Name: Bradley Fleming
School: University of Massachusetts Amherst
Majors: Biology and Economics
Class year: Class of 2017
When and how did you get involved with YSI?
I heard about YourStory International at a pre-med meeting. It sounded cool so I decided to sign up. At the time, I did not know anyone else in the organization. I have since made a lot of great friends through YSI.
Which expeditions have you gone on?
My first public health trip to Haiti with YSI was last summer from May 9th to May 29th (2015). Since then I have gone on two additional expeditions; one over winter break from January 10th-17th (2016), and one this summer June 21st - 29th (2016).
What is your current position? Can you describe your main responsibilities?
In addition to serving as a regular YSI advocate, I am currently serving as the Volunteer Coordinator and Research Director for the UMASS chapter of YourStory international. As Volunteer Coordinator, I establish and coordinate a local YSI volunteer program in the Amherst area. As Research Director, I direct and coordinate a team of research advocates on various research projects. Projects have included data analysis and primary literature reviews on the subjects of NGO medical clinic effectiveness and the cost-benefit ratios of education investment in the developing world.
What is your favorite memory from your trip(s) to Haiti?
My favorite memory from Haiti is playing with the little kids from Pont Morel. The first time I was there, I played a game with the kids where I would count to three in Haitian Creole (en, de, twa) and then throw them in the air. It was an awesome feeling when I returned months later and the kids remembered both me and the game. The moment they saw me again, their faces lit up and they exclaimed “en, de, twa”. Despite facing economic hardship, the kids of Haiti always seemed to be smiling and happy. It makes me think about what is really important in life.
Why did you choose to become more involved with YSI?
I immediately decided to get more involved with YSI after my first expedition. Unlike a lot of other aid organizations, YSI practiced cultural competence and forced me to be truly immersed in the Haitian culture. We didn't live in some isolated, safe, comfortable hotel--we lived right in the community with the people we were serving. Other aid organizations offer public health trips that sometimes feel inconsequential, but my trip with YSI was very authentic and personal. Additionally, I decided to get more involved with YSI because I enjoyed the start-up feel of the organization and I knew that if I got involved now I could have an immediate impact on the growth, development and direction of the organization.
What are your future plans with us?
I hope to stay heavily involved with the YSI organization. My goal is to attend medical school and one day return to Haiti as an MD.
Additionally, a pipe dream of mine is to open a Hot Dog stand in Haiti. After traveling to Haiti three times, I have concluded that hot dog vending is an untapped Haitian market that could one day be a valuable revenue source for YSI. GET YA HOT DOGS HERE!
What is your biggest take away from the experiences that you have had with YSI?
I had a pretty sheltered upbringing, so my adventures to Haiti with YourStory International were extremely rewarding experiences that opened my eyes to the horrific realities of global inequality. Too often we forget that much of the world still lives in abject poverty. They are out of sight and they are out of mind. But it is our responsibility and duty to support and protect those that have been systematically oppressed and exploited. Despite their circumstances, the Haitians that I befriended were the most hospitable, sociable, and sincere people that I have ever met. I can't wait to get back. “Tout Moun Se Moun”. Every Person is a Person. We are all equal.