Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Medical Brigade and Story Hour

Many volunteers are called upon during their service to use their language skills in one way or another. They may be asked to teach English classes, translate grant applications, or translate at the many medical brigades that roll through Honduras. I have been asked to help out in some capacity in all of the above tasks during my time here and last week I participated in my first medical brigade. Organizations like "Doctors Without Borders" will set up shop in different locations throughout the year. Doctors will spend their vacation time volunteering in third world countries and serving the less fortunate people of that country. Most of the time the doctors will not speak the language so translators are employed to help them out.

I was recently asked to come to a little village about an hour away from my site to spend three days translating for a group that was coming down and doing eye exams and giving away medication, prescription glasses, and sunglasses to the people of the village. They brought along thousands of pairs of glasses that had been dropped in boxes at the Lions Club and subsequently repaired and calibrated by prisoners in Wisconsin.

In the three days of the brigade, we gave away nearly 600 pairs of glasses to people in the village of Cones and its surrounding areas. While translating, the doctors would point out to me the problems that they would see in the patient's eyes. I have never seen so many cataracts, eye cancers in which a layer of skin is growing over the eyeball and causing blindness, and other problems that were impairing the vision of these people. Many times the problems called for fixes that the doctors at this brigade were not equipped to fix and it was sad having to turn away people knowing that they would never have the resources to get the treatment that they needed. But for all of the heartbreaking cases there were also some very rewarding moments. Children that were failing in school because they could not read the blackboard and having constant headaches receiving a pair of glasses that would help to remedy their situation or old men and women of 80 years looking around astonished at what they were able to see after being nearly blind for 20 or 30 years. When we were headed home after three days, it was neat to see all the people walking around sporting their new glasses and sunglasses. It was also good to see the end result of the all those donation boxes that we see in the U.S. So next time you get a new pair of glasses, don't throw away your old pair. Donate those puppies and they will probably find a second life here or in other impoverished countries around the world.


Taking a little break from work to try and find the highest prescription glasses available. These ones modeled by my friend Luke were -12.0. Didn't know they went that high.

Another project that I have taken up here is a story hour in the local Reiken Library. The Reiken Library is a foundation that was started by a former Peace Corps Volunteer that came upon some wealth later on in his life and donated some money to start libraries in towns and villages throughout Honduras. Here in Ocotepeque, we are fortunate to have one such library. Once a week I bring in a class of 20-30 kids from the local school and we spend about an hour learning about what the library has to offer, playing games, doing crafts, and reading stories. It has been a project that I have really enjoyed and has allowed me to meet many of the children that live around me. I am always looking for new ideas of things to do with these kids, so if all you teachers out there have any ideas I would be interested to hear them.

Imparting knowledge on the youth of Honduras

I guess that is it for now. Next week is Semana Santa here in Honduras and is also celebrated all over Latin America. The week before Easter is one of the biggest holidays here and the whole country has the week off to celebrate (and mourn) the events of the week. The week will be especially exciting for me because, in addition to not having to work, Brooke (the gf) will be coming to spend the week with me. I am looking forward to seeing her and it will be the first time since I was home for Kellyn's wedding that we will see eachother. So here's wishing you all a happy Easter and I hope you are all able to celebrate with friends and family. Until next time...

Feria Patronal de Ocotepeque

Every city, town, village, and pueblo of Honduras has a town "fair" once a year to celebrate the place's patron saint. Ocotepeque celebrates its feria from the 10th to the 19th of March. During this time vendors come from Honduras and El Salvador and set up booths selling tons of fried things and crap that is made in china (shame that with all of the local artisans that do beautiful work, people here still prefer their plastic wares). There are also many sketchy looking rides that have been set up on top of 2x4s and cinder blocks. For some reason, these ferias are pretty popular and tons of people come from all around to eat drink (alot) and be merry. Both weekends saw the biggest influx of people that came to partake of the festivities.

I have been playing basketball with a group of guys here in the afternoons and I recently found us a league in Santa Rosa (a bigger city about 2 hours away from my site) that we are going to start in April. Our team invited a few teams from this league to play a tournament in Ocotepeque as part of the feria and they agreed to come out. We planned the four-team tournament for the first Saturday of the feria. In the week leading up to the the game we spent time repainting all the lines on the court, putting up new nets, fixing the rims, and cleaning things up around the court. On Saturday, the court looked the best I had ever seen it. When the teams started warming up for the games, people took note and by the time the first game started, there were probably 150-200 people around the court curious to see what was going on (basketball is a pretty foreign sport to them). We also had some food vendors and announcers in the mix. Other than having to deal with a little bit of sun and heat, the event was a success and the other teams were impressed at how well the event was organized. If you are wondering which team won the tournament, I'll give you a hint. It was the one that had the tall skinny gringo on it:)

A team picture before the games got underway

Look at that intensity!

After the games, there was a concert in the park on Saturday night. Polache, who is probably the most famous singer here (look him up on YouTube), came to play. A few other volunteers came into town to watch the tournament, see the feria, and go to the concert. We were all invited to an "exclusive" after-party with Polache too. There were thousands of people at the concert, but no matter where I stood, I had a pretty good view because I am about a foot taller than the average Honduran. haha. All in all it was a pretty fun day and I am hoping to plan the second annual basketball tournament for next year.

PC friend Brianna, Polache, Me