UCLA students travel to Mexico to help residents of small community

- Wearing their bright blue shirts with a clown fish on the front, students gather at 4 a.m. on the UCLA campus. 

"We are the FISH people. We are the people with the little happy Nemo faces," senior Brandon Salas said.

FISH stands for Fellowship for International Service and Help. The Bruin student volunteer organization travels to a little town known as Maclovio Rojas in Mexico, roughly 10 miles outside of Tijuana.

"Maclovio Rojas is a squatter community in Mexico. Pretty young compared to many communities around in the region. It's an area that's been under-resourced for a long period of time," explained student Shan Srinivas.

On this particular day, the students are setting up a clinic. They’re bringing a local doctor from Tijuana to help with basic medical checkups.

"I think it’s important to understand that we live on a globe. It's not just a country," Srinivas said. "There are things that exist called health disparities. People have different access to healthcare. Everyone should help reduce the burden in a sustainable and ethical manner."

While some students help administer blood pressure tests, others help children in the classroom teaching them basic words in English.

"We come to Mexico thinking we’re the teachers, the mentors but in reality it's the students here, the kids who teach us the most," student Alejandro said. "After every trip I take with me a bigger feeling of passion for teaching.

For the Last 10 years, members of FISH have been taking this journey across the border every two weeks. They say they do it because the residents of Maclovio Rojas desperately need the help.

FOX 11 spoke to one resident who said the children in the community love the UCLA FISH students, and another woman we spoke to appreciated the English lessons the kids are getting every two weeks.

"All these little kids come running into the building and they’re so eager to have their English lessons and they’re really counting on us to be there, which I like that feeling," said sophomore Lauren De Sa. "It makes me feel worthwhile."

"What I take from the students is their internal gratitude," Alejandro said. "How much they appreciate what we give them. So I want to take that back to my life in Los Angeles... just to appreciate the small things."

While some students in this FISH group will be graduating this year, new students will be signing up -- excited to be taking on such a compassionate journey.

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