Global Public Health Brigades Nicaragua
A wholesome college Spring Break trip. Who would have thought? My previous two Spring Breaks consisted of going to Cancun and Punta Cana and staying at an all-inclusive resort on the beach with thousands of drunken college kids. Now here I was, embarking on a trip to the villages of Nicaragua for a week with Global Public Health Brigades to build sanitation structures and dig irrigation trenches so families could have cleaner water to clean and bathe with. As cliché as it is, the only regret I had after this trip was not knowing about it earlier.
It was a little awkward at first, because when we first got to Nicaragua, none of us still really knew each other aside from the small groups of friends. Unlike most other Global Brigade trips, there other people in our group from other schools. This helped a little with the awkwardness because that meant almost everyone in our collective group was a stranger, forcing us to do ice breakers and all get to know each other. Having to work together to build solid structures and dig trenches also made the process of getting to know each other go by quicker.
For the first four days of work, 2 each were spent at small houses about a half hour from our hostile. The families were so welcoming and friendly that nobody could stop smiling the entire time we were there, despite the hard work we were putting in in the heat all day. Every time we stopped for a short break or for lunch, the kids would come and hang out with us and try to understand our butchered Spanish. We were digging into the ground for 4 hours, stopping to run around playing tag, and then would go back to work for another 4 hours with no complaints. As long as these families were having fun, so were we. Luckily, I remembered to bring my Polaroid camera along, because printed photos really meant a lot to the families, as they don’t have any way to take photos, nonetheless print them out. For some of them, these were the only family photos they had in their homes, so it was special to be able to give them such a meaningful gift on top of what we were building for them.
Another special moment was at the end of the second day at each home when we finished what we wee working on and presented it to the families. We were given a Spanish script to read from explaining exactly what we had built and how to use them. Without fail, every member of the families would end up in tears of joy for what they had, also causing most of the group to tear up. It was touching to see how appreciative they were for something we take for granted every day.
At the end of day 4, when all of our Public Health work was done for the week, the Global Brigades leaders treated us to a night of fun. We started off going to a local soccer field to play a couple hours of soccer as a group. I’ve played sports all my life, but wow did soccer tire me out. Football’s great because you get a break between almost every play. Despite the conditioning I wasn’t expecting, it was a blast to be out there running around with friends that were complete strangers only a week earlier. After everyone exhausted themselves, we went out to a local restaurant and got to eat some amazing food and try out some local beers too. This was a lot of fun because it seemed to be the time when the entire group, everyone from all 3 schools, seemed to bond the most. It wasn’t a forced icebreaker led by the group leaders or anything like that. Just good food and good people – the perfect combination for a good time.
Our last day was another very special one. It started off with us doing slightly different work. Instead of the sanitation stations that Public Health focuses on, we worked on the irrigation trenches that Global Water Brigades typically does. I mentioned earlier that we also dug trenches for Public Health, but those were only 10-15 feet. The one from this day were to be miles long down a mountain. We just picked up where the last group left off and went as far as we could for another future group to pick up at. After a half day of working in the trenches, we went down to the local school where the kids from the families we worked with went to school. I thought we might just be eating lunch at a new location, but what we got was so much better. Out of nowhere, all of the families we helped arrived with all kinds of decorations, games, and music. We spent the next few hours running around with kids and celebrating all of the work we did. One of the daughters that we got to know performed a traditional Nicaraguan dance for us, we played dancing pin the tail on the donkey (I lost), and we got to bust open a piñata that the kids went crazy for. It was the perfect sendoff and a bittersweet moment to say the least because that meant it was finally time to leave.
Every time I look back on my memories of joining Global Public Health Brigades, it just makes me happy. There’s just a good feeling knowing that you were able to help a family in need and improve their lives physically and emotionally. Even beyond the work we did their, I got to meet an entirely random group of friends, both from my own school and from two others, that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Overall it was one of my most memorable trips and I hope I do more service trips in the future, because there are countless families out there who could use a helping hand. If you haven’t heard of Global Brigades and everything they do, you should check them out. Thanks for stopping by!