Over the 2018-19 winter break, I traveled to Honduras through Buck-I-Serv. While this was a service trip, a big part of it was also learning about the culture (through things like food, dancing, and visiting markets) and their role in the coffee industry (through talking to local farmers and visiting processing locations).
Our first day there, we drove out into the mountains to begin building a house for a coffee picker named Jesus, who lived in poor conditions and had recently been in an accident rendering him unable to work. When we got there, there were already about 15 other people, many of them Hondurans, who were ready to work together to finish the project as fast as possible. It was explained to us that some of these people had houses built for them at one point and came to pass it on. This was important as it can give the new homeowner more pride and appreciation than when a group of foreigners comes in, does everything, and leaves. I realized how important it is to have that insight when helping others.
The next day the weather took a turn for the worse, so almost all our projects got canceled. I was really bummed, but the attitude of the other Hondurans was very different. Over the next few days, we spent time on smaller projects as needed, but the purpose shifted more toward learning as much about these people as we could.
The second day we visited a woman’s farm and she and her family taught us about the work they do on a daily basis. They let us pick the coffee, even after explaining how it had to be done in a specific way or it could ruin the rest of the crop. Additionally, they cooked all 12 of us visiting a full meal and we ate with the family. Another evening we gathered with a few local farmers. We asked them questions about their trade and what they want people to know back in the United States. They spoke about passion. Passion is necessary for them because the work is hard and not always profitable. It is difficult sometimes to find fair prices or workers. It was very eye-opening to see how often people can be taken advantage of in that sense. I want to pay more attention to things I am consuming, and now understand the value of fair trade on a whole new level.
From all of these interactions and experiences, what stood out the most was how welcoming everyone was. It made me really think about our own culture, and how we should attempt to move in that direction. Even at Ohio State, there are lots of students from foreign countries, and I wondered if there are things that make them feel welcomed like that. I personally know that I have not gone out of my way to be welcoming, because I assumed the international students would feel overwhelmed or uninterested. I made it a goal to put myself out there in the future. If I can carry this idea not only back to Ohio State, but also to my career or anywhere else I go, I believe I can make a greater impact and in turn be more successful.
Overall, this experience was one I will never forget, between the people I met, the things I saw, the food I tasted, and the knowledge of the world that I gained. I realize that few people have opportunities like this and that it is my responsibility to share what I have learned with those who have not.