Footprinter report: Naomi High from Honduras

Naomi Honduras 195

So I’ve been here in Honduras a few months now and I think I’ve just about got used to living here.

The thing that I’ve found about living in a different country with a different culture and language is that you feel like a child again, learning everything from scratch. I remember my first day with everything feeling so surreal and completely new. We were greeted at the airport and went with my host sister of my host family, and staff of the organisation to a mall for lunch. The first song that I heard was gangham style. I don’t know why but it made me smile, I wasn’t expecting to hear that song when I first arrived in Honduras. Before I came to Honduras I tried to learn as much Spanish as possible but no amount of studying can ever prepare you for actually being in a country and trying to understand/speak the language. The only thing I could understand on the menu was pollo (chicken), so I ordered that. My host sister is learning English so luckily we can communicate and help each other learn the language. I really don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for my host sister, she has taught me so much. I live with a host mother, sister and grandmother. There is also a son who is currently volunteering in the UK.

So one of the most important things I had to learn was how to wash my clothes. We do have a washing machine here but in Honduras we don’t always have a supply of water so a lot of people hand wash their clothes. The main water supply gets shut off and depending on the area you live in there is only water twice a week. Most houses have tanks on their roofs so when there is no supply they use the water from the tanks. There is also a pilar which is used to wash clothes. My host sister taught me how to hand wash my clothes correctly, and using the pilar is a lot better than the way we hand wash things in the UK. The ability to laugh at yourself is a must when in a different culture as you will undoubtedly make mistakes and look completely stupid at times!

The first month in Honduras consisted of training, orientation activities and Spanish classes. The first few days our host families took us to the office which was the meeting point for all the activities. We went on the bus for the first time and were shown where to get the bus to the office. Honduras has a bad reputation for being violent and dangerous so we were all told how to travel on busses safely. The first time I got the bus back on my own I got lost! I ended up walking backwards and forwards trying to find my bus. In the end the friendly and helpful Hondurans that they are helped me to find the right bus. I didn’t get home until 7.30pm that day and had 6 missed calls as everyone was worried that I wasn’t home.

The first month was quite intense. We had 4 hours of Spanish lessons every day for 3 weeks, and of course a lot of homework!

My first week in my project was really difficult, actually it still is really difficult. Only the manager of the programme speaks a little English and as it is better for me in the long run to learn the language he is only speaking Spanish. Like I said earlier you feel like a child, trying to find someone to cling on to that will help you and not understanding much that is going on around you. At times I have felt completely lost and stupid and unfortunately still do. My project is based 45 minutes from the capital city Tegucigalpa and is set in a beautiful area surrounded by trees. I am volunteering in a centre for people with disabilities, originally I thought I would be working with children as that is what it said on the profile however the majority are adults. There are around 80 residents living there aged between 11 and 50 all with different types of physical and mental disabilities. They are split between 8 different houses each with 3 assistants to help with the care and the cooking. For my first day I was in one of the houses to understand better the daily routine. The more independent residents help with the feeding, washing, changing and cleaning. As there is only 3 staff to 10 residents quite often the residents watch television and have little stimulation because there just isn’t enough staff to work with them. Communication is difficult as I only have a limited knowledge of Spanish and never really understand what is going on or what people are saying to me, hopefully with time it will become easier. On my second day I was paired up with the physiotherapist as I have experience of working with people with disabilities on trampolines. I’m not sure how long I will be working with her for but she is the only physiotherapist for the 80 residents. There are normally around 16 residents a day that we work with and now I have started to help, they can now have more individual time allocated to them. There are very limited resources here and I have a lot of respect for the staff. Although the way of working is very different to the UK everyone works very hard with what little resources they have.

From what I understand for the moment I will mainly be based in physiotherapy and also helping out with other activities and areas when needed.

My weekly schedule involves getting up at 4.30am for the 1 ½ hour journey to my project, arriving at 7.30am. I clean or visited the houses until 8am when we start therapy. Monday, Tuesday and Fridays therapy is all day. I usually visit the houses in the afternoon before the session starts again. On Wednesday mornings we have activities and games on the field which includes as many people as possible. On Thursday mornings those who can, walk the 45 minutes to the local village which is a great opportunity to get out and meet other people.

My first 2 months have been spent adjusting to the culture and learning more about my project. Hopefully I will have more varied activities as time goes on but for now it is important that I study my Spanish in order to communicate my thoughts and ideas.

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