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Re: My time in Global Brigades and our trip to Honduras

Re: My time in Global Brigades and our trip to Honduras

I’m back from my trip and tanner than ever!! The last 9 days were spent on a medical, dental, and public health brigade to Honduras with the U of T chapter of Global Brigades.

Selfie of me and my friend Melanie
My friend Melanie and I as triage partners on the first day of the brigade: we carried out patient intake, took blood pressures, and dazzled locals with our excellent Spanish skills.

In my last post, I explained some of the things that we’d get to do on the trip such as shadow dentists, hold public health education sessions for kids, and organize prescriptions for patients.

Our triage table is a tiny little yellow wooden table. On it lies hand sanitizer, a blood pressure cuff, a stethoscope, alcohol swabs, water bottles, pens, and a folder where we hold our forms and translation booklets.
Our little triage table, where we spoke to incoming locals and filled out their patient forms before they proceeded to see doctors, dentists, or pharmacists. Photo: Melanie Marques.

However, the most memorable portion of the brigade would have to be the public health aspect. The brigaders separated into smaller groups and spent our days with one local family to build an eco-stove and a pila which included a shower, toilet, laundry board, and clean water storage.

An outside room. In the corner of the room is a rectangular containment made of cement and bricks, which forms the base of the eco-stove.
The beginnings of an eco-stove for our family. Eco-stoves are critical installations that help prevent the incidence of chronic respiratory diseases – a class of disease that is very common in rural areas of Honduras.

I’ve always enjoyed building things so I was looking forward to this. While the heat felt like the tenth circle of hell and the bruises on my legs made it seem as though I were kept in a cellar and tortured for months, I could not regret a single aspect of the experience. Besides the proud feeling I got from making something with my own hands, I was so honoured to have spent the time getting to know the family I was serving. They were a perfect representation of all the locals I met in Honduras: friendly, warm, and incredibly hospitable. Armando and Jorgito (see also: Jorge) – grandsons of the house – are arguably the cutest and happiest children I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. We managed to teach Armando five different sports (in which he quickly became better than me). Plus the two children were always willing to put up with what poquito Spanish I could speak.

Armando stands in his rocky, dusty front yard wearing no shoes and wacking away at a ball with a metal rod.
Lovely Armando in the process of becoming a star baseball player with nothing but a metal rod, a globe-patterned ball, and all the carefree joy that can possibly be contained in a human being.

Saying goodbye to our new family on the last day was bittersweet. It broke my heart leaving these little ones and their wonderful community. I could’ve been a native Spanish speaker and still wouldn’t have been able to find the words to express how thankful and glad I was for their kindness in welcoming us into their lives. But I was also glad to leave after having installed vital tools that would hopefully improve the quality of their lives.

The walls of the main house itself are bright orange while the walls of the kitchen, which is a separate room from the rest of the house, is a simple white plaster. There is a very narrow alley between the two rooms and one must often squeeze in sideways to get to the entrance of the kitchen from the side of the house.
The small alley between our family’s outdoor kitchen and the rest of their house.

The most important thing I learned from this trip is that the ability to acknowledge each other as having equal human experiences is something that transcends lingual, cultural, or socioeconomic differences. And while I travelled a long way to assist this Honduran community, service to others does not need to be done on such a grandiose scale. Compassion can be performed and felt in something as simple as a smile or a wave.

The back of the truck driving in front of us. The silhouettes of three riders peek out from on top of bundles of wheat in the back of the truck. One man raises his arm and does the "rock and roll" sign to our car.
On the ride back from visiting a rural community, we encountered some locals riding in the back of a truck on top of some wheat(?) bundles. One local is apparently a fan of rock and roll.

Having just come back to Canada, I am suffering from intense brigade withdrawal and honestly wish I could go back to that blisteringly hot country with coffee so good it makes everything else taste like murky swamp juice. I’m missing the lovely locals, GB staff, and my fellow brigaders. I’m so so so grateful for the experience and totally going to consider going with UTGB again for this next summer’s trip!

The capital of Tegucigalpa can be seen under our plane's wing. The sprawl of the city is littered with lowrise houses and the warm tones of clay roofs. In the background are the lush green mountains that are so characteristic of the Honduran landscape.
Aerial view of Honduras on the flight back to Toronto.

How has helping others impacted your own life? Has there been someone who has helped you along the way who inspires you? Let me know in the comments or shout us out on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!

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