It's hard to choose one part of the trip that truly stuck out to me. I wish I could share with you every, single, moment that made me smile...that made me cry. In person, I have yet been able to communicate how I have truly felt. I never have been gifted with the ability to be well spoken or say exactly what I mean but here I will try my best.
Going into this project I had the typical American missionary mindset-I was the American who had come to do something great and was teaching these kids something so valuable. Coming out, I couldn't have been more wrong. Any person in the world could do what I do, if they have the means...it takes a special type of person to teach the type of lessons that the people of Honduras taught me. I learned to trust with all my heart, love is blind, do not hang onto the past, keep your faith, and family doesn't end with blood.
Most of the boys in Flor Azul have no family and rely solely on each other for any type of support-something that each and every boy is willing to give 100%. One boy said a line that I will never forget, "There is Mama Karen...she is my mother." Though this boy has not known her his entire life, he will forever look to her as his mother. When I watched the boys interact with each other they were so protective and helpful, constantly checking up on one another and making sure everyone stood equal and together.
In the village of Campo we met a little boy named Kevin who had down-syndrome. Kids in America with disabilities are often ridiculed and lead a life with very little friendships. Kevin had more friends than anyone else in the village. Every child there treated him as if he was Just Kevin and had no disability. Love to them is absolutely blind. They loved without caring who you were, no matter your gender, no matter your race, no matter your fault or disability. This is something that every person should take with them and live by everyday.
Finally, the past is the past. That is something that I will always remember that the people of Honduras taught me. No matter how bad their lives were before, they got up smiling each day and thanked God that they are here. They thank God that they have food-no matter how little it is. The fact that they don't let what has happened to them reflect on their day-to-day lives shows what kind of people they really are.
In the end, I have to say that in my heart I know it is not truly 'the end'. I will be back to Honduras as soon as I can-returning to the boys, "sitting right there on the front porch." I have learned more than I could ever hope to know and want to spread the love that grew inside me across America and across the world. I thank God that I met so many people who could give me so many great things. Most of all, I thank God for meeting Arturo-who is my godson now. When I left Flor Azul I found that I couldn't cry-we had been having so much fun at the fiesta that it didn't seem real. I remember Arturo telling me that I was a strong person for not crying...and I couldn't help but think that I was never going to be half as strong as he was.
So here is to the friendships that will last a lifetime, the memories that will never fade, to the boy who will forever live (at least in my heart), and to God for giving us the opportunity of a lifetime.
The National Agriculture University in Honduras was easily one of my favorite places that we visited. I loved the people, the agriculture, the campus, everything! As an Agriculture major, I am always excited to see different ways of growing things or raising animals and we got to do just that.
Catacamas is a lovely, tropical region with towering mountains that stand above groves of banana trees and pastures of cattle. It is humid and sticky and humming with noise from frogs and bugs in the trees. The University is huge! The campus has buildings all built in the shape of an "H" for Honduras and the grounds are well kept.
We were able to tour the campus and the surrounding campus farms and I was amazed at the sheer volume of projects that are going on. The vegetable and fruit production farms are efficient and neat. Everything is grown sustainably and recycling is a main focus. The leftover vegetables and fruits are fed to the animals that are being raised on the farms.
The students at the University were eager to learn and all happy to be there. Some students that we talked to have to travel up to 2 days on the bus to get home to their families. Most of them speak some English and many are nearly fluent. They were excited to have us there and everyone went out of their way to show us around.
My favorite part of our entire trip was the horseback riding at one of the University's small farms. I love horses and it's my goal, wherever I am, to find one to at least take a picture with. I was elated that I not only got to pose with horses, but I got to ride!
When it was finally time to go, I was sad. I wanted to see more and do more around the University and region. If I get the chance to go back to see my new friends, I most certainly will!
When I left for Honduras, I had the mindset that I would make an impact on someone's life down there. Little did I know, someone would make such an impact on my life. It wasn't just one person but a combination of everyone there. Everyone down there was so kind. They all have a past but they don;t let that hinder them. They learn to forgive and forget and to live each day to the fullest. You never know when your last day on Earth will be so live each day as a mini-adventure.
I was told that I had a beautiful smile and that I should show it every day. I lived by that in Honduras. I was constantly smiling down there! The scenery is beautiful, the people are beautiful, and the attitudes are beautiful. There was a man we met that had came illegally into the US and worked for a while. He came back to Honduras and said that he was the richest man in the world because he had his family and was able to provide for them. Americans are very materialistic without knowing that they are. I didn't realize how much I relied on my phone until it wouldn't work. I was thankful to be disconnected for a while!
I hope to go back to Honduras next summer to see all of my new friends. Luis, in my picture, became my best friend in the matter of 7 days. He taught me that you need to love with all you've got. You don't need money to be happy. Put others first. Just a smile can brighten someone's day. Luis made such an impact on me and I hope that I left
Its been about 24 hours since I left Honduras...and still I find myself thinking about everything I experienced there. Despite the pouring rain, the heat, the long walks ,bugs, and cold water I am very grateful for all the people I met and conversations I had. I truly believe that every person I came in contact with was for a reason. Thirty years from now I might not remember how some of these people look or even their name... but I will remember what type of effect they had on me. I do not really know what life will bring after Honduras but I hope it will be a journey worthwhile. "Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward
it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us."
We are back at home. I must say, I will never forget this experience. I have learned a lot from taking this journey and think anyone that has the opportunity should think about doing the same. It was definitely not an easy thing to do: I left my children for almost 2 weeks, showered in cold water for a week, walked for miles to explore and learn while on this trip, and much more. However, I am glad I had the chance to go and I'm very thankful for having had this opportunity.
While in Honduras, we worked with children in schools from kindergarten through high school and even met with some in college. Many of the children and families we met are living in extreme poverty. You would never know it, though, by talking to them. These children have more drive, determination, and work ethic than many children in the United States. There was one child about 8 years old that was out working to provide for his family the first day we went to his school. He was so happy when we met with him the next day, though, and even sang a few songs for us. He is very talented. They've said he probably will not be able to go to school next year because they can't afford it. This saddens me to know that a child is not able to get an education regardless of his parent's income. After working with the mountain schools in the mornings, we worked with the teenage boys at Flor Azul each afternoon. I couldn't believe how many of them wanted to have classes in English rather than go outside and enjoy themselves after a long school day. Even after an hour of class, they didn't want to leave. I hope my own children grow up with that same ambition. More children need to think like these boys. The teenage girls were the same way. They enjoy school and some of the oldest have been going to beauty school. They asked to do our hair and nails while we were there and did a great job. They underestimate just how skilled they really are I think. At the university I met a guy working on his second bachelors degree just to be able to make it and begin a project in natural resources to help his country with the issues they are facing.
I hope all of these people are able to fulfill their dreams and move on to bigger and better things. I learned a lot from many of the children and adults that I worked with on this trip and hope to put into play the many lessons they've taught me. I only wish they knew how much they all did for me. I look up to them for inspiration in my own life. Never give up on things you want!!
The university is primarily focused on agriculture and serves many students from poor backgrounds. Here they learn about sustainable agriculture, ecology, and alternative sources of energy. Many of the students are on full scholarships, which cover not only their tuition and materials, but also housing, clothes, food, and everything else they might need. The students take classes and work in different areas, and all the food the students eat is grown on the campus. Field work is part of the curriculum, and their motto is "Learn While Doing." Seniors do theses based on field research, and many of them study abroad in order to do that research.
Our stay in Catacamas was punctuated by events organized by the university just for us. There were tours of the campus, cultural activities, presentations by students, and many opportunities for cultural and personal exchanges between their students and the Ferrum visitors. We were treated with wonderful hospitality and thoughtfulness, and we all enjoyed it tremendously.
Nuevo Paraíso village is a children's village. This is where children from families that either have no parents or have parents who cannot care for them or who abuse them can come to live and learn in safety. They have small children and teenage girls in the village. We didn't have as much time with the girls as we did with the Flor Azul boys, but we did have a fun day of play. In addition, Dr. Sagasti Suppes collaborated with Dr. Annemarie Grassi, a youth worker from Cleveland who runs Open Doors Academy
, and with help from Ferrum student Christi Williams taught a workshop on self esteem and sex education. We also had an evening in which the women in our group had their hair and nails done by the girls. There is never enough time, but the little time we spent with the girls was fun.
Flor Azul is a place up on a mountain where the most wonderful boys live. There are over sixty boys between the ages of twelve and twenty-two. All of them have experienced extreme poverty, most of them have experienced abuse or violence, all of them have hearts as big as the world. The time we spent with them was magical, and we were able to connect with them individually as we played, learned, and taught English, art, and geography. Mostly we had a chance to talk to them and get to know them and to be humbled by their graciousness, humility, and love.