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My name is Brian Rohrlick, and I just recently finished my second year of the Bachelor of Architecture program at USC School of Architecture. My interest in Global Architecture Brigades (GAB) was set in motion far before I had even applied to USC. When I was touring the architecture program as a junior in high school, I was introduced to GAB by an architecture student who had, at the time, recently returned from her respective trip to Honduras; after joyously celebrating and sharing her adventure with me, I knew then that this was an experience I HAD to have. It combined my interest in traveling with my passion for helping those less fortunate, as well as my love for nature and the outdoors. Upon the commencement of my undergraduate career, the very first club I joined was GAB. Although I could not afford the trips at the time, I still enjoyed coming to the meetings and being inspired by how the program was expanding the concept of “architecture” to greater, more humanitarian conventions. I became interested in how the program was resolving problems with sustainability; not the sustainability we know of that involves retrofitting a house with expensive solar panels or wind mills, but rather the more meaningful version of sustainability –the one that involves implementing smart, educational, long-lasting architectural solutions to enhance the quality and longevity of the lifestyles of underprivileged communities. It became clear to me just the potential architecture can have in significantly enhancing our societies as a whole, especially those in developing countries; that insight alone became one of the key motivating factors for me to stay true and dedicated to the profession.

I was excited to finally be able to tangibly experience a dream I have had for almost three years. Never before had I felt so immensely blessed by such an important, purposeful endeavor. I was ready to put my education, willpower, and open-mindedness to the test as I was preparing for what I knew would be an experience of a lifetime. I was aware of the prospect that a week of hardcore manual labor and connecting with the Honduran locals would change my perspective of architecture. I ultimately decided that whatever intrinsic values and perspective on architecture Honduras has in regards to this program is what I will ultimately carry with me and reflect upon for the rest of my career.

The Trip

This was definitely one of the most phenomenal experiences I have ever had. I was captivated by Honduras’s natural beauty and its people. I was in awe of the untainted tropical greenery, and of the vast landscapes that prevailed throughout. About an hour and a half from Tegucigalpa (the capital) on top of a beautiful hill is the Global Brigades compound. This place acted as a sanctuary for all of the brigaders to relax and socialize after a long day of work. Here, I was blown away by the amount of different universities and types of brigades that were residing with us. People from universities from all of the US were here and sharing experiences with them was a fascinating time on its own.

Our brigade was assigned to lay down the concrete flooring (mezcla) for a community bank center for the small and humble community of El Tomatin. Though the labor was tough, and the tropical sun was relentless, the genuine joy, happiness, and gratitude of the people of this village more than made up for it. I underestimated just how much fun I was going to have connecting with these people, and learning their values and perspectives on life. They had this beautiful, prioritized sense of happiness that proved to be incredibly infectious. I also would like to mention that I felt like I had learned more Spanish in one week than I did taking two-years of Spanish classes in high school.

Wow! What an amazing week overall! I am blessed to have had the privilege of meeting some truly phenomenal people. The people of El Tomatin were some of the most genuine, kind-hearted people I have ever met in my life. I hope I will eventually be able to have another experience like this soon in my lifetime.

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Making mezcla is honest, hard work. Through it all, it has allowed us brigaders to really connect with the locals as we were all required to work as a team in order to meet the project deadline. As labor-intensive as our task was, we never passed up on opportunities to have fun.

On the last day of our adventure, we were tasked to create a 1-hour educational program for the El Tomatin youth. Our goal was to educate the children on what “architecture” is in a fun, engaging, meaningful matter. In one station, they designed structures using marshmallows and sticks. In a second station, the children were tasked to draw the house of their dreams.