After the U.S. Department of State placed Honduras on its travel warning list, Penn State officials decided to cancel the Global Brigades trip scheduled for spring break, Global Operations Coordinator and International Risk Analyst Kara Amoratis said.
Though in past years, the Global Brigades organization in Honduras has provided groups with precautionary security measures like armed guards, Penn State cannot allow students to travel there this year, Campus Chairman of Penn State’s Global Brigades chapter Michael Henry said.
In order for international travel to be granted, the Center for Student Engagement for Student Affairsmust make sure that all of the requirements on the international risk management checklist have been fulfilled. After everything is complete, it is then sent to risk management for approval, Associate Director for the Center of Student Engagement for Student Affairs Darcy Rameker said.
“Part of that checklist is to ensure that the country is not on the travel warning list,” Rameker said. “If we know that one of the requirements on the checklist has not been fulfilled, then it is not sent down to risk management for approval.”
Global Brigades, the largest student-led health and sustainable development organization in the country, has traveled to Honduras for the past few years during spring break. The group sends thousands of college students to Ghana, Honduras, Panama and Nicaragua. Penn State is Global Brigades’ largest university chapter, according to Medical Brigades’ website.
Penn State has seven out of nine different brigades that make two to three trips a year, according to the group’s website. Medical, Public Health, Water, Human Rights, Business, Architecture and Environmental are the seven brigades offered at Penn State, according to the website.
Members of Water and Medical Brigades had planned to travel to Honduras during spring break, Henry (senior-immunology and infectious diseases) said. Water Brigades travels to two countries, Ghana and Honduras, and because the group just traveled to Ghana over winter break, many decided to go with Public Health Brigades and travel to Panama instead, Henry said.
Some students, like Mitchell Johnson, a Water Brigades officer, have mixed feelings about the canceled trip.
“It is really disappointing that the trip is canceled because so much planning went into the trip, and it is really a shame that these people will not have this great opportunity,” Johnson (senior-environmental systems engineering) said. “But the one positive side is that people have been able to go into disciplines.”
But Iris Guo, co-president of Medical Brigades, said the cancellation actually provides a good opportunity for students to experience other countries, especially since they have traveled to Honduras for multiple years.
“Honduras has the most programs, but in the past, especially with [Medical Brigades] we have started to move away from Honduras because it is so established that the country has not needed such an influx of Penn State students specifically,” Guo (senior-biology) said.
Henry traveled to Honduras about a year after a military coup, and despite the university’s decision to cancel the trip, said that out of the three times he has traveled to Honduras, he has never felt “uncomfortable.”