[3 1⁄2 minute read]
In December 2018, at the end of the most difficult semester I had faced in college yet, I traveled to Honduras as a part of the Global Medical Brigade team at USC. By this point in the semester, I was ready to return home for the holidays, and going to Honduras for 9 days was one of the last things I wanted to do. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this was going to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
The nine-day brigade consisted of three categories of activities: clinical, water, and public health. The first three days of the brigade were the clinical days. The typical clinical day started with a 5:00 AM wake-up. We had a freshly made Honduran breakfast consisting of beans, eggs, tortillas, and fresh juice. We then took a 3-hour bus ride to the rural village that we were assigned to provide medical attention to. Upon arrival at a local school in the area, we set up supplies for prescription pick-up, basic check-ups, as well as dental and gynecology exams. As students, we completed basic tasks such as taking blood pressure and measuring height and weight. For the more complex exams (dental and gynecological) we watched Honduran doctors perform them. For three days we treated patients until around 4:00 PM, and throughout our clinical work, the USC team and the Honduran doctors saw over 500 patients.
The need for medical care was staggering. In the rural area we served in, the average citizen did not have access to any type of healthcare. There was no accessible transportation for people to get treatment at hospitals. In fact, they could only seek hospital treatment via a doctor’s recommendation, gaining access only through brigades such as this one. It was an eye-opening experience to witness a healthcare system that did not even have nearly enough hospital beds to treat their patients in need. Regardless of the status of healthcare in Honduras, these people I met in the rural area were some of the happiest human beings I have ever interacted with. I developed a newfound sense of gratitude for my simple day to day privileges, but also the access we have to healthcare here in the United States.
The following days were just as eye-opening. One day, we followed a rural town’s water maintenance man on a 3-mile trek through the forest to check on the town’s water supply (a task that he does up to 4 times a week). Days after that, a small team and I built a proper outdoor restroom for another rural family. This family of four had been using a makeshift tarp tent as their bathroom. It was truly rewarding to mix and lay the concrete and work closely with this family for three days, creating something so crucial to their health and well-being. I treasured how I became close to a family that lived on the rural mountainside of Honduras.
My key takeaway from this trip is that happiness is completely self-determined. Some of the people I interacted with did not even have a pair of shoes, yet they did not have a sense that they were missing anything. I think it is very easy to get caught in the day to day trials and tribulations that we face as college students, especially here at USC, so the opportunity to step out of that and see just how grateful and privileged I should feel for the things I get to do each day, was completely life-altering.
Mia Price is an undergraduate student majoring in Business Administration with a pre-medical emphasis. She is from Atlanta, Georgia, and loves swimming, yoga, and Chick-fil-a. She is proficient in Spanish and has served as a Spanish translator in her school district back home and at a local LA clinic.