Third-year CIP Bloomington student Thomas S. kicked off the New Year away from U.S. soil when he participated in a service learning trip to Honduras from January 4 to January 11th. Thomas went as a member of the Global Brigades club at IU, specifically, the microfinance brigade. “We were in charge of providing support for a rural village bank,” he said.
“We were trying to get people interested in opening savings accounts. We also taught them about interest and budgeting.” Other universities also joined in on the experience including Albion College of Michigan, NYU, and Columbia University. Thomas decided to go on the trip because “I have always loved to travel and I really wanted to make a difference before I graduate.” Thomas graduated in May 2014 with a B.A. in psychology from IU.
One of Thomas’ favorite parts of the trip was meeting Dominga, one of the locals. “She was really energetic and sweet,” he said. “She gave us food including donouts and she sang for us. “It was refreshing to see something that we knew what it was.It was one of those reminders that food is cross cultural. She also made this really good chicken dish that was wrapped in grape leaves,”he said.
During the trip, the group also visited a coffee plantation where they had the opportunity to pick coffee beans. “We had a boys verses girls picking contest,” he said. “I still have some of the Honduran coffee left over in my room.” The group also threw Thomas and another student a birthday party on the trip. During down time they would play cards, go swimming, or play soccer with the kids in the village or the other brigades.
Thomas said he learned a lot about Central America and how it functions by participating in this trip, and also that “you don’t have to go to Africa to see extreme poverty. Their streets are littered with garbage, they have dogs running around everywhere. There is a sort of gun culture there, so we had armed guards to protect us. It’s a dangerous place, but it’s also beautiful,” he said.
Thomas said he is looking into joining AmeriCorps in the future. “I would definitely do something like this again,” he said. “I still hang out with the people in Global Brigades and we’re doing volunteer activities at Girls Inc.” The group meets on Wednesdays.
Written by Adria Nassim
Autism / Special Needs Advocate & Speaker