Student Spotlight: Dustin Anderson

Photograph courtesy of Dustin Anderson ustin Anderson, center, spent the summer volunteering in Guatemalan clinics.
Photograph courtesy of Dustin Anderson
ustin Anderson, center, spent the summer volunteering in Guatemalan clinics.

One Chico State student plans to spend his upcoming winter break volunteering in medical clinics and experiencing the unpredictability of traveling to Guatemala.

Dustin Anderson, a senior microbiology major, has been to Guatemala three times already, but is heading back to work on his honors thesis. He will be comparing the health goals of different volunteer organizations to those of the government, he said.

“I’m hoping to connect the two so they can help each other out,” Anderson said.

This summer, Anderson volunteered in rural Guatemalan clinics through a diabetes screening campaign. He spent between 4 and 5 hours each day working in a clinic. His trip was made possible by the International Volunteer HQ program, which aims to help volunteers travel to developing countries.

Anderson also helped vaccinate Guatemalans. He raised $500 and used the money to buy glucometers and other diabetes testing materials for different clinics.

Anderson helped set up free diabetes screenings for the locals, he said.

“There were five people that were full-blown diabetic and didn’t know it,” Anderson said. “Around 15 or 20 people were pre-diabetic and didn’t know it.”

Anderson decided to travel to Guatemala after becoming passionate about the disparities in wealth and the widespread poverty that exists in the world, he said.

“I wanted to experience it and see it all for myself,” Anderson said.

When Anderson arrived, he was connected with a host family that treated him like their own son, he said. It was a way to experience true Guatemalan culture.

“They would call me their son and I would call them mom and dad,” Anderson said. “I got to eat homemade meals and see the everyday struggles they went through.”

Anderson’s favorite part about being in Guatemala was traveling to a village called Zunil to see the nearby hot springs, he said.

“All along the way we had no idea what was going to happen and depending on people to help us get there,” he said.

They arrived too late to catch a ride to get to the hot springs, Anderson said.

“We spent the night at a stranger’s house for like two dollars,” he said. “I had the most uncomfortable night of sleep there, with people yelling outside and dogs barking. There was a dog with rabies on the roof right above us.”

One of the hardest parts about living in Guatemala was not being able to help everyone, Anderson said.

“You want to be able to just give kids money, but does that really benefit them?” he said. “You would want to teach them something, rather than just give it to them. If you give money to one person, others will wonder why they aren’t as deserving as the other.”

Anderson hopes that other people will acknowledge the struggles in other countries, he said. He encourages everyone to find one thing to be passionate about, he said.

“We are far too complacent,” Anderson said. “We need to care and we need to help.”


Sharon Martin can be reached at or @sharonbmartin on Twitter.