On his first trip to Honduras with Global Brigades last year one woman, in particular, left a lasting impression on Anglo native, Jake Shea.
The woman had lost both of her legs to a genetic disorder. Relying on her arms for mobility, she had made it to a clinic Shea and a group of Global Brigade volunteers from Dalhousie University were staffing.
“If we find someone we want to endorse, as a brigade, we can raise the money ourselves and we can put it towards this one person and we can help that person get the help they need,” Shea explained.
His group of volunteers reached out to the woman and offered to raise the money needed to buy her a wheelchair.
She declined the offer.
“She felt she had everything she needed, and she was fine the way she was,” marveled Shea who admitted being touched by the woman’s determination.
“People think I go there and I help so many people and I help them out so much and they get so many things from me, but I think I learn just as much. I get just as much knowledge from them as they get from me,” he said. “It’s very humbling.”
People residing in the mountains and other rural areas of the country, Shea said, have to travel for hours to get to a hospital. Global Brigades brings the services closer to them but, still, reaching the brigade remains a long journey for some of the people who seek help.
Shea, who has just completed Year Three of Dalhousie University’s Medical Sciences program, left Sunday for his second trip to Honduras. He’s part of a 40-member Dalhousie Brigade, the largest group ever from the university, that will conduct three brigades during six days on the ground in the impoverished country. They’re actually gone for 10 days, but two days each way are taken up with travel.
“It’s 100 per cent staying there and doing everything you can for the people,” he said of the group’s purpose.
Three of their days will be spent conducting medical brigades, including doctor consultations, a dental clinic, pharmacy, optometry and charlas, educational sessions for children, focusing on hygiene. ‘It’s mainly giving the fluoride and teaching about hand-washing and what drinks and foods are healthy,’ he explained the educational sessions.
Shea, who is co-coordinator of donations on the Dalhousie Global Brigades executive, and his fellow Brigade members have been busy fundraising and gathering up supplies for the trip. They will be giving out kits to everyone who attends the clinics and charlas.
The kits include personal care products like toothbrushes, and paste, dental floss, shampoo, soap and other items.
They needed, for instance, more than 900 toothbrushes and recent donations from two West Prince dental clinics helped put them over the top. The Dalhousie Dental School supplied 800 tubes of tooth paste. Hotels around Halifax helped with the travel-size soaps.
Shea said Global Brigades visit communities in Honduras throughout the year, one group picking up from where another left off.
“We try to make a whole community empowered,” Shea described Global Brigades’ mission.
“Eventually, they have everything they need to sustain themselves.” He said 11 communities in Honduras have already gained empowered status. Global Brigades teams are then able to concentrate their efforts in other communities.
Shea said coordinators visit the communities and learn what help the communities require.
“They want the help they need, but once they get all the help they need, they are happy.”