On August 15, 2014, joyful songs and laughter replaced the sounds of hammers and saws that had previously echoed throughout El Ojochal, Honduras as the community celebrated its transformation into a holistic community. The inauguration culminated more than a year of hard work in which community members collaborated with student volunteers on Medical, Dental, Water, Public Health, Microfinance, and Architecture Brigades to better their community.
The Medical and Dental programs first came to El Ojochal in late 2012, soon after we began working in Southern Honduras. The Medical need in the community was great, with over 650 patients seeking medical care in just 2 days. Since then, we have seen over 2,200 patients in El Ojochal with 4 different brigades with the help of 138 student volunteers. During our time there, we were also able to see over 150 Dental patients, providing them with both extractions and filling to complement their medical care. We were able to provide almost 100 hours of education charlas to children and adults in the community, including vital information about personal hygiene, dental hygiene, chronic diseases, nutrition, family planning, and more.
The Water program entered in 2013 and was able to bring clean, safe drinking water to 209 beneficiaries in the community. This system, being a pump system instead of a gravity system, cost a whopping $48,500! With the help of volunteers, extra initiatives, and some generous grant donors – Portland Global Initiatives and Joseph Ferrari, PH.D and ST. Margaret Mary Parish – we were able to get the full amount to complete the system. Student volunteers and community members alike helped dig over 3 kilometers of trenches, helping to install pipes leading to individual houses. The well provides 200 gallons of water per minute to the community and is successfully providing water to all connected houses in the community.
The Public Health program first entered in 2013 and was able to construct 47 hygiene stations (including latrines, pilas and showers), 57 eco-stoves, and 85 cement floors, as well as providing 60 hours of public health education to the school children. These projects benefited 209 community members and were constructed with the help of 419 student volunteers, as well as countless community volunteers from each and every family that received the projects. With the water from the water system that was constructed, the families are able to use their latrines, pilas, and showers to keep themselves and their homes clean and healthy in their everyday lives.
With the funds from the Public Health projects that each family paid towards their projects, the Microfinance project was able to open a community bank with a total of 29 members not only to provide capital and support to the bank, but also to help community members in their repayment plans for loans. The microfinance program has had several brigades and holistic model groups work in Ojochal to give financial literacy training and help set up basic savings accounts. Students provided around 30 hours of education training to community members. The efforts of our student volunteers and community volunteers will help these community members continue on in the development of their community and secure their futures financially.
After the Public Health program completed their projects in El Ojochal, there were still many homes that were not completely safe and sanitary places to live. This was due to the fact that, because of the poverty rate in Ojochal, many homes had walls made out of sticks, cardboard, plastic, or whatever else community members could find to protect themselves from the elements. By setting up additional lines with Microfinance brigades, Architecture brigades has been able to construct walls in the homes of community members to improve overall quality of life and health. The Architecture program has found success in El Ojochal with this new model, leaving behind the old model of constructing large, costly projects that were taking too much time and money on the part of volunteers.
We want to give a sincere congratulations to El Ojochal for all of the hard work, time, and dedication that they have shown in the course of our time working there. We would never be able to do what we do if community members did not support us on and off brigades, working around the clock to make our projects successful. We also want to thank our volunteers and donors, who have helped Global Brigades to raise over $100,000 to promote the development of El Ojochal. Last but definitely not least, we would like to thank all of our student volunteers, who supported El Ojochal with their funds, time, and hard work, including students from the University of Washington, University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins University, Austin Area Brigades, Boston University, University of Rochester, University of Victoria, Rutgers University, Mount Allison University, UC San Diego, DePaul University, Wayne State, Greater Piedemont, UC Berkeley Post Baccs, University of Houston, University of Illinois – Chicago, UNC Wilmington, St. Louis University, Brandeis University, Albion College, Harvard University, St. Olaf University, Cal Poly SLO, Drexel University, University of Southern California, College of William and Mary, Indiana University, University of Arizona, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, Acadia University, and more!
Only one year ago, community members lugged buckets of contaminated water past rickety houses with children crawling on dirt floors. Today, they can open their taps releasing a sufficient supply of clean water as their children play on cement floors in solid homes protecting them from bugs and parasites. Not only are the children healthier, but they will also have more opportunities as the community bank brings more economic ventures and educational opportunities to El Ojochal. Without a doubt, the healthier community members will continue celebrating and their harmonious voices will soon be mixed with the sounds of gushing tap water, soapy showers, clinking coins and other noises indicative of a holistic community!
Felicidades a Todos!