When most people think of spring break, they think of sitting on the beach, spending time with their friends and family, and most importantly, relaxing. While I do enjoy those kinds of vacations, this year, I decided to do something a little different. I, along with 10 other Notre Dame students, participated in a Global Public Health Brigade and went to Estelí, Nicaragua.
The Notre Dame Global Health Brigade group went down to Estelí and helped the community of Cuatro Esquinas, which is about an hour and a half drive from the city. The main goal of a Public Health Brigade is to help create sustainable solutions for disease prevention in the community. This year, we built sanitation stations for homes, which included a toilet, shower, and sink. We built the station out of cement blocks and dug the trenches for the pipes. Yes, it was more manual labor than your typical spring break, but it was amazing.
Part of the main idea of Global Brigades is to work with the families, not just for them. They are active members in this project. So, each member of our group got to spend time with the families that we were helping and got to build a relationship with them. It was these relationships that made the hard work worth it. Seeing the smiles on the little kids and experiencing the gratitude of these kind people was the highlight of the trip. They gave us snacks and coffee throughout our work days, threw us a party at the end of the week (with a piñata, of course), and performed traditional dances for us. They truly welcomed us with open arms, and we were happy to accept.
It’s amazing the kind of impact these trips can have on you. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere behind Haiti, so driving through the country on our daily trips and seeing how these people live was very humbling. There are quite a few communities without a stable, clean water supply and other sustainable aspects that we have in our life that we typically take for granted. Yet, they are so happy and grateful for what they have, and they were so appreciative of all of the help that we and Global Brigades as an organization were able to give them. It is this kind of experience that makes me feel blessed and that we are all truly lucky to have been given the opportunities we have.
So, next time you want to do something different with your spring break, I would highly recommend becoming involved in Global Brigades. Notre Dame has both a Public Health Brigade and a Medical Brigade, which are two different yet still fantastic trips. This brigade brought me many new friends and memories that will last a lifetime. I will not forget the smiling faces of the families we worked with or the amazing experiences I had. The Global Public Health Brigade was a wonderful week well spent, and I cannot wait to participate in it again.
All photos were provided by the author.