BUILDing Global Health

Aggies in BUILD strengthen their bonds with each other and the world by building modular health care clinics to send abroad.

    By Anna Cairns ’20 ’23
  • Illustration by Matt Twombly
  • Oct. 19, 2022
    3 min read

After the tragic 1999 Aggie Bonfire collapse, Texas A&M University dissolved on-campus Bonfire, leaving the student body without a large-scale service project for the fall semester. Though he was not yet an Aggie when the stack fell, BUILD founder Bryson Sutterfield ’13 would eventually recognize this unmet need and resolve it through another initiative in its place: building health clinics in shipping containers for easy export to aid communities in need.  

Dr. Gordon Carstens, an animal nutrition professor and BUILD’s longtime advisor, believes that using service to honor others is a major part of the organization’s purpose. “One of my favorite moments as an advisor was in 2016, when we completed 12 units to honor the 12 victims of the Bonfire collapse,” he said. Today, those units operate all over the world, but mainly in South America. 

Photos provided by BUILD

The clinics fulfill different needs, from dentistry and pediatrics to general care. For many isolated communities, BUILD’s shipping containers may be the only medical care within hundreds of miles. In locations like the Jordan clinic that frequently serves Syrian refugees, a shipping container provides the comfort of privacy. When local residents suffer an injury or suspect a serious medical emergency, they often contact the clinic first to make sure the long journey to a hospital is warranted. Perhaps most importantly, the clinics provide preventative medicine, which includes immunizations and regular checkups. Prevention is critical for community health, and BUILD’s clinics help solve big problems with simple resources.    

Rather than managing the 37 finished clinics in far-flung, remote parts of the world, BUILD focuses on organizing Aggies stateside to build new operational clinics. After the final coat of paint dries and every screw is tightened, stewardship of the clinics passes to the non-governmental organizations that operate them. An application process ensures the clinics are put to good use, but times of crisis often call for impromptu decisions. One fall 2021 clinic was sent to Ukraine to replace a destroyed hospital.  

“BUILD has an impact not only worldwide but also here at home,” said Emily Rapp ’23, BUILD’s chief financial officer. “The experiences we have together as students are so rare. The volunteers are all 18 to 22, yet here we are, working on something so important and meaningful. To be entrusted with this task is a huge honor.”

Make an Impact

Want to join BUILD’s worldwide impact? Donate today to help cover the costs of supplies, allowing students to construct additional clinics to send to new locations.

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