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Helping less fortunate in Honduras

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Making friends: Sophie Froud with children in Honduras, where she carried out volunteer work including building washing facilities for a villagers (Photograph supplied)

After a week in rural Honduras, Sophie Froud has a new appreciation for indoor plumbing. Outhouses were the norm in the remote villages she visited, and there was no running water.

“When I got to Miami on my way back to Bermuda on Sunday it was a real culture shock,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is what it is like to actually sit in a bed and be able to flush the toilet’.”

The 20-year-old visited the Central American country as a volunteer with Global Brigades. The non-profit organisation allows university students to do volunteer work in impoverished communities.

Ms Froud was expecting Honduras to be different from Bermuda, but didn’t appreciate how much until she got there. One of her projects was building wash facilities in a village home. She said: “Many people there would wash their clothes in the nearest river. Rivers aren’t exactly the cleanest places to wash your clothes and they often have things in them that aren’t sanitary.

“My group built a place where they can have water to wash their clothes and wring them out afterwards. We also built an indoor toilet and shower for them.”

She helped to mix cement and lay bricks to create the structure.

“It was my first time doing any building work,” she said. “It was certainly an experience.”

Community elders decided who got the facilities. The house she worked on had four family members. The homeowner and his son worked alongside them.

“I felt amazing when it was finally constructed,” she said. “It took us three days.”

The family had huge smiles on their faces once they had finished. Ms Froud also spent an afternoon teaching oral hygiene to local children.

“We took suitcases full of toothpaste, toothbrushes and floss down there,” she said. “People there generally don’t have any and people tend to drink a lot of sugary soda, so we saw a lot of cavities.

“Here when we have a problem with our teeth we see a dentist, but in these villages there was no dentist.”

Although she only speaks a little high school Spanish, Ms Froud managed to teach the children a song to reinforce proper oral care. She said: “The children loved the song and later you could hear them singing it in the village.

“They also loved receiving their toothbrushes.” What impressed her the most was how grateful people were.

“People were so kind,” she said. “They kept saying, ‘Thank you, thank you’.

“The school had bars on the windows for security but I never felt unsafe. People were so happy to have us there, they didn’t want us to leave.”

There was a small health centre near every village but there was rarely a doctor there. The nearest hospital was more than a two-hour walk away.

Some of the elderly people she met had never seen a doctor in their lives.

“I didn’t take part in it but there was an optometry clinic,” she said.

“People had their eyes tested and were given glasses. Sometimes the prescription wouldn’t be exact but they’d be in awe of what they were seeing.

“Sometimes they were seeing things for the first time in their lives.

“They’d walk around the village with their glasses on and they’d just be beaming. They were looking at absolutely everything in a different light and it was very cool.”

For her, the trip reinforced the importance of staying healthy and practising good hygiene.

She signed for the trip through a club at Dalhousie University in Canada, where she is a third-year kinesiology student.

“Volunteering with Global Brigades was very fun and rewarding,” she said. “I would like to go again with them. If I can’t, I’d like to help them from Halifax or Bermuda, in some way.”

She isn’t sure yet what she wants to pursue as a career, but is considering physiotherapy.

“I spent this summer working in the physiotherapy department at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital to gain a better idea of possible career paths,” she said. “That helped me a lot.”

Learn more here: www.globalbrigades.org

Journey of discovery: Global Brigades volunteers in Honduras (Photograph supplied)
Basic facilities: a village in Honduras (Photograph by Sophie Froud)
Dressed to impress: Hondurans show off their national dress for the Global Brigades volunteers (Photograph supplied)
Working together: Hondurans and Global Brigades volunteers (Photograph supplied)