Volunteering is something that’s always appealed to me. Giving back to others less fortunate than you and making a difference in their lives, the feeling is indescribable.
I travelled to Honduras in January with Global Brigades DCU on a Water and Public Health Brigade. When I started college, I promised myself that I wouldn’t leave without volunteering abroad. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Fifteen of us met at Dublin Airport, most of us having never spoken before. A few awkward introductions, three flights and an overnight stay in Houston Airport later, we landed in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa.
After months of fundraising and preparation, everything finally felt real as we stepped out into the notorious heat with our translator, co-ordinator and security men.
Why security? Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries in the world supposedly, and our pale skin is a sign of wealth.
Despite the country’s bad reputation, I’ve never met nicer people in my life. Their happiness and positivity despite having very little and living off the equivalent of €2.50 a day is admirable.
The first part of our brigade consisted of building a water system for the people of the poverty-stricken Los Huatales community. The work was extremely tough but incredibly rewarding.
We dug knee-high trenches in 35 degree heat, pick-axing and shovelling the rocky ground. The adults of the community worked on the project too, as the kids joined in eagerly.
An image that will never leave my mind is two year old Oscar, bare-footed in the trenches using a pick-axe twice his size without a care in the world. He wasn’t asked to or forced to help, he just wanted to be involved.
To see this was really touching. These kids were working for their future, so they could have a better life than the people before them.
The final day of our water brigade saw us laying pipes and covering them, bringing the project to life and seeing the difference that we had made.
In the evenings, we reflected on our day’s work with our brigade leaders and followed this up with some socialising and games.
The second half of our brigade focused on public health in the rural community of Fray Lazaro. Through this, we were grouped with a family to build them a hygiene station, an eco-stove and to concrete their floors.
I spent a huge amount of my time working on the hygiene station, which consisted of a shower, a toilet and a water storage unit. We worked alongside Santos, an elderly mason who had a huge impact on the group.
Santos’ wife died when their kids were young and he raised thirteen children single-handedly, all of whom left him and never returned.
The family we worked with treated us like royalty. They made us food and coffee, gave us small gifts and thanked us every few minutes.
This alone was quite humbling. To see how much our small helping hand meant to community members was astounding.
Playing with the children of the community was one of the highlights of the brigade for me. They were full of energy and played tirelessly. Despite their lack of English and our very basic Spanish, communication was easier than ever through smiles and laughter.
Our last day in Honduras was an education day in the local school. We taught the children about basic sanitation and the importance of clean water through games, songs and dances.
My experience definitely changed me for the better, and the others in my group feel the same. Not only this, but I made lifelong friends and made a huge difference to other people’s lives in the meantime.
Volunteering abroad is something I think everyone should do during their college experience, or at some stage in their lives. It completely changes your outlook on life, and encourages you to appreciate the world we were born into.