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FGCU club helps to provide healthcare

Global Brigades is an international nonprofit that utilizes university students in partnership with local agencies to provide much-needed help to the global community. The organization is split into segments: architecture, business, dental, engineering, environmental, human rights, medical, microfinance, public health and water.

FGCU has now housed a medical chapter on campus for four years. In that time, the Global Medical Brigades at FGCU have raised $95,036 and gone on three brigades internationally. The first year, the club went to Panama but has traveled to Nicaragua ever since.

“What Global Medical Brigades stands for is sustainable health, and we feel if we keep hopping around, we’re not making a difference in one area per se,” said Elvis Barrera, the president of GMB on campus.

The money allocated from the university is not nearly enough for the club’s brigades, which leaves its members having to raise the funds themselves. Last year, the 22 FGCU volunteers funded their trip with $40,718, almost quadruple the amount the club originally projected its fundraising to reach.

Brigades happen every three to six months, but the FGCU chapter chooses to go on its annual brigade in the summer semester to make it easier for all its members to attend.

Despite its name, Rachel Walter, the vice president of the FGCU chapter, said any major can join the effort.

“Though, pre-med students are often enticed by the title, and it’s good because they get service hours, shadow experience and have a huge network of people that are also in the same field, you don’t have to be a specific major,” Walter said.

Even recent graduates of the university can go on the brigades, so long as they reach out to the chapter president.

“Really, anyone that wants to help people and make a difference is welcome to join,” Barrera said.

Barrera says one of his personal goals as president this school year has been to incorporate ways to not only reach out globally but locally as well.

“It’s great that we’re doing things globally, but literally, 30 minutes away in Immokalee, people need just as much help as they would in Nicaragua,” Barrera said. “So, with that being said, we’re actually establishing different events that we’re going to participate in within the local community in an effort to give back here too.”

Walter is currently working on forming a partnership with Advocates for World Health, a nonprofit based in Tampa. AWH collects medical supplies through donation bins installed in hospitals and distributes these goods in disaster relief and humanitarian aid efforts. This partnership requires a $10,000 start-up cost for international shipping, storage fees and the like but would be of no charge to the FGCU chapter of GMB as long as a chapter exists on campus. A partnership like this would be a first, as no one has made a partnership for that reason with AWH.

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