“Estamos aquí”

So… we have arrived safe and sound in Honduras and after 5 days I have already realized how difficult it is going to be to capture the experience in words… Nevertheless, in these blogs I will endeavor to share our experiences, pose questions about the issues faced in Honduras and try to give a voice to the people of Honduras that hopefully will be heard by as many people as possible!

So, first things first – Training week. I think the saying ‘start as you mean to go on’ is appropriate here. The week so far has definitely been a good start to our stay here in Honduras. Like I said it is difficult to describe my experience in this first week without talking your ears off, so I will give a short summary that I hope will capture the best parts.

We arrived in the capital, Tegucigalpa, on Tuesday afternoon (3rd October) and was greeted by a smiling Carmen and Jose (our in-country staff), the team leaders Claire and Nicole and the rest of the volunteers. As we set off from the airport to our accommodation we got the first glimpse of Honduran culture. I think the most fitting word for what we saw was ‘Vibrance’. The dusty red roads, the brightly painted houses with their corrugated steel roofs, the market places which were scattered along the streets, and the accompanying reggaeton music that made me feel like I was actually in my own movie… a colourful contrast to the familiar streets of England.

Since then, we have settled into our home for the week (paradise), and have been introduced to all the amazing people that are here to help us learn as much as we can. Having said this, the objective of this week has definitely been met. We have planted the seeds for lasting friendships, been educated on the projects we are to be involved in here in country, and have began a cultural exchange that will probably stay with us forever.

The classes we have attended have given us some basic knowledge on environmental conservation and governance, sexual health and gender in Honduras, health and safety, and first Aid. Essentially, the sessions have provided us with the skills we will need to be a positive part of the development projects that Progressio oversee here in Honduras. (A further blog will come which will detail some of these projects).

In terms of the volunteer team, we have participated in many team bonding games, that have resulted in many laughs, and probably more than many embarrassing moments; An experience that has broken the ice and allowed us to feel comfortable around each other in a very small window of time. Let’s just say we have witnessed Becca being the biggest chicken laying the smallest egg, Danny rapping the whole of the fresh prince of bel air theme tune and all of us dying one by one in a game of human cluedo. Fun stuff!

Today we took a trip into the town of Ojojona. Here we got to explore the area and interact with some of the people who make their living in the marketplace. Most of the stalls were run by women and children, with the men commanding the taxis and transportation. Slowly we are learning to use the Latin American language a bit more and with the help of Danny, and our secret weapon Rebecca, we managed to purchase some souvenirs and even learn a bit about the goods that were being sold on the market. To finish the day off we were taken to a beautiful landmark on the top of the hills where we played a game of football with some locals and befriended a litter of puppies!

I can already feel this blog getting slightly too long so I will end with the highlight of my week so far, which I think embodies the very purpose of us being here. During our lesson on HIV/AIDS and the role gender plays in Honduran culture, our teacher David explained to us how society can influence the way that we think of ourselves, and how this has provided the opportunity for society to dictate the role that gender plays in the lives of Honduran people. He reminded us that we must be ourselves and informed us that not everybody in Honduras will agree with us being here. He then explained that he was grateful that we were here and reassured us that we must use the goodness in our hearts to work with the people we meet and endeavor to make a change.

ICS volunteer Sharna Allen writes of her group's first week in Honduras.

Photo: ICS volunteers with AJEM during training week. An organisation dedicated to empowering young people through gender, sexual diiversity and sexual health awareness in Honduras.