BUFFALO, NY—Spring break is the week most college students
trade in their textbooks for beachwear. But Emily Fiore, a senior
at the University at Buffalo majoring in anthropology and biology,
passed on the swimsuit and opted for a trowel instead.
Along with 11 other UB students, Fiore traveled to the mountains
of Honduras and without a single power tool, built showers, water
storage units, bathrooms, eco-stoves and cement floors for a small
Not your typical spring break.
The group traveled to Honduras as members of UB’s first
Global Brigades Public Health Chapter. The Global Brigades is the
world’s largest student-led worldwide health and sustainable
development organization, and has sent thousands of college
students to volunteer in nations such as Nicaragua, Panama and
Public Health is one of nine Global Brigades programs that
addresses needs in health and economic development. Public Health
Brigades combats common illnesses by improving the overall
infrastructure of homes, a factor that studies show lead to high
levels of preventable diseases. Other programs include water,
microfinance and architecture.
Fiore, who serves as Buffalo chapter president, and Jesse
Hanchett, a senior biomedical science major and chapter vice
president, organized the Buffalo chapter in fall 2012 after
completing volunteer trips overseas to impoverished
“Travelling to China and the Philippines exposed me to
both inequality and the lack of justice in the world. I wanted to
expose 11 more people to that,” says Fiore. “After you
experience that, you have to want to help. It’s not possible
for you to turn away.”
Hanchett also identifies with the people he helps.
“Opening one’s mind to the world for what it
is,” he says, “that’s the first step that anyone
can take to right these wrongs and recognize these forgotten places
and people for what they are: us.”
In the Philippines, Fiore worked in a neonatal clinic where a
stethoscope was the most expensive piece of equipment, the recovery
room was a cardboard bed and staff washed and reused latex gloves.
During her stay, Fiore delivered three babies by herself.
Fiore’s certification as an emergency medical technician
did not prepare her for the shocking experience with healthcare
outside of the U.S. However, the experience inspired her to help
again, this time in El Jute, a rural Honduran town.
They worked side by side with two families and other students
from various universities, remodeling homes and teaching dental
hygiene to children at local schools.
The construction was led by local masons hired by the Global
Brigades, who guided students through the projects. But even with
their help, the work was no easy task. Fiore spent most of her time
laying cement floors, while Hanchett built the eco-stoves.
“We had to mix cement by hand, and let me tell you, I will
never be annoyed by a cement truck slowing me down on the highway
again,” says Fiore.
Although Fiore only knew the families for a week, she will never
forget them. The language barrier between the two groups did not
prevent a bond from being formed.
“With the family, it’s what wasn’t said that I
will remember,” says Fiore. “It’s so rare that
you come into someone’s life and change it entirely in just a
week. That’s something that you can’t put into
UB’s Global Brigades Public Health Chapter plans to visit
Ghana for their next brigade.