Lessons from Honduras
In November I had the privileged good fortune of traveling to a remote mountain area of Honduras, a beautiful area called El Paraiso, just north of the Nicaraguan border. The majority of the Honduran population, roughly 7 million people, live in the interior highlands where families survive on subsistence agriculture. Children comprise 40% of the population (18% in Canada). Most live in poverty.
This is a financially poor nation with too much violence: drug cartel violence, gang violence and family violence. There is a high proportion of teenage pregnancies involving fathers who don’t stick around, leaving more than half the families in Honduras in the care of single parents. I met dozens of children through Sociedad Amigos de los Niños (see local website) , the host benevolent child welfare organization for our group of volunteers. They provide residential care, education, health services and hope for orphaned, abused and neglected kids from all over the country. The operation of the organization relies on international donations and a strong contingent of Canadian philanthropic groups. For many years, people of my hometown of Peterborough, Ontario, have been instrumental in donating funds to key projects such as building group homes and remote schools for children, providing medical brigades and organizing cross-cultural exchanges in Honduras.
Here are the lessons I learned in Honduras. Deep abiding faith of the Honduran people sustains hope and optimism. It is good to be selfless and kind to others. It is OK to love and express love. The basic essential ingredients for trauma recovery are safety, food, attention, affection, stimulation and love. Sociedad Amigos de los Niños provides trauma counseling as well, but these essential services are provided first and foremost.
I met some incredible people in Honduras. I learned that just recently another woman was appointed to the Supreme Court. Schools promote the UN Declaration of Human Rights and we witnessed first hand the efforts to empower high school girls in this male-dominated culture. Laws against partner abuse and child abuse are increasingly enforced by the courts and police. Strong efforts are underway to curb the unfortunate flow of drugs through this small Central American country that wants nothing to do with drugs. Health and education continue to improve with a relatively high literacy rate amongst children. While our group was party to only one voluntary organization, it demonstrated to us that their commitment to children and international cooperation is strong and they have found a formula that works. Like the remote one-room school that we assisted in building in an interior community, there is a solid foundation to build upon for the improvement of life, and hope, for future generations. This is a culture that is rich in communal sharing and work ethic. The people we met were warm and understanding. We witnessed a shared spirit of cooperation at every turn.
Returning to Canada after a brief but credible visit left me with an impact to last a lifetime, to realize how privileged a life I lead and to be grateful for what I have. To my friends and relatives who so generously donated money for us to buy and distribute food and school supplies while we were in Honduras… muchas gracias por su ayuda!