The first time Ben Colby, Class of '03, went on the Bucknell Brigade to Nicaragua, in March 2001, he helped put the finishing touches on a health clinic in Nueva Vida, a resettlement area for residents who lost their homes during Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
A group of children came to visit the Brigadistas each day they worked at the clinic, Colby recalled, playing games or just wanting to interact with their American visitors. The clinic, which was built and continues to be supported with Bucknell donations, was dedicated that year, and the children took part in the celebration.
"Some of the same kids came around every day to play with us," Colby recalled. "Some had signs of malnutrition. I had never seen kids with streaks of blond hair and pot bellies from malnutrition. At the same time, they could play and interact with us. That's something you see a lot in Nicaragua: The contrast between desperation and hope."
The experience made an impression on Colby, who returned to Nicaragua with the Brigade as a student-leader in 2003 and twice more as an alumnus, including a trip in March for the 10th anniversary of the service-learning effort. Colby's career goals also have been influenced by the Brigade. After working for an educational travel company for five years, Colby is pursuing his master's in bio-imaging at Boston University. He plans to apply to medical school next year.
Like others who have been to Nicaragua on the Brigade more than once, Colby has found that each trip affected him in a different way. During his first Brigade trip, Colby struggled to find hope amid scenes of stark poverty. On his second trip, he found strength in helping others reconcile with those same feelings. In 2004, as an alumnus, he started to question his career goals and he reaffirmed his commitment to service learning.
"That was the trip that prompted me to question the decisions I made after Bucknell and whether they really fit with my deep desires and interest in service," Colby said.
When he returned to the travel company, Colby began to focus more on promoting educational service programs in developing countries in Central America. Later, he decided what he really wanted was to pursue a career in medicine.
On the March Brigade trip, Colby took his dad, Gil, with him. The two developed a mutual pride for completing the experience together. Ben Colby also reaffirmed his commitment to outreach in Central America. He decided that whatever medical specialty he chooses, he will make service in developing countries part of his work, as Dr. Don Stechschulte, Bucknell's director of student health services, has.
"Being around the clinic and seeing the impact Don Stechschulte and (others) had on the patients, I want to feel like I'm having an impact on that," he said.