Central American Medical Outreach, Honduras

Sarah Spector

Sarah Spector is a sophomore majoring in International Relations & Diplomacy and Spanish.

"I really did not know what to expect when I applied for one of two summer intern spots through the non-profit organization, Central American Medical Outreach (CAMO). Luckily for me, it could not of been a more successful summer experience spent in Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras. According to its website, "CAMO is a humanitarian organization that improves the lives of people by strengthening health care systems and promoting sustainable community development." I found that CAMO not only does what the organization's mission statement sets out to do, but goes above and beyond.

CAMO as an organization does not remain in only one specified area of expertise, but works to better the city of Santa Rosa de Copan in a variety of ways. CAMO offers over 16 different health care programs and has worked to renovate many different public and community buildings including the hospital, the day care that I worked in, a diagnostic center and a cultural center. CAMO has also built and runs a family violence shelter as well as a trade school.

I spent every morning from eight a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday in the Day Care. The Day Care provides a safe place for the kids of poor single working parents in need of help. All of the 120 kids in the day care receive three balanced meals a day plus a snack. I worked mainly in la sala cuna, or the crib room, with the babies aged from two and a half years old to just a few months old.

Everyday we arrived around the same time that the kids were getting dropped off. While each day varied, normally we began the day by helping to brush the kid's hair and wash their faces. Then throughout the day we helped with all of their meals. On average, we had about 15 kids and about seven of them could not eat on their own and needed to be fed. I became at pro at getting the babies to eat by the end of the seven weeks. Most of the time in between meals we spent playing with the kids, comforting them when they were upset or just letting them climb all over us. Walking in there the first day I never would have expected to get as attached to them as I did. However, by the end of the seven weeks, I knew their names, what toys they liked, how they would react if another child stole said toy and what I could do to comfort them.

Besides the work at the day care, I also taught an English class along with the other intern twice a week for an hour and a half. We taught a group of about eight girls ranging in age from fifteen to eighteen. The girls lived in a house run by two of the nicest nuns I've ever met. Some of the girls were orphans, while a great majority of them had family living in and around Santa Rosa, but lived at the house since their families could not provide for them.

The girls spoke and understood virtually no English, so the entire class was taught in Spanish. I had never taken any classes on teaching and had no idea what to expect when we walked in the first day. At first the girls were quiet and nervous around us, but by the end of the first lesson their enthusiasm came out. Because of their enthusiasm, the classes turned out to be a lot of fun. We role-played and taught the class mainly through participation. There is nothing more terrifying then getting up in front of a group of teenage girls to sing 'head shoulders knees and toes.'

Everyday we asked the girls if there was anything specific that they wanted us to bring in or if there was any kind of vocabulary that they thought would be useful to learn. One of the girls asked us to bring in the song from the Titanic, and from that an idea was born. The girls had a really hard time pronouncing English words, and because of that were too embarrassed to even try. The other intern and I came up with the idea that singing might be a more effective way of learning. We figured if the girls could master one song, then their interest in English and confidence would increase. We made a deal with our students, if they could learn to sing the Titanic song well enough to perform for the nuns that ran the home, then we would celebrate our last class with a pizza fiesta.

Teaching English was a rewarding yet humbling experience for me. At times, it was a challenge to inspire the students, but they never failed to inspire me. When it came time for the girls to perform the song for the nuns, they were well prepared and blew it out of the water. Even if our students do not remember a single word of English, I hope that the pride of their accomplishment will never sink. All the girls were beaming with pride after they gave their performance and one of the nuns had tears in her eyes. It was a moment I was truly proud to be a part of.

Saying goodbye to the girls was one of the most difficult experiences we had while down in Honduras. They hugged us and clung to us and asked us to come back again.

Heading to Honduras I thought that I would be making a difference in someone else's life. I found that even more so, everyone I met made a difference in my life. Who knew that in just seven weeks I could learn the confidence to teach, to care for children and to be a part of an organization such as CAMO. I learned about myself everyday that I was down there and was able to better myself as a result."

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