- Published on Tuesday, 17 July 2012 21:53
By Chris Lechuga
UTEP News Service
During a time when most students involved in Greek organizations at The University of Texas at El Paso keep busy with recruitment and planning activities, a pair of fraternity brothers decided to start their summer in an unusual spot: Honduras.
UTEP seniors Gabriel Fernandez and Joel Vega, who are members of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, took advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join 13 other brothers from across the United States and Canada to travel to the Central American country on a service immersion program in late May. The trip was commissioned by the fraternity’s international headquarters and the Association for Fraternal Leadership and Values.
“I’ve always wanted to do a service trip like this,” said Vega, a business management major. When the fraternity announced the trip early in 2012, he immediately began to raise money to fund his trip. The two Miners met their fellow brothers from other university chapters for the first time at the Honduran airport upon arrival, and immediately forged bonds with each other soon after dinner.
“By the end of that meal, we were all good friends,” Vega said.
Throughout the weeklong trip, the two UTEP representatives got to experience the Honduran culture and social conditions as they served local organizations in many ways. On one day, the Phi Delta Theta men volunteered at an orphanage, interacting with children as young as eight months old, while on another day, they helped rebuild a house roof that had caved for tenants who could not afford to fix it.
Fernandez, a music education major, described an experience of joining a group of children during a game of soccer one afternoon and observing how they seemed to forget the harsh conditions they lived in as they enjoyed playing the game.
“Many of these children had holes in their shoes, old clothes, scratches all over their body and occasional health issues, but each of these children wore the most enormous smiles I’ve ever seen,” Fernandez said in his blog post on the fraternity website.
Vega described his experience as humbling and said he came back to El Paso more grateful for the opportunities he has. He and Fernandez are looking for another opportunity to take a service trip during spring break, and encourage their fellow students to get involved in similar programs.
“I think everybody should do it and experience some sort of culture shock,” Vega said.
To read more about their trip, visit Fernandez’ blog at http://phideltblog.com/2012/06/28/reflecting-on-the-cardinal-principles-honduras-service-immersion/