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Aileen Boyle

9/10/14
Reflection A
About a month ago, I embarked on a medical / dental brigade to Honduras.
Every day, we traveled from our compound to a community called Jalaca in rural
Honduras. The first day, as I wrote in my journal, I keep oscillating back and forth
between excitement and nerves. I had no idea what to expect. I felt like I did not know
what I was doing, I had never had any hands on medical experience and I barely even
spoke Spanish. I had no idea how I would possibly be any help. I began to question why
I had signed up for this.
Once we got there, I saw that an elementary school had been converted into a
medical clinic, and the first thing I noticed was the long line of people who were waiting
patiently for us to arrive. We were all assigned to different stations where we would
assist the doctors and the global brigades workers. Each patient was able to get an initial
medical consult where they told us what had been bothering them. If necessary, they
were also referred to other specialists we had with us on the brigade, like gynecology or
dental. After each person had been seen by a doctor, they were prescribed appropriate
medication and were given about a month to three months supply. In addition, we gave
them multivitamins and hygiene packs. One day, I worked in charla, which is the Spanish
word for chat. Here, we taught the children how to brush their teeth and gave them
fluoride treatments. One thing I noticed while I was doing this was that a lot of the
children had teeth that were already rotten. Because of this, this simple act of teaching
oral hygiene seemed to really matter.
On my second day in the clinic, I worked in triage, the initial patient consult. I
saw a lot of the same problems over and over; common cold, high blood pressure and
evidence of parasites. A lot of people had minor aches and pains and I think coming to
the clinic and getting themselves and their children checked gave them a peace of mind
more than anything.
We were told before the brigade that bridges were the only time some of these
people were going to see in their lives. Also, to them, American doctors were very
reliable and good. Upon hearing this, a lot of the concepts in Adam Davis essay ran
through my mind. I wondered if us traveling to this country to offer our help made it
seem like we were superior, We who have moremore money or more time or more
education or more energy or more freedomshould close the distance between
ourselves and those we serve (Davis, 6). Davis says that service could potentially be
seen as solidifying this gap and this inequality. I was worried it might look this way when
we served this community. I did not want to seem like the saintly, do gooder, white
people who felt obligated to serve the poor. I did not want to degrade these people and
make them feel inferior. However, the attitude of the people we served did not reflect
this at all. They were very grateful, and patient and kind. I felt grateful to get to work
with them and to experience their culture.
Another worry that I had before the brigade was that one group of students
visiting a community for three days would hardly make a difference in this impoverished
village. However, one thing I learned was that every patient counts. Even if we are able
to alleviate one toothache, diagnose one woman with cervical cancer before it got too
bad, provide prenatal vitamins to one woman, it made a difference. Our group also go
the opportunity to visit Ojochal which was a community visited by Loyola last year. By
now, all the brigades have come though and we got to see how Global Brigades has
really made a difference. Some people on our trip told us last year when they did clinical
check ups, almost everyone had parasites from drinking the water. Asthma and other
health issues occurred from the smoky, poorly insulated houses. When we visited, they
were celebrating the fact that they no longer had to travel 3 miles each way to get
water. Thanks to global brigades, they had clean, portable water. The architecture
brigade resigned their kitchens so that now there was a separate, well-ventilated room
for cooking. It was amazing to see these happy, healthy people so grateful to our
program because it really did change their lives in the long run, not just for the time
being. This really touched my heart and made me feel like, even though we were only
here for a short period of time, it mattered to these people.
My doubts about the impact of our brigade came to me because when I would
explain to people why I was traveling all the way to Honduras for service work, I had
trouble explaining why. I could not even explain it to myself. According to Adam Davis,
SIG, service is good, and we serve for a few reasons, (1) we are Gods children; (2) we
share the earth; (3) I find myself in you; (4) I win praise by serving you; (5) I suck (Davis,
3). I cannot really see myself identifying with any of these reasons. I do believe that we
are all inherently equal, and of course the praise of service is pleasant, but that is not
why I do service.
I think that after coming back, I can finally answer this question; I do service
because I believe it really makes a difference. I believe that change starts with small,
selfless acts. I believe that no one deserves to suffer because of the conditions they are
in and anything I can do to alleviate this is wonderful. I believe that people are
inherently good and that we should help one another. In Jalaca, it was beautiful to see
how the people looked out for each other. When I was working in charla, the older kids
would look out for the younger ones, even if they were not related. When I worked in
OBY GYN, a mother traveled a long way to the clinic, not for herself, but worried sick
about her daughter who had recently miscarried. I do not think this falls into any of the
categories Davis presented. Maybe in the idea that we share the earth, we are all a
community and communities look out for each other and share. But I also think that we
should encourage love and compassion because these can create a chain reaction.
I am so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to travel to Honduras for this
experience. It is interesting to compare my first journal entry, which was basically just a
list of my worries to my last entry which was a lengthy account of the people I met and
the things I saw as well as everything I learned and experienced. When we left Jalaca,
the teacher from the school came out and gave a touching speech where he called us a
gift from God. I also talked in my final entry about how inspired I was by the GB
workers, the doctors and my fellow brigaders. I loved seeing the impact in the
communities we visited, but I also loved seeing the impact this trip had on me. I am
much more confident about what I want to do with my future and how important it is
that service plays a role in that.

Works Cited
Davis, Adam. "What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Service." (n.d.): n. pag.

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