Saving Lives with Gabriella Castro

Gabriella Castro knows not all islands are paradise. In fact, some islands lack running water, food, shelter, and access to medical care.

That’s why, after handing in her last final exam at the end of the fall 2013 semester, she traveled more than 1,000 miles away to the town of Pajarillos, Honduras, as part of a “brigade” to provide medical care in one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. 

“Originally, I went for my resume,” said Castro, an 18-year-old pre-dental freshman. “But, by the end of it, I decided I would try to go every year because the people need it so bad.”

As someone who has dreamed of becoming a dentist for years, Castro (that’s her in the light blue scrubs!) jumped at the chance to help others while learning more about her chosen profession.

“I was able to be a nurse for all these people who really need help,” she said. “I assisted the professional attendees, took blood pressure, and did a little bit of everything.”

The town lacks a medical center, and the closest one is two hours away.

During the clinic’s one-week stay, more than 300 people received medical and dental care from a team of about 20 volunteers through the Global Brigades organization, which sends groups of college students and professionals to various impoverished countries around the world.

Castro, a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, first heard about the organization through her sorority and made the trip with two of her sisters.

“Working together for such an important cause really brought everyone on the trip closer together,” she said.

The group especially bonded when they met an 11-year-old girl named Lixy.

“She was super brilliant, and every year when the brigade comes she tries to learn English with the brigaders," Castro said. "She’s trying really hard to actually make something of herself and not be stuck in poverty."

Castro said Global Brigades later gave Lixy a scholarship for primary school.

“There’s still just so much poverty in the area,” Castro said. “All the homes were made out of sticks and trash.”

She said poor conditions hit her hardest when she realized the condition of the town’s furry creatures.

“The stray dogs were everywhere,” she said. “They were starving, and the people are in such bad shape that no one really cares about the dogs, which is sad.”

According to the Global Brigades website, more than half of the population of Honduras lives in poverty; 40 percent of the people lack access to healthy drinking water, and 50 percent of the people in rural communities are illiterate.

Castro knows that there is more work to be done.

“Not only did I learn a ridiculous amount about what I want to do, I was able to help so many people,” she said. “When I’m a real doctor, I will definitely still help on similar trips — everyone should do what they can to help.”