As a member of the Micro-finance Brigade that travelled to Honduras during reading week, I had the privilege of working on sustainability projects in a rural community, Gauricayan, which is roughly two hours from the capital city, Tegucigalpa.
Our Brigade worked with the local caja—similar to a bank—developing strategies to promote the benefits of sound financial management, while running workshops with the executive members on how to organize banking accounts. We also helped start a community chicken farm business. At the end of the week, we allocated a portion of our funds, called the community investment fund, in areas that would benefit the greater community. The caja decided whether or not to execute our recommendations. Our goal wasn’t to direct them, but to have them direct us to help them achieve their goals.
Before joining Global Brigades at Mount Allison, I was skeptical of the idea of going to Honduras and telling people what they needed. As a science student who knows hardly any Spanish and is uneducated in the field of economic development, it was hard to believe I had anything to offer their village. It wasn’t until I became involved with the organization that I realized that we weren’t there to dictate their development, but rather to act as a tool for them to use with the development of their own projects. I realized thinking critically about the whole process was one of the best ways to prepare myself for the trip.
Although I am normally an optimistic person, I am aware that a group of about one hundred undergraduate students are not able to solve the issues of global poverty. The trip was our privilege, not theirs. What I have gained from this experience with their community greatly outweighs anything I could have done for them. And although my brigade was able to benefit their small village in certain ways, it was important that I knew that I was learning from them, not teaching them.