Although summer is often a time for students taking time off, Izabella (Bella) Urbani, Isabel Behm, former LEAP Ambassador Quinn Kobrin, and the LEAP Ambassadors braved the Houston summer traffic to attend The World Affairs Council Event “Combating Venezuela’s Refugee Crisis.”
We were excited to be invited to the Palm Restaurant, a nice steakhouse in downtown Houston. We ventured through the dining room and into a private room that was decorated with murals featuring scenes of Houston.
The room was full of doctors and medical professionals from Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation, Chevron employees, and interested citizens of Houston. Jessica, Saara, and I introduced Bella and Isabel to Sandija Bayot, the Chief Development Officer for WAC, and someone we can always count on for a warm greeting.
Maryanne Maldonado, the Executive Director of the World Affairs Council…
….introduced Dr. Michael Mizwa, who is the Director of Global Health, Texas Children’s Hospital, and the CEO of Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative.
Before actually speaking on the topic, Dr. Mizwa, offered us a friendly greeting of “Go Bearkats,” and then moved to an introduction of our featured speaker: Ana Maria Galvis, the Executive Director of Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation, Colombia.
Galvis began by explaining some of the issues that Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) face. However, Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation Colombia operates somewhat differently than traditional NGOs. The program is run and operated by Colombians and, although the overall program objective is to promote health, they can’t do that without addressing related issues. Thus, they focus on four major issues: health, food, education, and nutrition.
Recently, there has been an influx of Venezuelans migrating to Columbia; many of whom require immediate or long-term medical care. The employment rate in La Guajira (a Department of Colombia0 is 26.1 % and only one-third have visas. To provide aid to the incoming Venezuelans, the current President of Colombia has offered 10-year permits. Galvis said this has helped to reduce the number of undocumented migrants, but there is still work to be done to track their medical needs.
Since the program is an NGO, it is held to a different standard than the privately funded healthcare centers. Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation Colombia offers 25 health certified services, and they have a dedication to “not just treating the illness, [but] treating the human being.”
Since 2014 the program has provided treated 12,400 patients, administered 7,000 vaccinations, and is the only NGO in Colombia authorized to provide the Covid-19 vaccination. The program has done amazing work to provide aid for the current crisis, and their approach is what we, as social science majors, also aim for: the help communities, not just individuals.
The event was enormously educational, and it also moved us out of our comfort zones, prompting us to converse with professionals over lunch, discussing topics with which we aren’t overly familiar.
It is a recipe for growth, and one we enjoyed very much.