Name: Christian Brambila
School:University of Massachusetts Amherst
Major(s): Public Health/Pre-Med
Class Year: 2018
When and how did you get involved with YSI?
I became involved with YSI in the fall of 2016 when I attended a Pre-Med Society meeting. During that meeting, YSI’s executive director, Kevin Lombardi, attended as a guest speaker and spoke about his experience in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Kevin then went on to talk about YSI and the amazing opportunities it provides undergraduate students, which peaked my interest in applying.
Which expeditions have you gone on?
I have attended two different expeditions: January 2016 and January 2017.
What is your current position? Can you describe your main responsibilities?
As vice president of the UMass Chapter of YSI, I work with other Chapter leaders in recruiting a culturally diverse and intelligent group of advocates who we believe will thrive on expeditions and embody our mission. In Haiti, I lead a small group of advocates through the various towns to engage with the locals and invite any people displaying signs of illness to our free health care clinic. While in the field, I personally like to make sure each advocate gets the most out of the experience. I want everyone to get involved with taking vitals, talking to community members, listening to symptoms, and, as a group, make a decision about the kind of care a person needs.
What is your favorite memory from your trip(s) to Haiti?
During one of our fieldwork days, we reached a point in a town where a group of kids were playing soccer. While I was talking to a patient, one of the children kicked the ball over to me. So, of course, I kicked it back over to them. Before I knew it, we had started a whole soccer game and were running around, laughing, and having a great time. I found something in common with a group of kids I could barely communicate with, and we all wanted to be a part of it. I played with them for a good 20 minutes. At this point, I was no longer going easy on them, yet they were still giving me a run for my money. I should have asked them to go easy on me because, all of a sudden, in the midst of running around, I felt my pants rip in half because of how competitive I was getting. If I could do it all again to avoid that embarrassing moment I would not. That experience is one that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life because of my connection with those kids.
Why did you choose to become more involved with YSI?
YSI’s mission speaks volumes to me. During our 8-day sessions, we are extremely productive and truly make a difference in the lives of the people of Pont Morel. The one thing that a lot of other non-profits look past is how the lives of the people they serve are affected when the organization is not there. YSI focuses on educating people so they can continue to better their health, even after we’re gone. For instance, on my second session while I was out in the field, I came across a patient that we had seen the previous year in one of our clinics for severe joint pain, anemia, and hypertension. He told me that his whole lifestyle had changed, a clear sign that what YSI does is actually making a difference. This man could barely get out of bed last year and now he can work, walk around, and see his family--all because he applied the education we gave him on how to improve his health and wellness. Ever since that last year, we have grown so much as an organization, and I know we have a lot more to give to the wonderful community of Pont Morel.
What is your biggest takeaway from the experiences that you have had with YSI?
The cultural awareness that I have gained from my time in Haiti is something no one will ever be able to get from reading a book. Being out there right in the middle of a Haitian community changed my perspective on how things really are in that part of the world. I have been lucky enough to recognize the privilege that I have now, so it is time to spread my love and energy. If I have the opportunity to help and make the slightest difference in someone's life, then I will do what it takes to do so. This is a beautiful world with beautiful people that aren’t more than a brief four-hour plane ride away. I feel as if I have just as much to learn from the people of Haiti as they do from me.