Review John Anderson Volunteer in La Ceiba, Honduras

Volunteer Name: John Anderson
Project Location: La Ceiba, Honduras
Volunteered at: La Clinica

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1.-How was the local ABV Coordinator and the support provided in-country?
Rafael, the coordinator for my project, was absolutely fantastic.  He is genuinely concerned with making sure that his volunteers have the best experience possible.  He has any information you could need about Honduras, he is extremely flexible with everything, and he even drove us to the clinic and hospital everyday so we didn’t have to walk or take a cab.

2- What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
At the program: I was most surprised by how willing the staff at the clinic and hospital is to let the ABV volunteers help out.  In the US volunteers are often treated like they are just in the way, here in Honduras the volunteers are allowed to actually participate and be helpful.

At the accommodation: I was surprised by how nice the house we stayed at was.  I was prepared to be living in a shack with a dirt floor but instead I found myself in a charming, large, colonial style home with a beautiful terrace and WiFi

About the country: The safety!  Everyone warned me before I left about how dangerous Honduras, about how many people get murdered, and about how I wasn’t going to make it back in one piece.  In reality, not once did I feel unsafe, not once.

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3- What was most difficult to experience?
At the program: Undoubtedly the most difficult part of working at the clinic or hospital was seeing the lack of resources. I remember when I arrived and found nurses performing HIV tests without gloves because there were none to wear. That was a sobering moment for me.

At the accommodation: Because there isn’t enough power for the entire city, the power goes out for about 4 hours everyday.  No power means no fans, and in a climate like Honduras, not having fans can make for a very, very long night.

The country: Even though I came to Honduras with an advanced level of Spanish, the language was still a barrier.  Hondurans have heavy accents, speak quickly, and use “vos” conjugations (different than the “tu”conjugations I learned in the US).  This meant I had a lot to get used to, but after a little bit, the Honduran way of speaking began to feel normal to me.

4- Any tips for future volunteers…
Clothing: Bring several pairs of scrubs (4 or 5).  They get dirty quick and you need to have a clean pair every day.

Donations: Keep it simple.  What they really need are lots of the basics, like gloves and gauze.

Weather: Everyday feels hotter than the last.  Pack light clothes and just accept now that you’re going to be soaked in sweat more often than not.  Pro-tip: The Little Ceasar’s at the end of the street has air conditioned and has a generator so it is still cool when the power goes out. Bring a cooling towel.

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4.1-Other things volunteers should know:
a.- DO NOT DO MORE THAN YOU ARE TRAINED TO DO! The doctors will let you do all sorts of things like stitch people or set bones.  Remember that if you are not already trained in these things, it is dangerous and irresponsible to try them.  You are here to help these people, not to practice on them.    
b.- It is easy not to practice any Spanish or really experience the city.  Make an effort to get away from the house and explore the city and meet some locals to chat with.
c.- It is possible to get around Honduras without speaking Spanish, but the vast majority of Hondurans do not speak English, so brush up on a few key phrases before you go.
d.- Secure your belongings, things have gone missing before when people leave them unlocked.  A small travel lock on your bag will do, as stated in the orientation guide.

5- Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial), don’t leave blank:
I am extremely grateful for the experience that I have had here in Honduras.  As a student of public health I have gained invaluable knowledge about health care systems in other countries, as well as gained perspective on the system of my own country.  I am honored to have worked with such an incredible people.  It is an experience that has profoundly challenged the way I think and believe. 

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6- How would you describe your accommodation, meals and security.
Food was delicious, although Honduran diet is often lacking in nutritional value. The house we lived at was comfortable and the family is friendly.  In terms of security make sure you lock your door whenever you’re not in your room, as you don't know the other volunteers.

7- What was your favorite memory of this trip?
Program: While I was working in the HIV clinic, I decided I wanted to take condoms and information about the services the clinic offers to the sex workers at the night clubs around town.  As soon as I expressed a desire to do this, Rafael helped me get everything set up and went with me so I wasn’t alone.  The next day, several of the workers I talked to came into the clinic to get HIV tests.  I was able to get them patient files at the clinic so now they can return every three months to be tested and receive medical care. That feeling of seeking out and actually making an impact for good on those women was by far the best part of the entire program.

Country: One weekend, some volunteers and I traveled to Copan to explore the famous Mayan ruins there.  It was some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen and one of the most fun weekends I have ever had.

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8.- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
All my questions were responded to thoroughly and with plenty of information before the trip.  During the trip, however, ABV didn’t contact me even once, which I didn’t particularly bother me, but I thought it was odd.
Website Information: Thorough and accurate to what I encountered in country.

ABV: we do send emails 3 days into the program, check spam folder

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9 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?

10 – Can you tell us how did you find or know about A Broader View?  (You can also write on the back of the page…)
I googled “HIV volunteer program central America”

Language Immersion:

* Price in US dollars
Toll Free: US/CA (1) 866-423-3258