Seven students from Queen Mary University and 25 students from the University of San Diego spent ten days volunteering with the Medical, Dental and Water Brigade in Honduras. One of the volunteers, a Medical student called Sanadani Sivapalan, was awarded a £180 Individual Grant for Volunteering by the Jack Petchey Foundation, allowing him to take part in this worthwhile volunteer opportunity.
The Brigade’s aim was to provide healthcare and access to hygiene to the rural communities within Honduras. Honduras is the third poorest country in the Western Hemisphere in Central America, yet it wasn’t until Sanadani arrived there, surrounded by the community members that she understood exactly what this meant. The families in these communities had very limited access to healthcare and hygiene and some communities didn’t even have access to clean water. Sandani commented that whilst their “lives were such a contrast to our own, their personalities and gratitude towards our mere presence was humbling.”
The group’s ten day brigade which was jam-packed with various activities. On their first day, they packaged and sorted all the medications and hygiene supplies that the students had collected through various sponsors and generous donators, which they would later supply to the community members. They also counted tablets of vital vitamins and simple, but effective medication such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and folic acid and packaged them and added labels, so that they could be used in the pharmacy station the following day. The following 3 days consisted of the medical and dental brigade. There were 8 stations in total: triage (which involved taking a history of the patients and checking their vitals); optometry; gynaecology; doctor consultation; dentistry; children’s Charla (which means ‘chat or consultation’; adult Charla and pharmacy. Just within three days the brigade was able to see over 1,000 patients in the Santa Cruz community, who would have otherwise have had not received any care.
For the remaining five days Sandani and the other volunteers took part in a water brigade in another community called Granadilla. This brigade was aimed to target the root cause of many of the medical problems which they were faced with in the medical brigade, most of which stemmed from dirty water. For the majority of this they dug trenches and laid down piping to start a water system flowing so the community members could have access to clean water supply in their own homes. Sandani remembers “The community members were all really willing to help us and showed enormous gratitude for our contributions. Families in this community were used to collecting water from wells and only using this for their daily needs… Their hardship was evident through the motivation and hard work they put in when we were digging the trenches.” The team also ran educational workshops in the forms of “Charla” in these communities to educate them about clean water and the water cycle.
Sandani and the teams of volunteers an insurmountable difference to the hundreds of lives that had contact with and the thousands that it will benefit in the future. The Water brigade alone will benefit the children of the future so that they can have access to clean water, reducing the risk of infection from contaminated water. Additionally, by educating the children in hygiene and dental hygiene, they were able to tackle some of the root causes of the problem and prevent them from occurring in the future. Sandani herself has also benefitted from the experience she said “I feel this trip and experience have both humbled me and allowed me to learn, discover, aspire and grow as person.”
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