Baja mission trip was moving for Honors students
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Appreciate the little things.
It’s a common expression that can make a world of difference for anyone willing to put it into practice.
That sentiment became that much clearer to Grand Canyon University senior Chloe Campbell last week in Baja, Mexico, as she watched a small, shoeless child laugh while playing with a toy that had been found in the street.
“I saw how joyful that community was in just the small moments,” she said. “I was able to witness the Lord in not only the big moments but also the small moments, and I think that’s really important to remember.”
A group of 19 Honors College students participated over spring break in a medical mission trip organized by Well Child International (WCI). The students accompanied health care professionals and local community leaders on door-to-door visits, community outreach and medical assessments and helped with health education.
This was the second of three scheduled trips with WCI — the first one was in May 2021. Working with WCI founder Michael Birnbaum has been smooth and hands on, Honors College Program Manager Anya Cofrancesco said.
Birnbaum met with the students on campus and emphasized the impact trips like the one to Baja have on the community. Many of these trips are in or near popular tourist destinations, and many of the residents work at resorts and restaurants but don’t have access to medical care because they lack transportation.
“They’d need to walk for miles, and that’s not feasible,” Cofrancesco said. “And that is where WCI steps in because they bring the clinic to the community to serve local residents.”
Honors College Associate Dean Dr. Breanna Naegeli continues to be impressed by the students’ willingness to serve.
“When we initially started this partnership with Michael and Well Child International, we projected maybe 10 volunteers who would give up their spring break to go across country boarders and serve throughout the one week that they really have off and to themselves,” she said. “We continue to be surprised by the amount of overwhelming student support when it comes to initiatives like this.”
There were so many volunteers that Naegeli and her staff had to keep opening spots to meet the demand.
“I’m always just blessed and humbled by how many of our students want to be a part of these experiences,” Naegeli said. “I think that really is the trademark of who GCU students are. It’s what attracts them to the University, and it is what keeps them engaged throughout their time here at GCU.
“These opportunities are only as strong as the students we have that want to take advantage of it.”
Students were divided into three tracks: medical, educational and ministry.
Campbell, the student leader for the team, participated in the ministry track. It included feeding the homeless, praying over the community, joining a local special needs ministry and also assisting with the medical and educational tracks.
“We got to do things all across the board, whether it was physically serving or observing and praying,” Campbell said. “We’re theoretically helping this community, but, really, we’re the ones getting help from this. We’re the ones getting poured into and we’re the ones leaving changed and encouraged because not only do we get the opportunity to learn from this beautiful culture, but we’re able to give back.
“In turn, their joy, their gratitude, their ability to be present in that moment is able to give us a whole new perspective, encourage us and refresh us.”
Freshman Kalia Brewster was drawn to the strong team bonding on mission trips and the opportunity to see a country she had never visited.
“We got to make so many cool memories and we got to meet so many amazing people,” Brewster said. “One of the amazing things that we all said stood out to us was how community centered it is in that area of Mexico. The people never hesitated to welcome us into their home. We were just strangers, and they were so welcoming and so friendly.”
She also is grateful that the Honors College has access to so many opportunities of this nature.
“We can literally get connected with so many different missions’ organizations and just have so many cool experiences,” she said.
The Honors College will team up again with WCI at the close of the spring semester for a nine-day mission trip to the Dominican Republic.
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].
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