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How students helped Honduras

30 January 2014 By Brandi Bottalico, Senior Editor No Comments

Last semester I made the last-minute decision to go to Honduras with Students Helping Honduras with little more knowledge about the organization than that we were going to help to build schools.

Sure, why not, right? I would love to help. So I raised the $650 needed for the volunteers and boarded the plane on Jan. 11. I didn’t expect that seven days later, I would leave with memories of Hondurans in Villa Soleada that would change my life.

I saw children open their arms to us, and be so trusting of us, American strangers, after having some of the most horrific experiences.

And it wasn’t only the children that were inspiring, but the adult workers too. We worked alongside the Hondurans in the village to build a bilingual school, library and orphanage. These people were so happy, even though in my eyes, they seemed to have so little and were working so hard to keep what very little they had.

They lived in small houses of cinder blocks, with just a tin roof. The women made bracelets to sell, 2 for $5, to earn extra money. I realized later they weren’t working to keep what I had first seen as valuable(money and possessions they had), but for something that I so often take for granted in my daily life, for safety and opportunities.

This organization is helping these families not only to survive the next day, but the next 10, 15 years. It is creating a sustainable village to solve some of the country’s problems. One thing that we learned there is not to give handouts but ‘hand-ups,’ the tools to help them get what they need to survive long term.

SHH is giving Honduran children opportunities through educating them. Through education, we can prevent gang violence. Due to the high presence of MS-13 and Mara 18, Honduras is the murder capital of the world, with an average of 20 people killed per day. Ninety-five percent of those guilty of murder won’t be arrested. Two-thirds of children are born into poverty and half of the Honduran population is unemployed. With little options, these children turn toward gangs.

But by visiting Villa Soleada, you would barely know that.

There are children running around smiling, families working to stay in the safety of the village, out of the reach of the gangs and kids learning English in the bilingual school. Some have overcome things that I can’t even imagine being faced with.

Yet they were standing in front of me, smiling. And SHH made that possible through the volunteers dedicating a week out of their year to put in hours and hours of hard work, and because of contributions from all the students on all the campus chapters across the country at the bake sales and other fundraisers.

While in Honduras, I learned about the strength of Towson’s chapter, seeing that they have raised enough money to almost single handedly pay for a girls’ home. I am so glad I decided to go on this trip and know I will be visiting again.

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