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Residents Bring Humanitarian Aid to Guatemala

By Marji McClure

Publication: Shore Publishing

Published February 04. 2013 4:00AM   Updated February 06. 2013 11:49AM
Photo courtesy of Syed Naqvi
A group of 16 UConn students, including Syed Naqvi and James Barone of East Haven, went to Guatemala last month to help provide medical care and education to underserved populations, such as this group of schoolchildren with whom the volunteers are posing.

Syed Naqvi and James Barone left East Haven to enter the medical field as students at the University of Connecticut and now their quest has taken them far beyond the Storrs campus. Following a trip to Peru in March 2012, they last month returned from a two-week humanitarian aid trip to Guatemala.

Naqvi and Barone served as medical volunteers on the trip, sponsored by the UConn Medical Humanitarian Society, formerly known as the UConn Student Chapter of Doctors without Borders. The group of 16 students was founded by Naqvi.

Both Naqvi and Barone said the trip to Guatemala was even better than the Peru trip.

"We got to do more, medically," said Naqvi.

Naqvi and Barone said the students wanted to make more of a lasting impression on the people they visited; providing health education-in addition to medical care-was one way in which to accomplish that goal.

They sought to provide information about healthy habits, such as teeth brushing and hand washing, with the hope that their messages would stay with the people in Guatemala long after the people received medical treatment and the UConn students returned to Connecticut.

They created a coloring book that illustrated those healthy living habits and gave books to the children they met. The students also performed a skit about healthy living at an afterschool program.

"One volunteer [from another group] told us the kids, the next day, were excited about washing their hands," said Naqvi.

Barone said that in Peru, health check-ups were performed, but there wasn't any follow up.

"The doctors didn't have the resources," said Barone. "But in Guatemala, they had medication. So we got to see that happen."

Both Naqvi and Barone said that their experience in Peru helped prepare them for their visit to Guatemala. People in those countries don't have access to the quality of healthcare citizens of the U.S. are accustomed to receiving.

"We expected what we saw," said Barone.

"We weren't emotional this time around," said Naqvi. "This time, we understood these are the realities in the Third World."

The group brought supplies, such as healthcare supplies and notebooks, donated by local individuals and businesses and distributed them during the trip.

Naqvi and Barone are going to graduate from UConn this spring, but before they do, they hope to go on a domestic or weekend trip with the group.

After Naqvi and Barone graduate, they expect the group to continue to flourish and continue to go on humanitarian aid trips.

"We have a lot of dedicated members who will take over," said Barone.

What Naqvi and Barone are left with, though, is a clearer direction of where they want their individual career paths to lead. They both want to be involved in the medical field and travel to help people around the globe.

"I would want to do this for a career," said Naqvi, who wants to be a physician. "It's definitely something I'm interested in."

Barone said he is interested in exploring a career as a traveling nurse.