local area–pics and another post to come. 🙂

Will keep you updated with conference proceedings and new insights!


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