While my post on our time as chaperones for the youth group trip to Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras, could last forever, I will try to keep it (and the pictures) short. If I do this, I might actually get this post uploaded! I answered some questions for our local newspaper, so I am using my answers as the skeleton to the blog. Hope it still is coherent and personal.
Who went on the trip? 9 youth… 6 girls, 3 boys; grades 10-12 and 2 sponsors (Jeremy and I)
Do many people speak English and do any of you speak Spanish or did you utilize translators? There were not a lot of English speakers that we encountered outside those we worked with. Our Honduran youth counterparts all attended the bilingual school, and they were more fluent in English than any of us were in Spanish. Maybe 6 out of 11 of us had any Spanish language background, and that was minimal. So, the Hondurans helped with translation between the SYF and the children at the day care as much as possible.
How are you connected to the location you visited? We are connected through Kathy Tschiegg, the founder of Central American Medical Outreach (CAMO). She attends our church and her passion and heart for both the region and the medical outreach are evident when she shares stories after returning from trips to Honduras. CAMO has an office in Orrville, Ohio, and has provided medical outreach in this region of Honduras for more than 20 years. All the work CAMO does is through partnerships between professionals in the United States and Honduras working together. Through this partnership, the Hondurans are able to learn and share ideas and ultimately be the ones caring for their own country. CAMO has blossomed over the years from just providing medical care to working on community development projects, training centers, education, and a women's shelter. Their outreach is evident throughout the country as the Honduran staff helps to train and educate others around the country. (I would recommend checking out http://www.camo.org/ to understand this organization better.)
What were the conditions like? The day care has three groups of kids: ages 0-2, ages 2-4, and ages 5-6 (Preschool). Each class has approximately 20 children. There is one lead teacher in the preschool, and a head caretaker in the other two age groups. There are two additional floating helpers. The playground area has swings held on with bent nails to replace rusted chains, wobbly see-saws, and a basketball court area with posts and backboards, but not rims. There is a small kitchen area for food preparation - lunch and a snack daily; CAMO helps fund a Friday late afternoon meal to provide extra nourishment for the weekend. The windows in the rooms had many torn or missing screens useless in keeping bugs such as mosquitoes out. The roof was in need of repair. The preschool teacher has worked with an American counterpart to improve her teaching skills and learn to provide for children with disabilities. So, while this preschool served some of the least privileged children, it sent the children out as some of the most prepared for their first year of school - both academically and behaviorally.
What did we do? We worked with nine Honduran youth counterparts to do a variety of jobs at a day care center for low-income children. Our four primary tasks were 1) Repair/replace ripped window screens in the 0-2 year-old room (nursery). We finished this project on the last day, thanks to leadership from Austin, one of our senior guys. It was made complicated by lack of tools, a mix of screen frames, and the learning curve on how to cut and replace a screen.
2) paint walls and a mural for an indoor play space for the children ages 2-6 to use. The kids worked hard on this, and I think it turned out really well. My photo below is just a staged photo; I painted all of one stroke on the wall. On the other hand, a few of the youth and I had the task of cleaning all the spilled/dripped paint off the floor on the last day. We finished this project as well.
3) Clean the windows and floors in around the classrooms. This was probably the most unrewarding job for most of us. It definitely need done. The glass window panes were very dusty, and the cleaning we did let a lot more light in. We also cleaned some of the floors in the classrooms that don’t get cleaned as often.
4) Be of assistance as needed in the classrooms and entertain the children in the afternoon after naptime.
On the last day, we traveled up in the mountains, about 2 hours by bus, to a school where a dental team was providing care for the children in that school. They had four dental chairs set up and worked on cleaning teeth and educating the children about dental care. We provided entertainment while they waited to ease fears and make the time go quickly. We shared fun things here, similar to what we shared with the children in the day care - bubbles, balls, frisbee, a parachute (like in gym class), crayons and coloring books, and face paint.
Where and what did you eat while there? We had breakfast every morning at the hotel. Breakfast was family style; we had refried beans and plantains every day, as well as fresh fruit. To go with this, we had toast and scrambled eggs, pancakes, or waffles. It was delicious! We had packed lunches at the day care most days. Evening meals were out at approved restaurants in the area - fajita-style meal, pizza, and a coffeeshop were some of the meals we indulged in.
Any dietary issues with meals for anyone? Well, eight out of eleven of us were sick for 1-2 days of the week. We are not sure if it was viral or bacterial, but it was nothing that was too serious. We did have a doctor come assess everyone's symptoms and prescribe medicine if needed. The water was not safe to drink so we stuck to bottled drinks.
Lastly, we had some pure fun times… We played volleyball two different nights at the recreation center. There is a good story behind this, so just ask any of us the awkwardness of that first night!
We also got to go to a hot springs for an afternoon. It was a middle of the week break that many of us needed.
Oh, and we caught the very last part of the Cavs vs Warriors game. And CELEBRATED as the Cavs were victorious.
And finally, the trek home on the bus – 3-1/2 hours on the bus to get to the airport. We had an excellent bus driver, Javier (below), all week. And an excellent leader counterpart in Yeny (below) as well!
There is so much more to say, but this is where my time ends, and the main things are covered. Until another trip….