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Kiki Katsev, a junior at San Marcos High School, traveled this summer to Honduras, where she assisted doctors in treating needy patients. (Doug Katsev photo)

This summer I went on a trip that changed my whole perspective on life. I learned to appreciate more by experiencing the life of the less fortunate in a developing country.

I started on the trip with the mindset of an extravagant vacation with little work and much tanning. I was surprised to find I was going to assist highly trained doctors to save the lives of thousands of unfortunate Central Americans. I traveled to eastern Honduras with 60 pre-medical students from UCSB and doctors from across Southern California.

Since there is a shortage of doctors in Honduras, many citizens from all around needed intensive medical treatment. This is why the group, Global Medical Brigades, was founded-to help these people in need. Most of the work is done by ambitious college students with the help of a small administrative team and several volunteer doctors.

Each day we traveled to a new part of Honduras. We would leave early in the morning for a different destination preselected by the administration based on need. When our bus pulled up to the site where we would be working for the day, there were already thousands of people lined up waiting for us. We would work for as long as needed, until everyone was seen. Many days we worked for more than 10 hours straight.

We were busy all day, whether it was working in the pharmacy giving medications to the patients, shadowing doctors, translating, working in orphanages or handing out donated souvenirs that we brought from the United States.

In Honduras, there is a dramatically increasing number of people who are dying from lung diseases from the burning of trash in their own homes. They do not have fireplaces in their houses and they burn their trash in their stoves, which creates toxic gases and are horrible to breathe. This is why we spent three days building fireplaces for families all around Honduras.

All of the doctors were in a different field of medicine so we were able to assist everyone with their various medical needs. Our teams did minor operations on patients, and it was amazing to see how much that helped them. One 60-year-old farmer had not been able to see for about 10 years, and we were able to prescribe him glasses that made him see perfectly. To see the faces of the patients and the families light up when you are able to help them in any way was the most rewarding experience.

We were able help so many people on the trip — the numbers totaled more than 2,500 patients — but there is still so much work to be done to help the less fortunate, which is why I’m creating a high school group to continue this mission to Honduras.

Kiki Katsev is a junior at San Marcos High School and sports editor of the school newspaper,The King’s Page.