Student Reflection: Becoming a Global Humanitarian

One common theme in life is that you don’t always recognize the significance something great as you experience it, but only after it’s over. This is applicable especially to that hindsight realization you get after providing direct service to a community in need. It’s only afterwards that you become aware of the great accomplishment that resulted from the rigorous steps of planning and executing the service trip.

My experience with this “hindsight realization” came after planning and attending a medical service trip to Haiti with the UH student organization, Friends of Haiti. The trip was run by UH faculty, students, and Houston-based medical professionals, and was an effort independent of any major non-profit organization. This independence came with a great deal of empowerment—but also great responsibility—which allowed students to immerse themselves in the effort from its roots. I embraced this opportunity and soon found myself deeply involved in every step of the process where I was exposed to the raw inner-mechanics of service trips.

The initial stages of the trip-operations begin long before physically reaching the community and thus are very abstract: exploring culture, tradition, and identifying a need. With this backbone of knowledge, the plan for service begins: defining the nature of service, the effectiveness, and what could go wrong. Undoubtedly, these stages require cooperation, commitment, patience, and diligence. Once they are complete and details have been settled, the final stage of providing service is reached.

In Haiti, not a dull moment went by. The trip was a success in that we treated approximately 1000 people in six days. However, it wasn’t until days after the trip, back in Houston, that I realized the impact of what we just did. The thought came about when I noticed how little everyone else back home seemed engaged in their own communities. Comparing this to the intensity of work I did in Haiti, I felt a discontent with society and a hunger for something more. I soon realized this hunger would only be calmed by pledging myself to engagement and activism to my community, in whatever shape or form.

These new thoughts and realizations ultimately motivated my good friend, Pietro Cicalese, and myself to start a student organization devoted to this cause. Our organization is called The Global Humanitarian Student Initiative and our first service trip will be to Sicily, in May 2016, to offer healthcare to refugees arriving on Italian shores. The organization’s goal is to create a platform for students to initiate, plan, and execute, their own service trips, locally and abroad. In the future, we hope to have a wide variety of service trips in operation. We consider all forms of service, from infrastructure beautification to medical workshops, a humanitarian act, and hope to involve as many students as we can.

—Dennis Kunichoff

UH Alumnus Class of 2015, BS Biology and BS Psychology

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