In order to bring healthcare services to third-world countries and communities in need, the student organization BUILD has worked for the past eight weeks to turn metal shipping containers into mobile medical clinics. Until Nov. 22, groups of student volunteers will work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekday to create this year’s five clinics that will be sent to Romania, Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi and the border town of Presidio, Texas.
Volunteers team leader and supply chain management junior Abby Launikitis helps organize the fundraising efforts for $125,000 in supplies needed to create the clinics. She also collaborates with the leaders of different organizations to bring students out to lay flooring, install cabinets, paint murals and all of the other aspects of construction.
“We set up a shift sign-up on our website so volunteer groups can go pick whatever time works best for them,” Launikitis said. “When I was a freshman, I saw BUILD at the MSC Open House, and I was like, ‘I can actually make mobile medical clinics as an A&M student?’ I fell in love with it because this is such a unique opportunity for students to have a worldwide impact that a lot of universities don’t offer.”
Since the organization’s creation by a group of Corps of Cadets members after the 1999 Bonfire collapse, BUILD has sent out 22 Texas Aggie Medical Clinics (TAMCs) to 22 different countries around the world.
BUILD chief executive officer and civil engineering graduate student George Waterous said he hopes BUILD can emulate the feeling of family and goal-orientedness that Bonfire had among students as they work to help communities around the globe.
“Aggie Bonfire was this project that everyone was working on,” Waterous said. “It was a way that students were able to connect with one another and something that a lot of people on campus were collaborating on, and I think that created a lot of unity. That was a place where everyone was able to meet, and at its foundation, that’s the roots of BUILD. BUILD would not exist if Bonfire hadn’t existed before it. ”
The first 12 clinics were dedicated to the Aggies who died in the Bonfire collapse. Since then, BUILD has dedicated another five to Aggies who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and has started the Fallen Aggie Hero Project to create 37 clinics in honor of Aggies who died during military service in or after 9/11.
After being dedicated, the clinics are shipped to a company in Houston called Medical Bridges that fills each with $100,000 of medical supplies and sends them to the designated locations.
“Usually we send a lot of clinics to South America, but we have a non-government organization that is starting a branch in Romania and they specifically asked for one of the clinics,” Launikitis said. “We’re really excited to go that way and go to a different part of the world and then keep going from there.”
This year, one of the clinics is dedicated to George H.W. and Barbara Bush, who invested a lot of their time into Texas A&M and the health of people around the world.
“We just figured that they’ve done so much for our organization,” Launikitis said. “Going to third-world countries and helping with worldwide healthcare was a mission for George H.W. and Barbara Bush, so we wanted to continue their legacy at A&M by honoring them with this clinic.”
The leadership of BUILD is hoping to eventually make accommodations to allow students with disabilities to get involved with the project.
“We are supposed to provide a volunteer experience for the entire student population,” Waterous said. “Something that’s been on my mind has been about people in wheelchairs or with other disabilities, and if they wanted to, how they would be able to get involved in the project. Right now, we’re not very well equipped for that, so that’s something that I hope we can improve on.”
On Dec. 7, BUILD will dedicate this year’s clinics and host its annual gala at the Stella Hotel to give donors and organization members the chance to hear from a speaker that runs the clinic in Guatemala about how the clinic has impacted the community there.
“A main part is to just say thank you to our donors and give them an update on what we’ve been doing and what their money and their resources are going toward,” Waterous said. “It’s a big celebration of the year we’ve just accomplished but also a send-off for the next group to do even better things.”