Rachel joined us on the May medical team trip (her third trip to Honduras with H&H!) as a social work team member. Be sure to read her story to learn more about the awesome work our medical team is doing. We will be sharing more of their stories in the coming weeks!
By: Rachel Hooper
On our medical team trip in May, there were five of us who made up the social work team. We had several pre-trip planning meetings by conference calls where we planned how we were going to work in the villages, and we shared with each other some of the techniques and tools we could use. Each day, we followed a pre-planned agenda. Our days in each village were divided into two-day programs. We worked in Remolino, La Coroza, and La Cuchilla. Day “A” was a clinical day. In the beginning, we went through a general ‘intake’ with the clinical team and then followed-up with a home visit with people who were identified to have a social service need. On Day “B” we continued with one-on-one work in individual homes. One of the methods we applied was motivational interviewing, a technique we had shared with each other during our pre-arrival planning.
This was exciting for me because this was my third trip. It was particularly interesting for me because I was able to apply the social work skills I trained for and had experience with in the U.S. My current job is in the policy and community aspect of social work, so I was very interested in the social needs of individual villagers, especially the women and girls, but also what kind of social support they were connected to within their communities. As for me, as a social worker, this was mostly a learning experience. It opened my eyes to the social needs of the villagers. This was the first time that a group of trip participants came as social workers to better understand many of the social issues and barriers in the villages.
There are many similarities in the social needs of Honduran villagers and other communities elsewhere. Challenges like violence, alcoholism, grief, mental illness, and stress cross cultural lines. However, I also learned that I cannot come with preconceived ideas that the methods of helping we use in the US will be the most effective in the villages. I really had to listen to what people shared and what they avoided revealing. I sensed that there were social obstacles to sharing problems, not only with visiting professionals, but also amongst themselves within their own social groups. Yet I did see some openness and effectiveness when the women already had a prior relationship with team members. I will always remember seeing some amazing strength and resilience in individuals and some strong extended family supports. The needs are great; as it seems, especially single women, carry many burdens alone.
My take-away from the social work aspect of the trip is that there’s a need for ongoing social work support. When it comes to one-on-one help, trip members who are American social workers, as we were, are probably best utilized in intake and identification of needs, but long-term, the Health Squad is looking into ways to connect with extended programs within Honduras. It has been suggested to have a social work intern program involving Honduran students. After the trip, the social work team thought a program like this would be a more effective approach for addressing everyday challenges.
One of my hopes for the future is that the Health Squad over time can research social work outreach programs that already exist in Honduras. For example, a domestic abuse program, if one exists. I would love to see more organizations, churches, or groups that will work cooperatively with H&H, or follow in the steps of the H&H model of building sustainable change that will include social services as part of their overall healthcare efforts.
We invite you to join us in our efforts to improve mental healthcare access for Honduran villages we serve by joining us on our next H&H medical team trip. It will be life changing!