This past March, I spent my spring break with UCI Public Health Brigades implementing construction projects alongside community members for three families in the rural community of El Canton. While our time in Honduras was short, we were building sustainable projects with the capacity to last for years to come, changing each family’s lives for the better through home infrastructure improvement and disease prevention.
Our families were the most genuine, good-hearted people I had ever met. Every day, they told us of how thankful they were for all our hard work and efforts. I remember the way the grandmother began to cry, repeating “Gracias, Gracias,” after we had finished construction. Thank you for helping build them an eco-stove, a latrine, a pila. A safe place where they can cook, a bathroom they could use in privacy, a clean source to store water. All things we never really pay attention to back home because it’s just an expectation to have. At despedida, I remember the grandfather described how he would never be able to repay us; that he and his family would be forever indebted to us for the sacrifices we made to help them. We told him rather that it’s us who will forever be indebted to him and his family for all the love and hospitality they showed us. Our little sacrifice of going there to help pales so much in comparison to the struggles they face and I don’t think they realize they teach us and give us so much more than we do in return.
It’s hard to put into words how much of an impact a brigade has on you. Yet I’ll always remember my family’s looks of excitement at the finished hygiene station, their overjoyed smiles when cooking over their eco-stove for the very first time, and the way the school children’s eyes lit up with pure happiness as we played games in the schoolyard during our education charla. I’ll always remember all the love and warmth that radiated from each of them as they welcomed us into their homes with open arms, growing closer throughout the week and learning more about Honduran culture despite the language barrier, and our tear filled goodbyes during despedida. After our farewells, I remember gathering around for pictures one last time, attempting to store and commit every sound, every detail to memory. I hoped all these moments would never slip from my grasp because I couldn’t imagine a time or place where so much love filled the room, where I had felt happier.