By Caroline Byrd, Staff Writer
I’ll need support from the crowd on this one. Anyone who has ever been on a volunteer trip can vouch for me when I say that out of the four times I have returned from volunteering in Honduras, the reaction of my peers when I have returned has never been less than “What a difference you’re making in the world!” I disagree with those statements. Not due to a lack of self-esteem or a lack of confidence that the work I am doing is making a difference, but because that’s not what I go there to do.
Students Helping Honduras offers trips four times a year: during spring break, winter break and two sessions in the summer. The trips start with the volunteers touring Villa Soleada, where founder Shin Fujiyama built the Villa Soleada Bilingual School as well as a 44 home village, followed by a tour of schools built so far throughout El Progreso. As the day continues, volunteers are invited into the homes of community members of the site where they will be building and begin construction that afternoon. Volunteers work long, hard hours for four days on the school that they will be fundraising for once they return to the United States and end the week with a trip to Tela Beach. This sounds fun, right? Go down, get two new stamps in your passport (one for entrada, one for salida), improve your CrossFit performance by lifting 400 cement blocks in a row every day, play futból with the children for whom the school was built, and return to the United States eight days later with the motivation to raise the money to finish your school. Well, yes, it actually is really fun and probably the best experience that I have had the pleasure of having in college, but those things are not why I go.
I go to Honduras because of Katherine and Vanessa: two girls who live in a village located in the middle of a Chiquita Banana Plantation where SHH is building a school for the over 400 children who live there, only 82 of whom are able to attend school in the church they use as a classroom during the week. Katherine is 9, Vanessa is 5, and they walk over an hour to go to school every day.
I go to Honduras because of Pastor and Marco, two construction workers for SHH who smile more than any person I have ever met in the United States when they talk about their jobs. Even though I see them maybe twice per year, they always remember my name and wish me Happy Birthday on my Facebook wall every June.
That’s cliché, and I know it is cliché. I knew it was cliché after my first trip and I know it still when I tell people that a week in Honduras has the power to change one’s life forever. But that week does just that. SHH is not solely a non-profit; they don’t provide handouts, they encourage sweat equity, they have partnerships in the communities they work in. SHH is an unbelievable relationship that every chapter and member has with the global community. SHH is a source of education for college students to learn about international development and how to succeed beyond one’s mistakes. SHH acknowledges that they are not changing the world, but provides the support and love the Hondurans need to alleviate extreme poverty and gang violence in their beautiful country. After my first trip with SHH I realized the complexity of poverty and what it meant to volunteer – I transferred schools, I took a minor in poverty studies and I plan to return as soon as I can to Honduras. My life changed because Students Helping Honduras provided me with a relationship to the world like I had never experienced before, exposing the good and the bad within ethical volunteering as well as the beauty in one’s relationships with others. SHH has taught me that my role as a global citizen is not to aim to change the world, but to change myself in order to love and care about someone else so incalculably that ultimately others feel the same. My job is not to change others, but to be the sidekick one needs to enact change for oneself.
If you would like to learn more about Students Helping Honduras, go to www.shhkids.org
If you would like to donate to the construction of the El Corozalito School, please visit http://fundaround.it/51u1nj