Written by Madeleine Munn ’19 to recount Saturday, June 16, 2018:
1 hour and 13 minutes. We will touch down in Norfolk then, and there is no world in which I could capture 8 days in 1 hour and 13 minutes. Douglas Adams said that “to give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.” You could not have measured the chance to turn on a light in a young girl’s mind which had never even known it was in the dark. You could not have bought the smile on Ray’s face when he finally met and talked to a Mennonite. You could not have measured or bought the kindness and openness of 97 patients. There’s no buying or measuring or summarizing 8 days of intense experience, thoughtful reflection, and sweet, tender moments- 8 days of sincerity and integrity. It was a bittersweet finale for the seniors, a fresh first for the sophomores, and an exciting adventure for all.
We traveled to towns where people had no teason to open their door to teenage gringos who wanted to measure their glucose levels, blood pressure, and vitals, but they did- without hesitation- and we were lucky to talk with them and to begin to ponder how to continue a relationship with their communities. The point is, we (the USA) have a lot to learn from Belize, its residents, its healthcare system (and its food!!). It is many things but ugly is not one of them. Neither is unfriendly. Every single person we met was equally as welcoming and beautiful as the landscape they inhabited. That says a lot about people. In a lot of ways, we become our surroundings; but also, we choose the final product- we choose unearned gratitude, trustworthy affection, boundless grace. We are shaped by them but they don’t determine us, only we do that.
As I look around me at our tired faces, I feel the fullness of the hearts inside. I feel the heat of last night’s bonfire, the final gathering. I hear the laughter of a group that put an insane amount of work into changing the world, and drank sodas together in the downtime. And I know that no matter how delirious some of us may be after a day of traveling and a week of hard work, and no matter how much we are waiting, on the edge of our seats, for the summer ahead, Belize will always be our rose.
The last full day, Friday, June 15th, is captured by Ella Davis (2021).
The excitement of the week carried us all the way to our last day in Belize and for some their last day of international GHF travel. Today was filled with work, reflection, and bonding mixed with happy memories and an overwhelming feeling of how much we’ll miss this place. The morning began with the health fair, giving us one last opportunity to interact with our community. There were vitals, blood pressure/blood glucose being taken, vaccines being distributed and babies being measured and weighed. I taught nutritional lessons to the women in the waiting area along with the hand-washing curriculum. The moms were very interactive and it was great to see that what we were teaching would make a difference within their households. While others were hard at work tending to patients, a few of us kept the kids occupied while their mothers waited. We handed out tooth brushing pamphlets for them to color, sat in a small circle and talked about everything from the colors of the Crayons to their school lives. One little five year old boy and I bonded in particular. I taught him how to use hand sanitizer and showed him all of our germs under the glow light. When it was time for everyone to pack up he ran over to me and gave me one of the best hugs of my life and that was when I truly felt that my job was special. After a fun-filled start to the day, our group decided to stop by the Pentecostal schools cultural day before lunch. Walking in, we were greeted by the kids we had taught just days before. But instead of uniforms, they were dressed in traditional Mennonite, Creole, Indian and American outfits and sold food out of each cultures tent. We played, ate and conversed for a while until we reluctantly headed back. Fortunately, our home stay families greeted us with a fantastic last lunch of the trip! After taking a quick but well deserved nap, we headed to the community center and started reflections. I was given the time to think about every awesome event on this trip, and just to think about the impact that we had on so many people’s lives. As we shared our reflections one by one, I couldn’t help but feel sad. I felt sad that we didn’t have more time to give to the people of these communities, and that we didn’t have more time to just be with each other without the temptations of electronics. Nonetheless, our last experience on our 2018 GHF Belize trip consisted of a bonfire, a few chairs and a lot of laughs. We chowed down on the going away cake for Kirsten (who will be missed greatly) sat around the dimly lit fire, just enjoying each other’s company, and playing a few rounds of Mafia. I’m going to bed thinking of the great memories we will all share in many years to come.