We arrived in Arcatao on Thursday afternoon, sweaty from our two-hour journey down the stunning highways accompanied by huge delivery trucks and flatbeds filled with cattle. We ate lunch together before being driven to our host families. Here are some of the comments from our fellow volunteers about their first impressions and experiences with their host families:

“My family consists of four guys - one of the national volunteers, his brother, dad and nephew. The family are lovely and have made us feel very welcome (despite my poor Spanish skills!).” - Jack Appleby

“I live with Darmian, Karmen, Oscar and Antonio. The family have made me feel comfortable and continue to make me feel at home. On another note the toilet is outside and the route is blocked by lots of chickens, which has meant I have had to wee in a bottle now on three separate occasions!.” - Anonymous

“It’s an unusual and awkward experience presenting yourself to a cohort of strangers who you will share a house with for over two months. My host family ushered myself and my roomie Rob into a small room where it became apparent the lengths to which they had gone to accommodate our needs - pitching up mosquito nets, providing freshly washed sheets and decorating the otherwise plain room. This was summed up with huge grins and cries of “buenas”! Since then they have continued to be outstanding hosts. Rob and I have been introduced to the whole family we live with all of which have offered help, smiles and numerous bananas from their nearby field. We have only been here a week but already we both call it home.”- Alessandro Zicchieri 

Volunteers with wheelbarrows

This week has been a definite dip in the deep end for the climate, culture and activities! Our first weekend here included a trip to mass on Sunday morning. This begins at 8am, for which the whole town - including roosters, chickens, horses, dogs and cats - wakes up four hours beforehand in preparation. This was an amazing opportunity for our team leaders Rob and Kurby to introduce the group and explain why we were volunteering and working in local youth projects. 

We eat lunch everyday with the national volunteers, which has been a fantastic opportunity to improve our Spanish skills and for the nationals to familiarise themselves with some English. During orientation week we managed to break the ice with the nationals through arm wrestling, water fights and sweaty discos - so the team is getting on really well, despite the fact we have to muddle along with sign language occasionally.

We eat in the Centro Mátires de Sumpul (Centre for the Martyrs of Sumpul). This is dedicated to the victims of the Sumpul massacre who were from Arcatao and the surrounding communities. There is a mural depicting civilians attempting to flee to neighbouring Honduras during the twelve year civil war. It serves as a fitting reminder to why we are all here.

The Path to Peace is a beautiful, green dirt road that runs from Arcatao to the neighbouring town of El Portio. We saw a few of the sites where we will be building structures to allow local people to reflect on the events of the armed conflict that occurred in the region twenty four years ago. Preparations for the construction are going well. We collected plastic bottles from the local streets in the area around Centro Bartolomé de Las Casas (CBC) house (our local partner organisation) that will be used as part of bio-construction, alongside natural materials such as dug clay and bamboo.

Volunteers recycling bottles

Today we have looked at an overview for all the activities and workshops that we will be hosting in our short time here, and they all look fantastic. Hopefully, the glorious weather will continue so that we can start building as quickly as possible and get out in the community.

Written by ICS volunteers Katherine Maloney, Katherine Maynard and Benjamin White