Strangers Unite in a Journey of Hope for Honduras

The mission team packed nearly 200 care packages consisting of beans, rice, sugar, tea and personal hygiene items for families in the Ocotillo village.

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (April 27, 2011) –It’s been 12 years in the making, and now 13 strangers from varied backgrounds will be forever united after making a commitment to help the poorest of the poor in Honduras. The group decided to put words into action, and fund a home building project after traveling with Food For The Poor on its first mission trip to the Central American country in early April.

"I was at my happiest on this trip when we as a group were doing something to help the people," said Jeanne Johnson, a volunteer from Kansas. "I was so pleased that we actually got to do projects instead of driving past the people and observing from afar."

On the first day, the team braved the heat as they gathered in the courtyard of a Food For The Poor-sponsored warehouse in San Pedro Sula. They stuffed big plastic bags with smaller bags of beans, rice, sugar, juices, personal care items and treats for the children. After a few hours in the still-rising heat, nearly 200 bags were delivered to the village of Ocotillo, a 30-minute ride from the complex.

Dozens of women, children and elderly waited patiently for their monthly supply of much needed and much appreciated goods. Many in the group of travelers did not speak Spanish, but that didn’t matter because the exchange between giver and receiver spoke louder than any words.

The team went to the dump near Ocotillo. There, they met the people who live, work
and get food from the dump site.

"Realizing that one family must live off of one bag of sugar, one bag of beans, and one bag of rice seemed ludicrous," said Sarah Rohrman, from New Jersey. "However, knowing that this is how so many families live day-by-day really puts things into perspective."

"In spite of their plight, the sincere happiness I see in these children’s faces is truly amazing. They have so little, I will never forget what I am seeing here today," said Joshua Miller of Ohio.

The second stop in Ocotillo was at the city dump. Vultures, cows, pigs, goats, and dogs wandered, while people picked through mounds of garbage, working side-by-side in search of sellable goods and food. For some, this way of life has existed for generations. The “pickers,” as they’re called, wanted the group to ask God to please bless the garbage in order that their daily needs would be found in the trash – an odd request that brought all who heard it to tears.

"Mentally, the most meaningful site was the Ocotillo village and the dump. Both locations brought home to me the true sense of the need for education, and the assistance the very poor of the country also need," said Doug Frederick, from Pennsylvania.

Team members helped in the construction of 2, 2-room concrete block homes in the mountain region of Santa Barbara.

With many in need of sturdy housing, the second workday began with a two hour drive from San Pedro Sula into the mountain region of Santa Barbara. After weaving through hairpin turns, and cruising near cliffs so high the valley below was barely in view, the group reached the work site. They hiked up a steep hill and began constructing the foundations of two, two-room homes for a family of 16, who all shared a one-room hut on a ridge very close to the construction site.

"I am blown away by all of this because I am actually building a house for someone and it feels great!" said Anita Buckmaster of Texas.

The home building didn’t end there, the group traveled to a third housing site where they mortared, installed windows, and painted the front of the house green and orange. The 400-square-foot house has a porch, rests on a cement foundation, has a bathroom and is topped with a sturdy zinc roof.

The excitement came full circle when Efigenia Ramirez was presented with a key to a new home for herself and her family of 11.

"It’s beautiful, it’s so beautiful," said Ramirez, in Spanish. "I thank you; thank you all for helping me and my family. I love the colors."

Efigenia Ramirez and her family were presented with a Bible and a key to a new home.

The third and final workday began at the Pimienta Training Center in the Sula Valley where the group got to experience the harvesting of tilapia from a fish farm, animal husbandry projects and the planting of Moringa trees.

"My daughter, Ellie, and I feel blessed to have this opportunity to help the people of Honduras. The hands-on approach to various projects, such as planting these amazing trees, is one of many unforgettable experiences for us," said Sofia Goerdt of Minnesota.

"Each site was very meaningful, but I recognize the vital importance of the training center because it teaches people how to be self-sufficient," added Diana Scheeler from Illinois.

The team also visited an AIDS hospice facility and passed out hygiene kits to patients who are well enough to live outside the facility. The time the volunteers spent with the residents may have been short, but the precious moments of loving kindness and the exchange of compassion made a powerful impact.

"Those who are poor, and/or disabled in the United States have access to programs like free clinics, social security, disability, public aid, etcetera – they don’t," said Susan O’Neal of Illinois.

The third workday ended with a visit to a home for 33 children living with HIV/AIDS. To hear their laugher and to see their smiles made it easy to forget they are ill. Many in the group paired off and distributed toys, school supplies and treats to the children.

Team members visited an AIDS hospice center in San Pedro Sula where they handed out personal hygiene kits and shared time with the center’s residents.

"This was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. I feel blessed to have been a part of this mission," said Deacon Ron Karcher of Illinois.

"We are so excited to finally be able to send a mission group to Honduras for the first time so they see for themselves the various projects we have in place there," said Angel Aloma , Executive Director of Food For The Poor. "I am looking forward to many more mission trips to the Central American country in the near future. By working together we will be able to permanently transform lives."

To view more photos from the trip, please visit Food For The Poor's Facebook page.

Food For The Poor, the third-largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian agency provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor.

For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.

Contact:
Wanda Wright
Food For The Poor
Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6079
wandaw@foodforthepoor.com