Written by Katie Berger, PWW Volunteer, Recent High School Graduate from Vermont
This past June, I had the unbelievable opportunity to travel with Pure Water for the World to Trojes, Honduras. I stumbled upon this trip and organization while searching online for some kind of international service trip. During the summer before my first year of college I wanted to travel to a new country, and I wanted my trip to be immersive and impactful. I found the perfect organization, whose office in Vermont happens to be about an hour from my house.
Preparing for this trip, I was as nervous as could be expected. Even though I’ve done similar service trips before, it’s still a little scary traveling to a foreign country as an 18 year old girl, all by yourself, to meet up with a group of strangers you’ve never met before. My fears all went away when I met up with one of our trip leaders at the airport in Miami. His friendly and welcoming personality set the mood for the entire week to come.
While in Trojes, Honduras, myself and 15 other volunteers worked closely with PWW’s Honduran team to install water filters in homes, finish the building of latrines at local schools, and assisted in the distribution of deworming medication. Although the volunteers and I were only able to complete a week’s worth of work, the amazing and dedicated PWW Honduran team works year round on these projects.
One of the most surprising and inspiring aspects of this trip was how much this team of locals was involved with the organization and how much passion they had for their work. These team members were some of the kindest people I have ever met, and their hard working spirits kept our group in check and involved throughout the entire experience.
When we arrived in Trojes, we jumped right into the process of putting together filters in homes. Although we had watched training videos on the bus, getting right to work for a family was a challenge. The Honduran team walked us through the process, and in no time we were pros at assembling the filters. Putting together the filters quickly changed from a focus of getting the assembly right, to a focus of making connections with the family and giving attention to the kids.
On this trip, I was one of three young (teenage) women to be traveling with the group. Following our experiences in Trojes we had some discussions on what the home visits were like from our younger perspective. We hardly ever saw kids our age. Whether it was because they were out working, or because they simply appeared to be older than they were, I couldn’t ever really tell whether or not someone was a teenager. The younger kids were the most eager to interact with us. As someone who is going to college and still under the support of my family, it is eye-opening to see other cultures where my childhood would have been over years ago.
My most memorable experience while in Honduras took place in the home of an older couple with two sons with physical disabilities. While we were installing the filter in a neighboring home, this mother was watching us and offering to help in any way she could. Prior to entering their home, we were informed that the mother had severe epilepsy and that her two sons were physically “special”.
When we walked in, we were greeted by two smiling boys who were sat on a wooden plank. We talked to them, gave them lollipops, and toy cars, and blew bubbles for them. Their mother explained that not only did she have to carry them out any time they had to use the bathroom, she also carried them up a very steep hill to school. This woman’s love for her sons was clear despite their small house and limited resources. While our filter rested, after some complications, we passed the time singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” in Spanish and English for the boys.
This was the hardest home for me to leave. Knowing that these boys sat on this plank all day and slept in a makeshift bed made of piles of blankets was devastating. Other kids in the village found their fun with each other, playing soccer, or following their parents around, but these boys had no access to any of those activities. Regardless, their happy and grateful attitudes were inspiring and fulfilling, and knowing they now had access to clean water put me more at ease.
Thanks to this family, and the many other families we served, I hope that I will never take advantage of the clean water I always have access to, the hygiene education and social norms I have grow up with, and the long list of other resources that are at my reach every day.
This trip was so much more than a volunteer trip. I made great friends within our volunteer group and the Honduran team, ate amazing food, and saw some of the most jaw dropping views. Some of my top favorite things were riding in the back of the pick up trucks, having dinner conversations over the loud hum of the generator while the power was out, and singing karaoke at the last lunch in Trojes.
So many memories and experiences were packed into one short week in Honduras. I’ll forever be grateful to all the people who were part of it and can’t wait to go back again!