Feb 8th, 2012 by USCollegeTrojan
I had the experience of a lifetime this past January as I traveled to Honduras with USC’s Global Medical Brigades (GMB) financially sponsored by my friends and family — I came back changed, wholly and completely.
The second we got to our compound located 1.5 hrs outside of the capital city, Tegucigalpa, we only had time to put down our bags before heading over to the orphanage across the street. That’s where I fell in love with Sandra, the little girl pictured in the photo. Run by donations alone, many of the workers, or tías, grew up in the same orphanage themselves. We got to play with the kids who instantly referred to us as amigos, or friends. I soon learned that children don’t mind if you mess up while trying to speak Spanish to them; rather, they correct you with unlimited patience and kindness. The next day, we braved a treacherous and windy path up the mountains to a remote village (during which we had to cross several rivers – even one on foot!) where we joined Public Health Brigades for a day of laying concrete floors. Many health issues can arise with dirt floors, especially asthma. We spent the day in the houses of two families, mixing concrete and laying a new foundation for these deserving people.
The rest of our time in Honduras was spent at a medical clinic we set up on a school compound 3 hrs away. We had several stations: intake, triage, doctor, OB/GYN, dentist, charla (discussion about sanitation, etc), and pharmacy. I was able to use my Spanish to help translate for the doctors and my fellow students as we asked patients about their symptoms, extracted teeth, and distributed prescriptions. The stories of the people who visited our clinic, the hours they had walked and their overall quality of life still gives me goose bumps. Not only did I learn a lot and get hands-on experience, but I also formed relationships with these people.
It’s mind blowing to think that what seemed to me as a little sacrifice on my part truly changed their lives. I treasure each moment spent with them: their happiness to learn I spoke their language, their sincerity when thanking me, and their humbleness when accepting the donations we brought along with us. While at the clinic I met Fernando (also pictured) and his grandmother. Fernando and I took an instant liking to one another, and he refused to let me put him down when we were together. It took everything in me not to take him on the bus with me back to our compound, back to the United States. His grandma gave me a small piece of candy on our last day, telling me that accepting it was a promise to return to Honduras – to return to her. I took the candy because I’d realized that this type of medical mission trip couldn’t be a one-time thing, but it was an investment and a commitment to improve the lives of those in underdeveloped countries.
It’s true: Honduras changes you. I have no doubt that this is true about service trips to many other countries as well. Honduras caused me to self-reflect on my goals and aspirations: was I planning a future for myself or for the betterment of the world I live in? I spent a lot of time researching Doctors Without Borders when I returned, and I’ve realized it is something I would love to do in the future! I was recently elected to the Executive Board for GMB as Vice-President, and I feel so fortunate to have a way to stay involved with this amazing organization.
I don’t go a day without thinking about the people I met back in Honduras – Sandra and Fernando included, and I’m sure there will be many more trips to Honduras in my future :)