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Our trip to Honduras - Jamieson Cobleigh

About Our trip to Honduras

Previous Entry Our trip to Honduras May. 31st, 2009 @ 09:11 pm Next Entry

From May 2 to May 9 reveilles and I went to Tegucigalpa, Honduras to volunteer at El Hogar. It was a life-changing experience, witnessing third-world poverty and feeling overwhelmed by the depth of the Hondurans’ struggles. Even in the midst of that, there is also joy, love, and hope. First, we want to thank you so much for your support. Because of all of you, we met and far surpassed our financial goal! The two of us were able to raise $2,800. After The MathWorks company match, our team was able to raise over $17,000 for El Hogar!

The work El Hogar does is invaluable. In Honduras, public school only runs to sixth grade and you can only attend public school if your family can afford a uniform and books. As a result, if your family is poor, you won’t be able to attend school, and it will be almost impossible to get out of poverty as an adult.

The MathWorks 2009 El Hogar Team

El Hogar helps kids escape from this cycle of poverty. Doña Claudia, the school’s director, told us a story about one of the students, Melvin. Melvin had lived with his mother and baby sister before he came to El Hogar. One day when Melvin was only 4 years old, his mother left him to watch his sister while she went out to run an errand. Unfortunately, his sister died while Melvin was watching her, perhaps from malnutrition. Melvin was traumatized by this and blamed himself for her death. When he came to El Hogar, Doña Claudia and the other teachers noticed that Melvin looked ill, even with regular food and medical attention. It turns out that he was having trouble sleeping because he was having nightmares about his sister’s death. Although Doña Claudia assured him that his sister's death wasn't his fault, Melvin still felt the weight of it. Doña Claudia tried to get his mother to reassure him, but his mother was unwilling to do that. Doña Claudia feels that it is her responsibility to show Melvin the love and acceptance he needs.

Melvin is still working through this, but he's not alone. He's loved and listened to, and he has a hopeful future. When he finishes elementary school, he can choose to be trained as a farmer, carpenter, electrician, or welder. El Hogar has been in existence for 30 years and their graduates have a good reputation among the companies of Honduras, so the students are likely to find employment. Because of El Hogar, Melvin and the other students have a chance to break out of poverty and have a better life than their parents.

A student building furniture at the technical school

While at El Hogar, we helped out with maintenance work. We sorted lumber so that the school could sell the better pieces to raise some money. We also moved sand around the campus to improve the drainage behind the dormitory. Since our team was made up of people whose main physical activity is typing and moving a mouse, working outdoors in humid 80°F weather was a real challenge. Some of the students chose to help us out with this work and their sense of joy infused it with fun.

Wilmer helping Stuart and reveilles break up clods of dirt

It wasn’t all work, though! In the evenings, we had the opportunity to play soccer and other games with the students. They really appreciate having work teams come to spend time with them. They know that their schooling is a gift from thousands of strangers who love them and care about their present and their future.

El Hogar is a boarding school, so the students are there all week long. Students with safe homes can leave on weekends and for the summer. Since not all of the students have safe homes to go to, the school is open year-round. On Friday, we gave the students who had to stay at the school for the weekend a special treat: we bought ice cream for them. When we walked into the auditorium and the children saw the ice cream, they quickly got very excited! We raced to scoop fast enough and the kids were all very patient. A couple of the older ones even helped us to serve the others.

Playing Uno with some boys and learning Spanish words for colors

Serving ice cream with Jennifer

On our last day in Honduras, we visited the home of one of the students, Marvin. His family’s house was a single 9’ x 9’ room, and it was used by Marvin, his mother, and his two sisters. The roof and most of the walls were sheets of metal, although parts of the walls were cardboard. We learned that his home was one of the nicer ones because it had electricity and there was access to running water about every other day. His mother and a neighbor eke out a meager living baking hundreds of tortillas a day. El Hogar helps them out by buying their tortillas for school meals.

Visiting Marvin's home

So many of the students come from difficult situations, but it is amazing how much love they are willing to show strangers! On our last day, there was a small ceremony where the students said goodbye to us. Each team member got a handmade card and lots of hugs.

For more pictures, videos, and stories, visit our team's blog. Again, thank you for your support in helping our team raise money for El Hogar! If you didn’t get the chance before, it’s not too late to donate at their webpage. Your gift can go a long way towards giving a child a better future. We really enjoyed our time at El Hogar and we hope to go back in a year or two to see how the students have grown!

Thanks!

reveilles and Jennifer saying adios
View of Tegucigalpa from El Picacho National Park
A lizard overlooking Tegucigalpa from El Picacho National Park
Current Mood: gratefulgrateful
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