Meet Brian: A child not unlike most, he loves playing soccer and hanging out with his friends. Energetic, feisty and kind, he must have played soccer with me for five hours.
Although I did not speak his Mayan dialect and he spoke no English, the bond we formed that day in Buena Vista, Guatemala, will not be dying anytime in the near future.
About a month ago, I had the great privilege of being able to take part in a medical brigade trip to Guatemala with the nonprofit Timmy Global Health, or Timmy for short.
Timmy, an Indianapolis-based organization with more than 25 collegiate chapters, seeks to provide health care to underserved areas of Central America. Through a team of both medical professionals (i.e. physicians) and students, brigades are sent down every six weeks to provide continuing health care to rural as well as urban areas.
Brian, like many Guatemalan children, is often unable to receive adequate health care and nutrition. Factors ranging from racism and a corrupt government to simple lack of access to these resources account for this discrepancy in health care.
Timmy's actions alleviate these conditions and make a difference in the development of these Guatemalan children, but also to the continuing health to these indigenous populations.
All too often I am asked, “Why pay to go to Guatemala for a week when there are impoverished people even here in Valparaiso?” One reason: inspiration.
The youths of today all too often have the wool pulled taught and tight over their eyes, impermeable even to the sharpest of knives. Falling into complacency, falling even into ignorance, today’s students have little to no knowledge to the conditions that exist in a developing nation like Guatemala.
By taking part in this trip, students are reminded of this intrinsic human need to improve the lives of others, but also that their problems, are the same problems we have here: health care disparity, homelessness and poverty. The sooner we realize and focus upon our similarities, the sooner we can change the current state of both nations.
All in all, this is my message: Volunteer at a homeless shelter, volunteer at a food bank, start your own philanthropic organization. Whatever it is, give back to your community in whatever way you can.
True, I might never see Brian again, but the impact he made upon me, indelible and empowering, has spurred me to continue to work both internationally and locally to make a difference.
If interested in learning more about Timmy Global Health, please visit www.timmyglobalhealth.org