This year, I decided to devote my spring break to the people of Honduras through Global Medical Brigades. In just one week, my Brigade, composed of 23 U of A students plus me, provided medical aid as well as public health services to over 400 Honduran people. In a makeshift medical clinic set up in a small rural town, we worked alongside doctors as they assessed the medical conditions of their patients, dentists as they performed fillings and teeth extractions, and pharmacists as they filled prescriptions for every person who visited either a doctor or dentist. We taught kids how to brush their teeth and provided fluoride treatments on each one to further strengthen their teeth. At the end of the week, we built stoves with chimneys in six homes to prevent those families from inhaling soot from the fireplaces typically used for cooking. Although every day was definitely filled with hard work, this spring break was the most rewarding one in my life.
The highlight of the trip was meeting the people of Honduras. When I think about this developing country, I can recall so many grateful smiles. Engraved forever in my memory is the little girl who gave me a tight hug after receiving her fluoride treatment; the look of relief on a mother’s face after her child’s impacted tooth was removed; the excitement in the eyes of the owner of a newly built stove as the flames danced in it for the first time. These people had put so much trust in us, treating us like we were doctors. They didn’t care that my Spanish es muy malo or that I had to take their blood pressure several times. All they needed was health care and many were willing to walk up to seven hours to get it. The Honduran people were grateful that we provided medicinal attention, but we should thank them for clearly demonstrating the reason why many choose medicine: we want to help people, and in Honduras that’s what we did.
Honduras was not what I expected for a country located so close to the equator. I was prepared for humidity and jungles, but the air was mostly dry, and I saw more pine trees than anything else. What was not unexpected was the heat. After a long day at the clinic, the best feeling was the cold water from the shower washing away all of that day’s sweat. Even better was the feeling of the nighttime breeze as I swung in the hammocks right outside our room. While I wouldn’t call it a vacation, my trip to Honduras was calming. I was too far from the demanding atmosphere of the U of A to be thinking about homework and scholarship applications and exams. Instead, I spent my free time getting to know my fellow Brigaders, looking at the stars and landscape, reading, and playing some intense games of Mafia with everyone else. Unfortunately, this meant that I was scrambling to finish assignments when I got back to the States, but it was worth it!
Made on a whim, my decision to go to Honduras over spring break definitely changed my life, and I am willing to bet that the other Brigaders felt the same way. I met amazing people, many of whom are fellow students at the U of A, and learned how medicine is practiced when resources are minimal. My experiences in Honduras have energized my passion to help people in the future. I can’t wait to do it again next year!