Living in the United States, we often take simple luxuries for granted. Basic hygiene, such as washing our hands and brushing our teeth, are mindless daily activities. However, if one steps outside the comforts of this country’s borders, these mundane tasks prove to be decisive factors in the health and well-being for thousands of people living in developing countries.

These inequalities have not gone unnoticed, and a group of Loyola students is taking direct action.

Global Brigades has been an active student group at Loyola for several years. Students from all academic backgrounds can volunteer for one of many brigades where they will travel to communities around the world and help locals develop self-sustaining practices. Currently, Loyola has medical, dental, public health, water, environmental, and business brigades that have trips planned through August.

This January, three brigades will travel to Panama, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Alexandria Remus, a senior biophysics and psychology double major with a minor in physics, is one of the leaders of the brigade to Panama. A team of 41 students and a physician will travel to the Este region for one week to work with a group of local doctors and dentists to set up a free medical and dental clinic in the poverty-stricken community.

“We teach the community basic knowledge that we often take for granted. These topics range from basic hygiene–like how to wash your hands–diet and nutrition, water purification techniques, and dental health,” she says. “The mission of Global Brigades as an international organization is to educate the communities we serve and empower them to create their own sustainable communities.”

Remus is not new to these brigades. Last January, she traveled to the Darién region of Panama to do similar work.

“During our week in Panama, we saw about 500 patients who truly needed our medical care. After participating on the brigade, I realized how appreciative the Panamanians were of the care they received, and I want to give back more.  That is why I decided to lead this brigade in January,” she says.

Remus shared one of the stories from her last brigade that motivated her to return for another service trip.

“On one of the days, a family showed up on horseback. They told us that they traveled three hours from the mountains because our clinic was their only access to medical care. It was truly an inspiring moment that made me realize the smallest things can make the biggest impact in life,” Remus recalls.

To help finance their trip, Global Brigades has partnered up with Felice’s, Francesca’s, and Pete’s Pizza to hold fundraising events.  Additionally, the three brigades going out in January are hosting a joint talent show on November 29, at 7 p.m., in the Mundelein Auditorium. All proceeds will be used to help purchase medicine and medical supplies.

Anyone who wants to learn more about Loyola’s Global Brigades can e-mail for more information. Please also visit the Global Brigades website to learn more about the program as a whole.