Meet the first ever, WVU Global Brigades Executive Team! Global Brigades is a nonprofit health development organization that works with volunteers to bring clinics, medical technology and health equipment to third world countries.
Kayla: Introduce yourselves!
Rachel: Hi! My name is Rachel Wattick, I’m a senior majoring in human nutrition and foods and I’m from Canonsburg, PA!
Cate: Hello! My name is Cate Heaney and I’m a second-year masters student in exercise physiology. I’m also from Boonsboro, MD!
Diana: Hi! My name is Diana Payne and I’m a senior majoring in public health. I’m from Parkersburg, WV!
Henna: My name is Henna Bhatia and I am an immunology and medical microbiology major from Morgantown.
K: When did you first get involved with Global Brigades?
R: I first got involved with Global Brigades in 2015 during my sophomore year. I was an undecided major at the time but felt that I really needed to be a part of WVU Global Medical and Dental Brigades. I traveled with the organization during spring break, and it was the most incredible experience of my life in many ways. We held clinics for three days which provided medical, dental, and gynecological care. We also completed two days of public health work where we constructed sanitary infrastructure for families including showers, toilets, washing stations, and septic tanks which helped prevent common illnesses seen in clinics.
C: I first got involved with Global Brigades about a year and a half ago with Medical and Dental Brigades. I had the awesome opportunity to shadow Nicaraguan physicians and learn about how they treat patients in rural communities. During our public health days, we worked with a family to help them build a sanitary station, which is basically a water storage unit;an enclosed shower; a toilet; and a sewage tank. I learned that many of the ailments the physicians treated in the clinics were caused by poor sanitation, and the sanitation stations we built would contribute positively to the family’s health. While building the sanitation station, I built a really special bond with two of the children, Daniella and Diana. They were so sweet and they reminded me a lot of my nieces. I think that’s when it hit me that the community members are victims of circumstance and that they are very similar to us. They should have the same opportunities and access to sanitation, healthcare, and education we do.
D: I first got involved with Global Brigades when I applied to go to the Leadership Institute during 2017 summer. I wasn’t apart of the public health chapter at WVU yet, but I was accepted to go to Nicaragua on the institute, and it was the most excited I’ve ever been. I had never left the east coast- let alone the country. On the leadership institute in Nicaragua Imet people from all over the world. I met Nadine. She became one of my best friends, and someone I’ve talked to almost every day since. On Institute we learned about several of the brigades and the holistic model. We’d spend a few hours a day in a classroom and then get to take what we learned and apply it to the work we did out in the communities.
H: I first got involved with Global Brigades my junior year of undergrad as a volunteer for the public health brigade to Nicaragua.
K: What do you do for Global Brigades now?
R: Currently, I serve as Vice President for WVU Global Dental Brigades and Vice President for WVU Global Business Brigades. In these roles I lead with recruitment, planning brigades, making executive decisions, and preparing new brigaders. I was recently elected WVU Campus Chairperson for Global Brigades. In this role, I am in charge of uniting existing chapters, establishing new chapters, spreading the word about Global Brigades on campus, and establishing and leading the Empowered Board. Our goal is to have WVU become recognized as an Empowered Campus, meaning we have each type of Brigade established as a student organization.
C: Now, I’m the president of Global Business Brigades, I’m on the Empowered Board, and I’m a member of Global Medical and Dental Brigades. I’m also a graduate of the Leadership Institute.
D: Currently I’m a part of the public health chapter.
H: I am now president of the GB Public Health chapter at WVU.
K: What are some of your big plans for your chapter?
R: For Medical and Dental Brigades, I want to ensure all brigaders understand and realize the importance of the Holistic Model. Most students traveling with these chapters are future doctors and dentists. The holistic mindset is vital for these practices to improve our healthcare system. I also want to ensure they realize the importance of Public Health in our work and how it helps to prevent common illnesses. I believe if these students learn this early on, they will be better prepared and more effective health practitioners. For Business Brigades, I’m hoping to have a successful, impactful first brigade in May. It’s important to have a strong start with this new chapter, and once we return and can share our experiences, we can grow the movement with business schools. For the WVU Campus as a whole, I want to establish the Empowered Board to have students recognize WVU Global Brigades as a united front. I would also like to establish another chapter of brigades, either engineering or environmental.
C: GBB is brand new this year, so the possibilities for the future are literally endless! We’ll be going on our first Brigade in May, so I’m focused on ensuring that our members have mindset necessary for international service. It’s really important to me that we don’t become voluntarists. I’m hoping that the experiences we have on Brigade will encourage others to join GBB next year so that we can have an even greater impact on the rural communities we work in. It’s also important to me that we participate in service locally, too. We’re looking to host “local brigades” in West Virginia.
D: We’ve talked about doing local brigades around our state, and I think that would create an amazing opportunity. It would positively impact our state and give our students wonderful hands-on experience in the field.
H: Getting more people involved was one of my big goals for the chapter this year.
K: What’s your favorite part of being on brigade?
R: My favorite part of being on brigade is connecting with Nicaraguans. The most impactful realization I had on my first brigade was that no matter any language, cultural, or socioeconomic barriers we may feel are in place, simply sharing eye contact and a smile with people is enough to feel deeply connected. This connection reminds us that we are all human, and all deserving of basic necessities, such as clean water, shelter, good jobs, and healthcare.
C: My favorite part of being on Brigade is working alongside communities and individuals. We get the chance to be immersed in the local culture and build relationships with the individuals we work with. The community members are so friendly and open to sharing anything they have with you. I always leave Brigade with a clearer prospective on what’s important in life and a new sense of calm. It’s a difficult feeling to explain, but I think it’s because of the connections that you make on Brigade. I’ve found that always I’m happier on Brigade than I am when I’m not.
D: I’m going on my first brigade over spring break in March. The leadership institute is a little different from brigade! I’m excited to start a project and finish it all the way through. My favorite part of Institute was getting to see all of the different brigades from the inside out, and how the holistic model shapes the most sustainable overall outcome.
H: My favorite part of the brigade is meeting and working with the families in Nicaragua, as well as becoming close with the other volunteers from WVU.