In fourth grade Emma Smith was terrified of flying.
Her family, though, wanted to go to Phoenix and knew they had to convince her — even coax her — onto a plane.
The way? A pink digital camera.
“They bribed me,” said Smith, now a senior at Regis University. “If they only knew then what they know now.”
That is how much travel and service have become a part of Smith’s life. The first trip to Phoenix was the opening page of her travel journal, and since then, she has traveled overseas multiple times. Now, in her time at Regis, she’s led Global Brigade trips to Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama and Ghana. Global Brigades is a nonprofit that implements a holistic model to meet a community’s health and economic goals.
The organization partners with universities worldwide to serve remote communities. Regis has participated for the last seven years, providing medical teams.
Smith, who will lead the next Regis Global Brigade trip in the summer of 2020, sat down with Regis Today to discuss her role, the brigades and how every individual can help out.
How did you get started with Regis Global Brigade?
There was a trip to Nicaragua that seemed like it would be good hands-on experience. You didn’t need any previous experience. Once I did it, the experience stuck with me. It solidified that I want to help people. With this trip, they have a holistic approach. You go in and work with the community, and it empowers the students to empower the community. The end goal is to not be there. It’s working toward making the community sustainable.
The latest trip involved 22 students from Regis helping out in Ghana. What was it like?
I made sure they knew we were going to Ghana to work, not take pictures with little kids. We were there in partnership. We all understood and were on the same page that this is not a vacation. In Ghana we worked closely with the health ministry. There were health classes, home visits, optometry and a pop-up clinic. We worked with doctors to see hundreds of patients a day. We spent a lot of time telling the patients, “We’re not going to hurt you. You’ll be safe here. Trust us.” Then each night we’d have a reflection where we would see what we could do the following day to make it more effective.
What’s next for you and Global Brigades?
Our next Brigade will be to Greece next year to refugee camps. Regis Global Brigades has helped me understand my need to be on the ground working. I couldn’t live with myself if I had a desk job. I want to be in that environment where things are happening, where things are constantly going.
If people are interested in the next Brigade, what should they do?
It’s available for any Regis student. If people have any concerns of questions about the trip, ask me as many questions as you want. You don’t need any experience, and it will change your life. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to know more about Global Brigades, their website is www.globalbrigades.org.