An innovative model to improve health outcomes of rural families in low-resource countries.
Adam Drolet, PATH
Student leaders create Public Health Brigades clubs that mobilize ideas and action for global health equality.
Volunteers work with families to improve their health through building in-home infrastructure projects.
Volunteer, Mount Allison University Public Health Brigades Chapter
My name is Daniela Fernandez, and I am the VP for Public Health Brigades at Mount Allison University, in New Brunswick, Canada. This is my 3rd year being involved with Global Brigades, and the first thing that I would tell anyone about GB, is that it has changed my life in unimaginable ways and steered my life in the direction I always dreamed of from a young age. Having grown up in a “developing” country myself, I have strong ties to the work that Global Brigades carries out in Latin America and Africa, and ever since I became involved with the organization, my desire to pursue a career in International Development has only grown stronger. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what my favorite part of being involved with GB is, but in general, the friendships I have established with both the staff, the families, and fellow Canadian students have been extremely rewarding.
In terms of specifics, some of my favorite memories include the group reflections back at the compound after a day of construction, because they allow us all to reflect critically upon the work that we carry out, and the causes and implications of the social situation of many of the families we’ve met along the way. Times like these are the ones that allow us all, regardless of our background and experience, to come together to understand our circumstances and work to change stigmas and inequalities. My education in geography and environmental studies, has definitely allowed me to look at this experience more critically, and to understand the impacts of my involvement in a more meaningful way. After graduating this year, I hope to pursue an internship with Global Brigades in order to gain field experience with an NGO that is close to my heart, and in a country that makes me feel like I’m at home, every time.
Volunteer, UC Irvine Public Health Brigades Chapter
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.
Volunteer, Rutgers University Public Health Brigades Chapter
We went down to Honduras with our main focus to change and better the infrastructure and educate the communities on hygiene practice; however, it was the small things that you think wouldn’t make a difference which made the greatest impacts. For instance, while driving through the beautiful country, up mountains and thru clouds, we would see people and simply smile at them, or wave, or say “hola” and instantly you would see a huge smile appear on their face.
The people down in Honduras, specifically the families we worked with, were so loving, grateful, happy, and full of “esperanza”, hope. They have nothing compared to us here in the States and yet they seem so much happier and worry free and grateful for all they have. This helped me put my life into perspective and helped me introspect more on my priorities. Then, there was the GB staff, which was always full of spirit; they made our experience in Honduras one that we will never forget. It’s amazing how we came from two completely different lives and had this language barrier between us but still were able to build such strong relationships.
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