Wednesday, January 13, 2010

juntos por progreso

As you all (probably) know, I spent a week in Honduras over the break. What Students Helping Honduras has been working towards for the past two years is building a village for 40 impoverished families in El Progreso; the houses are now finished, so our group was installing the water system so they could have running water in their homes. We also helped out at a kids camp for the children in the village, since they had been out of school for months due to instability in the country.

I flew into San Pedro Sula at around 12:30 on Saturday. Luckily there were a bunch of SHHers on the plane with me so I knew where to go when I got off the plane. Not that the airport was that big, but we did have a guy in our group get on the wrong bus and end up 3 hours north with a crazy Christian mission group, so it does happen. We spent the rest of the day relaxing, unpacking, getting used to our surroundings, and getting to know each other.

Our hotel was pretty awesome. This is one of the cabanas that we all stayed in.

On Sunday we got to know some of the kids at Por Venir, their school. Since lots of us don't speak Spanish, we drew pictures with them instead of having real conversations.

This is Jorge. He taught me "pescados", "caballo", "nube", and "lluvia". And he showed me how to draw the Honduran flag.

After Por Venir, we went to Siete de Abril, the slum that the families of the village used to live in. It was eye-opening, to say the least. The coordinators took us to Siete first in order to better understand why this project was needed. Afterwords, we went to the worksite, or Villa Soleada as it is now known. All of the villagers were waiting for us there with a big party to celebrate the near-completion of the project.

Entrance to Villa Soleada

Kids dancing!

The football pitch. The villagers were more concerned about this being built than the actual houses.

Random story about this field: Micheletti (the current president of Honduras)'s son built this for us. I don't know the details, but I know he is from El Progreso, and that Cosmo Fujiyama (one of the SHH founders) is extremely charismatic and apparently won him over and convinced him to help out.

On Monday we started the actual work, i.e. digging two foot trenches around the village to lay water pipes down. This task was made much more difficult by the fact that it had rained heavily for the past three or four days, so we were basically swimming in mud by the end of the day.

See, I wasn't kidding. Check out Wes behind me.

Monday night was salsa lesson night, which was a blast except for the fact that there were far more girls than boys on the trip so I had to lead! They set up a really awesome performance by the local high school salsa group though.

On Tuesday we had another morning with kids camp, and another afternoon at work. Our evening activity was supposed to be a soccer match, but it was raining again so the field we were supposed to play on was flooded! So we watched a great film called Sin Nombre instead. Not exactly a happy feel-good flick, but it was really interesting to see more about a world that I knew nothing about before my trip.

Monica and me with two of our favorite kids at Por Venir

Wednesday was our break from manual labor. We took the bus into San Pedro Sula for a bit of shopping at the indoor market in the morning, which was awesome. Most of the boys bought machetes. I bought a Honduras football jersey so I could rep my new favorite place during the World Cup this summer!

We had lunch at a place called Baleadas Express, which is kind of like their Chipotle, but better. Baleadas are the unofficial food of Honduras, and they are absolutely delicious. The day wasn't all fun and games, however.

In the afternoon we went to a government-run orphanage (known as Instituto Hondureño de de la Niñez y la Familia, or IHNFA) called Nueva Esperanza. This was an extremely misleading name however, as these children really have no hope for the future. The place is underfunded, understaffed, rarely cleaned, and looks like a prison. Nearly every child in there had been abused or abandoned before arriving there, and many of them are permanently mentally or physically affected by it. They don't get enough food and never get adult attention. They were so starved for affection that as soon as we walked through the door they attached themselves to us, a group of strange people who didn't even speak their language. They called us all "tio" and "tia", or "aunt" and "uncle", which was adorable and heartbreaking at the same time. There was so much that we wanted to do for them, but we couldn't. I've never felt more helpless. All we could do was play with them for an afternoon.

I spent most of my time with a little girl named Vilma, who didn't care at all that I didn't speak Spanish. I gave her piggy back rides and drew her pictures, and she was delighted. The hardest part of the visit was the infant room though. There were about 30 babies in one room, and most of them were sharing cribs that had no real bedding, just a thin plastic mattress. They were only changed once a day, if that, and had very little human contact, because there was only one worker in the room. When it came time for us to leave, Vilma found me again and just hugged me for about 10 minutes. It was so hard to leave, but at the same time it was so depressing that I couldn't wait to get out of there.

The saddest thing is that these children really have nothing to look forward to. When the boys get to about 12 or 13, if they haven't been placed in foster care they are kicked out. There used to be a boy's home in the building next to the orphanage, but it was closed down a few years ago after rumors of child abuse and murder. So most of the boys will join gangs to survive, and end up in a juvenile detention center or prison. The girls don't have it any better, either. There is a girl's home that they can stay in until they are 18, but it only has room for about 50 girls, and right now it's got 3 times that number. So they all sleep on the floor and again, don't get enough to eat, and once they turn 18 they are turned out on the streets to become beggars or prostitutes. Many of them will get pregnant and not be able to support their children, so they will go to an orphanage and the whole cycle will start again. It's such a depressing and hopeless situation. So even though Wednesday didn't tire us physically, by the end we were all completely emotionally and mentally exhausted.

Sorry for the tl;dr essay. I just had to get it all out.

On to less depressing things...Thursday we again had kids camp and work site digging. Since it was our last day working with the kids, we had an epic futbol match to celebrate. And we got crushed. By a bunch of 8 year olds.

In the evening we had a dinner celebration in El Progreso with all of the volunteers and Villa families, with good food and dancing. We even performed dances that we had been working on all week! There was even a special *NSYNC dance by the guys of cabana 5:

It was pretty epic.

On Friday we had our last look at Villa Soleada, when we planted trees around the edge of the football field. In about 30 years they will be huge shade trees, which will be awesome. I'll have to go back when I'm 50 and check it out.

Then we took the Villa kids to the beach at Tela, an hour away. A lot of them had never been to the beach before, so it was a great day of fun, sun, and relaxation. And I barely even got burned! I didn't get any other sort of color either though...

Spot the pale one...this is why I don't go to the beach.

The food at the beach was great. We had kebabs for lunch, and they sold beer and pina coladas and this absolutely heavenly coconut bread that I wish I had right now. I also drank coconut milk straight from a coconut. It was probably the best day at the beach I've ever had. A great way to end the trip.

Although it didn't quite end there...on our last night in town we got all dolled up and went out clubbing! It was a fundraiser party for the organization, and there were lots of locals there because apparently they had advertised with "come see american tourists dance, it's hilarious!". It was so much fun though.

We got back to the hotel at about 1am, and I had to go to the airport at 4:30, so I didn't even bother to sleep. A few of us went out to the pool and stargazed for a while, then we all trooped back into the dining room to talk. One by one, people started going to bed, until I was the only one left, and then I had like a half hour to sit by myself until the taxi picked me up. Needless to say, I was a zombie on the way home, but it was more than worth it.

And that was my epic trip to Honduras in a really really really large nutshell. My "life-altering experience" tag has never been so appropriate.

1 comment: said...

Aaaww Sare! *big hugs*

I literally had goosebumps reading about the orphanage. I wonder if they have some kind of sponsor program like World Vision.
Cruel world is treating third world countries unfairly :(

Also - have the Cabana 5 *NSYNC released an album yet?

On fashion note - you look hawt in that cute bikini BTW! Psh tan is overrated - srsly. Some of my dresses are retired eversince i got darker!