Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Different Kind of Wealth and Love


Me with my new godson, Arturo
I have seen the world. I've traveled to Europe, through America, even to Mexico, but none of these trips ever taught me as much as I learned when I visited Honduras this summer. For the Spanish 451 "Service Learning in Honduras" E-Term class, Dr. Suppes (or "Profe") took me and seven other Ferrum College students to Honduras. Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Central America and has a government that is filled with corruption. However, the people of Honduras are not poor -- if you judge wealth by love, hope, and determination.

 For this particular E-Term, we worked with the Children Society and Hope for Honduran Children. We flew out of America after a three-day preparation for our trip in which we transformed an old Jack Tale Players script of Cinderella into a puppet show. We hand-crafted puppets, made up silly dances, and even incorporated songs from After Jack (a band created by Ferrum College professor Emily Rose Tucker).

We arrived and drove to the village of Nuevo Paraíso, which was the children's village, and Flor Azul (the village of teenage boys). The children's village was started by a nun who took in children who were abused, abandoned, or orphaned -- ranging from young children (some as young as one year old) to teenage girls (until they are 20).  The village of Flor Azul was created by a couple, Karen and John Godt, for orphaned, abused, and abandoned boys. Their ages range from 12-20, and they come from all over Honduras.

Jessica & I teaching English to intermediate-level boys
Karen and John started Flor Azul eight years ago while doing medical work in Honduras. Karen desperately wanted to go where she was needed, so she was sent to Nuevo Paraíso where she met the nun who had started it. She was told the story of how two teenage boys, a 14-year-old and his younger brother, walked from Northern Honduras to the village (a ten-hour bus ride). Neither of them had shoes. Upon their arrival, the nun told them she had no clue how to look after teenage boys but that she had land where she was willing to let them stay. Together, they were taken up the mountain and stayed in a barn. After just two weeks, 22 boys were living with them. They farmed the land with machetes in order to survive, and when Karen showed up, the boys hadn't eaten in 4 days.

She listened to all their stories and then told them that she "didn't have a lot of money but knew ways that she could help." She asked which 3 things they would want to have a perfect world. The first things that every boy told her was food; second, a pair of shoes because none of the boys had shoes; and lastly, they asked for 11 pencils. When she asked why they needed the pencils, they explained that they split into two groups. One group would go out and work the fields and the other group would stay in and teach each other everything that they knew, though usually it was just basic arithmetic and the alphabet. The problem was that they only had 1 pencil and it took too long for them to write. This was the start of Flor Azul, which has now grown into a huge success. The top three boys in each class get a scholarship to a university while the rest will go to trade school, and the Godts work hard to make sure that they find jobs.
The boys enjoyed learning on the iPad we brought with us.
We spent one week there. In the mornings, we traveled to different villages to visit the younger children. Karen and John work with more than one village in the area, but we only got to visit about three of them due to the rain. The roads in Honduras are unpaved, mountainous, dirt roads, and they were very difficult to drive on. Often, they would get washed out. When we visited the villages, we performed our puppet show, then made bag puppets with them, sang songs, and played. The children always wanted to give us a gift back, so they would often sing every song that they knew. We always left singing "Lean On Me," and it was really wonderful to hear all the children singing.

In the village of Campo, there was a young boy who had an absolutely amazing voice. This year, his mother had to work extra hard to make sure he could attend school; all children must wear uniforms, but it is difficult for families to afford them. Next year, he probably won't be able to go. We visited Campo twice. On the first day, he was not there because he was working in the fields to earn money for his family. We got to visit Campo twice because on our second visit, we were bringing food that Karen bought out of pocket for the village. Each month, the government is supposed to bring them food, but they had not been there since January (it was May) and all the villagers were hungry. Walking through the village and to the school house is a moment I will always remember. The video below is the part of our slideshow presentation about our trip that we put to the song "Lean On Me."

In the afternoons, we went up to the school of Flor Azul. This is where all the teenaged boys live -- some with no family, some with cousins, and some with brothers. Some have families who live far away, some were orphaned, and some were abandoned. There was one boy there who lay in front of a bus and said, "Either you take me to Flor Azul or run me over." There were many more with heart-breaking stories. However, upon meeting these boys, you would never guess what they had been through. They were always so accepting and determined to make sure we were comfortable. They were hard workers, constantly wanting to practice their English or study for exams, and very interested in showing us soccer tricks! If there is one thing that will stick with me forever, it is that no matter what you are going through, there is always time for soccer.

Me trying a soccer trick
These boys and the people of Honduras taught me the importance of family, acceptance, and leaving the past in the past. No matter where we went, no matter what type of disability someone had, they were treated with respect and as if they were no different from others. In Campo, there was a young boy named Kevin who had Down Syndrome. In America, children with Down Syndrome are often victims of discrimination, yet Kevin had the most friends out of anyone. I learned that family doesn't stop at blood. Many of the boys we met had no blood relatives, but they treated each other like family. They were always looking out for one another, and they constantly helped each other with schoolwork or on the soccer field.

Lastly, they showed that no matter what has happened to you, you should look at the world with a smile. They have been through some of the hardest lives possible and have very little, but they are the most thankful and appreciative people that I have met. They get up every day thanking God that they are alive, have food, and will live to see another day.

Our group became like a family during our trip too.

Our group at the entrance to Talgua Caves
Soaked after playing in the river.


  1. Non Sibi Sed Aliis.

    I love it when I see fellow Ferrum folks living up to the mission of our fair institution. Not self, but others.

  2. I am proud of Ferrum College for doing this. Great e-term.