February 21, 2017
Serving as co-president of the UCCS Medical Brigades alongside senior biology major Colleen Remien, senior biology major Lukas Kaugars spends his time helping others in need.
The 130-member club, which is in its second year, works closely with Global Brigades, an international nonprofit that works with student volunteers to improve health and economic development in Central America and West Africa.
Global Brigades also does dental, engineering, civil law and general water sanitation. Their holistic model is why the club wanted to be involved with them, according to Kaugars.
This year, 57 students will be going to Nicaragua from May 15-21, and Kaugars said that the trip will look similar to the one in Panama.
“It doesn’t matter what your financial status is, if you want to help, we want you to come help,” added Kaugars.
“There’s an opportunity for this chapter to hugely expand on campus.”
So far, $26,424 has been donated out of the donation goal of $44,750, according to the Global Brigades website fundraiser page for the UCCS chapter.
Last year, the club raised $60,000 and was able to bring 37 students to Panama for seven days. There, they spent three days running clinics, which included taking heart rates and blood pressure. Students were also able to sit in on physician consults.
Two days were spent running public health seminars, also called “charlas.” The seminars were based around general and dental hygiene. At the end of the seminar, participants received hygiene packs that included essentials such as soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
“The idea was that not only have we taught these people these things, (but) we’ve also given them the fresh water and the sinks so that they can actually implement these good health practices,” said Kaugars.
Kaugars’s involvement with the club is not his first foray into international experience. He previously competed internationally as a figure skater.
In 2008, Kaugars had his first qualifying season. The young figure skater was on the U.S. National team from 2008-2014 and competed nationally for Team USA from 2012-2014.
“I decided to just go for it to see what would happen and ended up winning my first qualifier ever and going to nationals,” said Kaugars.
During 2014-2016, Kaugars represented Latvia, where his family is originally from. In 2014, Kaugars was the Latvia national champion in figure skating and in 2015, he took home the bronze.
But Latvia could not sponsor the sport due to its high cost of $60,000 a year, so Kaugars hung up his skates in February 2016.
“Everything I’ve done has been for me and to better myself as an athlete. Now it’s for someone else.”
Kaugars said that one of the goals of the club this year is to hold fundraisers so that more people can go on the trips.
Students who want to donate to this cause for the upcoming trip to Nicaragua can go to globalbrigades.org.
Students who are interested in becoming a part of the UCCS Global Medical Brigades chapter can read more information on the chapter’s Mountain Lion Connect page or contact Remien at [email protected].