My first experience with Global Brigades was in March of 2009 - during my Spring break. I traveled with a group of about 70 UCSD students to Honduras, where we were organized into 4 groups responsible for different projects - medical, dental, public health, and water. I was with the public health group, and our tasks included building a water-storage unit called the pila at an assigned household, as well as educating both the children and adults the importance of personal hygiene in preventing contagious and water/air-borne diseases. The households which received our aid were determined by in-country coordinators who interviewed the family based on their needs. Our large group stayed at a stylish (I want to say late 19th century Spanish style) and clean facility called El Rapico, and was joined by fellow brigaders from Northwestern as well as Oregon State. The accommodations and food were far beyond what I had expected coming into one of the poorest Central American countries. The staff treated and fed us extremely well.
The village we worked at is called Los Pajarillos, and each day (for 5 days) we took a what must have been a leaf spring suspension-equipped minivan (for all the car geeks out there, you know this is bad news...) to travel about an hour 15 minutes on mostly dirt and rocky roads passing through small towns, sugar crane fields and factories, boys and men with machetes, starving dogs, and cowboys on bicycles. It's an uncomfortable ride, but this vastly different and intriguing world transforms your sore butt and back into part of the experience. As you will discover in the photos, our group of 3+1 (students + local staff) finished the beautiful, and hopefully not leaky, pila on the 4th day. We spent time during lunch and after work on most days feeding & playing with the children at the village. Everyone in the village was very open to our presence even though most of us didn't speak Spanish. The kids absolutely loved us and their smiles were simply genuine and unforgettable. On the last day at Los Pajarillos, our group formulated an education lesson for both the children and adults to teach them about the existence of germs & bacteria and how to minimize the intake and spread of these disease-causing micro organisms. Remember, this is completely revolutionary to them!
I understand this was not an environmental brigade, but believe that through these pictures the value and format of our adventures could convey how a week spent helping people you have never met before can be so valuable and unforgettable. My hope and belief is that our trip this coming December will be just as amazing!!
Photos by yours truly.