Each week we bring you the story and perspective of an outstanding volunteer. This week, meet Megan Mar, a Medical Brigades volunteer from the University of California at San Diego who has participated in Medical Brigades to Honduras for the past three years!
Like a lot of Pre-Health college students, I have always wanted to volunteer in an under-resourced community abroad, while exploring a future career in health care. I was less focused on having this experience as part of my graduate school application, but more focused on just wanting to serve people. Joining Global Brigades was possibly the wisest decision I could have made in choosing an organization that sincerely focuses on developing communities, while giving brigaders a learning experience.
Having done Medical Brigades for the past three years, I feel like my experiences have evolved over time. To be honest, when I first arrived in Honduras for a brigade, I loved it. I enjoyed stripping away luxuries of my American life, as well as being immersed in the culture of Latin America. During my first brigade, my favorite memories involved working in Triage. I enjoyed talking directly to the community members, hearing insight into their daily life, and realizing the health issues that they were struggling with prior to our brigade in their community. After this first brigade, I realized my passion for patient care and direct patient interaction, which helped define my future career choices. My second year as a brigader, I became an officer, and learned a little about the inner workings of Global Brigades as an organization. I enjoyed leading other brigaders, sharing my passion for serving under-resourced communities, as well as distinguishing why Global Brigades is so much better than other volunteer organizations because of their emphasis on making a sustainable impact in the communities we help.
While leading the brigade this past year, my favorite part was helping to empower brigaders for all that we do in Honduras, and making real connections with the communities we visited during our Medical and Pilot Day brigades. This year, experiencing Architecture Brigades one day, seeing what Public Health and Water Brigades also did in that community, combined with learning about other volunteer organizations at school, finally made me realize the importance of Global Brigades’ role as a whole.
Unlike a lot of volunteer organizations, Global Brigades is not simply giving outside supplies to communities without educating them about it. Nor are they solely focusing on giving the volunteer a “good experience,” like painting a school, which does not alleviate the daily problems of that community. I have learned through being a brigader that we must educate community members, and involve them in our work. By empowering them to help their community, our impact remains even after we leave. Thus, the work we do will be sustainable in the communities we volunteer with, and they can be closer to being independent from outside help. This knowledge has truly transformed my view of volunteer organizations, and will truly impact how I help others in the future.
I have definitely changed for the better from volunteering these past three years. I would not categorize this volunteering as simply helping others, whose action is always rewarding. Rather, I would describe this volunteering as working in conjunction with community members to improve their lives, which is remarkable. This experience has not only humbled me in realizing what other people can be happy living without, but has educated me on how to properly aid under-resourced communities. This experience has inspired me to continue volunteering once I graduate college. I hope to live in Latin America for a short time, since places like Honduras have grown so close to my heart. I have always been interested in a career in the health field, but this experience has peaked my interest in Global Health, Latin American Studies, and International Development. To say the least, this experience has changed me for the better, and hopefully I can work with others to change the world for the better.