Yesterday, a team of volunteers from San Benito and San Antonio woke up at 4:30 AM to travel to El Aceituno, near Tegucigalpa, for the Medical Brigade. The early start was not as painful as anticipated; we were treated with the sun rising over Honduras’s unrivalled mountainous landscape and the national’s ceaseless energy that, if anything, seemed amplified by the early hour.
We arrived in Tegucigalpa and were met by the Scouts, who were assisting in the Medical Brigade. They resembled the Scouts back in the UK, complete with sewn badges on their uniform and an endless supply of ‘Dinamicas’, which, I have quickly learnt, are the key to a successful day’s work in Honduras. Most of the Scouts spoke very good English and, getting to know them a bit better, I learnt that a lot of them had attended bilingual schools. One of the girls I spoke to was studying Engineering in Taiwan and was volunteering with the Scouts during her summer. After the group energisers, we boarded a school bus and travelled to the community. In order to reach the rural community, we had to cross a wobbly bridge over a river and then enjoyed a scenic ten minute walk up the mountain.
We finally arrived in El Aceituno, which has a small population of around 150. The community was spread out and was, in every sense of the word, ‘rural’. This made me very excited to be part of helping people who have no easy access to medical care whatsoever. Joining us for the day were student doctors from Tegucigalpa. They had prepared a questionnaire that they gave to the community; collecting information such as when they last received vaccinations, if they had any bone fractures and their blood type. They also took their blood pressure and told them general information about how to look after themselves.
Then it was our turn to give our pre-prepared presentations on staying healthy. We explained basic hygiene and water sanitation, oral hygiene, the symptoms of mosquito-borne diseases and nutrition. However, there were some slight communication problems. The Scouts had taken the lead on organising the day and were unaware that we had also prepared very similar presentations to themselves. We decided to continue with what we had both planned and thankfully, the great energy of the brigade was not disrupted by this small issue. It nonetheless highlighted to us the importance of remaining flexible and positive when things do not go to plan.
Afterwards, we did some activities with the children to make it a memorable and fun day for them. We painted their faces, read stories, made bracelets and played some group games, led by the Scouts. For me, this was the highlight of the day. Handing out toothbrushes to the children, I noticed how thrilled they were that all these people had travelled far distances to spend their time and resources with them. This underlined to me how small-scale initiatives may not help millions of people, but the number of people it does help, no matter how small, is of a good quality.
After a great day, it was finally time to say goodbye. The Scouts and the young medics were brilliant; enthusiastic, knowledgeable and very good at what they do. Through speaking to them, it was clear that most had received good opportunities, which probably helped them to get to where they are today. It is sad to think that those living in rural communities, like El Aceituno, are unlikely to come across such opportunities as readily. This made me fully realise the importance of programmes like ICS, which offer important opportunities to young people around the world, that we so often take for granted in the UK.
Written by ICS volunteer Frankie Lister-Fell