I’m on the plane home, and it’s time for me to look back at my week and reflect on what has been a whirlwind of a trip. Now that everything has slowed down, I’ve been able to look over our itinerary again and think of all that we did and accomplished. In a way, this week has gone by in the blink of an eye, but in another, it really felt like a long seven days.
There are many cultural differences living everyday in a country like Honduras as compared to Canada. One of the biggest things about this trip for me was the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone. Whether it was trying to communicate in a Spanish-speaking country, navigating myself through an incredibly crowded football stadium, or doing physical labor in the heat of the Honduran mountains, it was important for me to embrace these new experiences and experience life outside my normal boundaries.
From the time that we touched down on the ground, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the country of Honduras. The vast landscapes and rolling mountains provided for an incredible backdrop, and some of the scenic vistas were almost surreal. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was not on a week-long vacation. I had never been to an area of the world like this before, only having seen programs on television and read about communities living in poverty. Being immersed in this environment really floored me, and I saw many things that my eyes were not used to seeing. I realize how lucky and privileged that I have been throughout my lifetime, and I must remind myself to always be thankful and appreciative for everything that I have. That being said, although some individuals in Honduras may not have the same monetary wealth or social opportunities as we do in North America, I realized they are able to live lives just as happy and fulfilling as ours due to the value they place on their relationships, their work, and their faith.
This trip has really made me look at everything around me in a different light, and has made me aware of how important perspective is in the grand scheme of life. Many things that we face are actually quite simple and straightforward, it’s the perspectives that are taken on them that make everybody’s experience different. There are many situations and instances where we don’t completely understand what others are thinking or feeling until we are thrown into their shoes. When we are able to evaluate our own perspectives carefully and critically while comparing them to the perspectives of others, we gain a greater appreciation for what the world can offer us and how we can work together to achieve the best outcomes for everyone involved.
In order to understand our purpose as members of society, we have to look at the fundamental tenets upon which communities are built. Going on this trip and immersing myself in the local culture really helped me break down the many components that keep this machine rolling, and think of ways that we can bring forward positive social change. We are all built as citizens of the earth, and it is important for us to collaborate in working towards common goals and purposes. As individuals, we must have a properly developed sense of self and carry out our actions in a way that is congruent with our ideals. Making the world a better place starts with the simple idea of making a commitment to ourselves, and our communities. The opportunity to serve has been provided to us on this trip, but I think the more valuable part of this equation that I am leaving with is the understanding of the reasons why we served.
I’ve got a lot of people to thank for making this past week the incredible experience that it was. I’m going to start with everyone who supported me with donations and words of encouragement in the days and months leading up to the trip. I simply couldn’t have gone on this trip without your support, and I can’t thank you enough for providing me with the opportunity to be a part of this experience. I want to thank the ministry staff that we worked with while on the ground in Honduras: German, Leo, Eric and Alberto all played a large role in helping us through the week, and did a great job of making us feel at home while in Canchias. I want to thank Mark Koepsell and Luke Benfield, who did an amazing job of facilitating our trip, and the 10 brothers from across America that joined me on the trip: Gabe, Joel, Adam, Dennis, Wabha, Leggett, Fabian, Chris, Andrew and Henkel – you are all such awesome dudes and I’m glad to have served with you guys. We had some great conversations, shared more than a few laughs, and put in some pretty hard work this week. I’m going to miss you guys, but I’m sure we will cross paths again at one point or another. Last but not least, I want to thank the people and the land of Honduras for opening my eyes to a side of the world I had never seen. I will never forget the memories I made or the lessons I have learned.
I’m very proud to have served as a pioneer on this first Phi Delt Service immersion trip, and I hope that we have paved the way for more brothers to serve in the future. When I joined the fraternity, I had very little idea of the opportunities that Phi Delta Theta would provide me, and this trip really proved to me that I am a member of the greatest organization in the world. I say this phrase with great regularity, but in no way does the frequency make the statement less meaningful: I’m Proud to be a Phi.
All in all, I am coming out of this week with a much different mindset from which I entered. My reasons for coming on this trip were of good intentions, but the trip itself uncovered my true purpose and showed me what service immersion is all about. I came into the trip looking to help those in need, and ended up receiving back just as much as I was able to provide. I did much more than put up a roof or dig a trench – through immersing ourselves in the local culture and having in-depth discussion with my fraternity brothers, I learned a lot about myself, the people, and the world around me. Most importantly, I placed myself in a constant state of exploration, discovering how my fraternal values can be applied to make the world around me a better place.
Ernie is currently a member of the Nova Scotia Alpha chapter of Phi Delta Theta and will be going into his senior year at Dalhousie University.
(Phi Delt service immersion attendees at Pulhapanzak Waterfalls in Honduras)