With something as powerful and moving as this, I don’t know how to even begin. Since I am not a skilled writer, I wish I had the opportunity to video log the entire trip and invite you to watch a self-created documentary. I’m afraid I can never give enough emotional credence to what was seen, heard, and felt.
A staff member, three radio professionals, and I met in Atlanta for our connecting flight to Central America.
With the Africa trips fresh in my mind, I was in compare and contrast mode for Honduras. After flying over beautiful rugged mountain ranges and into the capital city of Tegucigalpa, my expectations were marred right away after seeing a Domino’s Pizza just off of the airport concourse as we landed. From there it was an array of American fast food dives and restaurants – KFC, Burger King, Popeye’s, Pizza Hut, Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Applebee’s, Chili’s, Tony Roma’s, McDonalds, and countless other familiar companies. I was told by one of our trip leaders, during our lunch at Quizno’s mind you, that Honduras has openly welcomed American businesses to help their own economy. It was also obvious from the infrastructure, commerce, architecture, and transportation that Honduras was light years ahead of Ethiopia and reminded me just how impoverished that African country is.
The glimmer of development revelation quickly faded as we traveled on our first visit to the hillside community of El Guanabano just outside the city. Home to approximately 800 residents, the neighborhood is located at the city dump where people look for valuables among the garbage bags. The typical houses are constructed of dirt floors, wood walls, and corrugated iron roofs. It was immediately apparent making the climb up the hill that there was rampant unemployment, lack of food, medical problems, and no running water.
The project we visited was in this community which is run by a local church. This approach allows the committed people of the community to serve and love their neighbors. They know the needs, they know the personalities, and they know how to best approach them. This particular project is relatively new within the last few years. They have about 160 children that they serve. Most of them were younger children that used to labor in the city dump with their parents (typically a single mom). They searched for products to recycle to make any money they could and in some cases search out their next meal. Today they are being helped out of that dire situation and are being given hope. The local staff members are assisting and educating children and their families to move out of the hopeless garbage of disease and despair. These beautiful kids were the forgotten and forsaken, but with the help of Compassion and the one-on-one relationship with their sponsors, these children are being given a hope and a future. Not a handout, but a help out of poverty.
Our group also had the opportunity to visit a couple of the homes in the area. We walked down garbage infested dirt roads to one of the homes where a mother and her child lived. The incredibly small two room home was one of the few in the neighborhood with a concrete floor, which the church provided for them. There was a main area with chairs, a portable stove, and dishes. The other tiny room was where the mom and boy slept. They had an outdoor toilet (outhouse) and it was also the place where they bathed from water they have stored in what were once oil/chemical barrels. There was no plumbing.
The boy once was a picture you would be familiar with from television – the bloated belly from malnutrition and disease. Now he is being helped physically, socially, economically, and spiritually. This overflows to his mother who helps out at the church and with the meals and programs. They no longer are digging through disease infested trash at the dump that was being circled on this particular day by 40 or 50 vultures.
We learned so much this first day about how efficiently and effectively the programs are run and how much the amazing staff cares about the children, their family, and the community. Truly there is no better demonstration as “love your neighbor” as I witnessed in action. Palpable demonstrations of love and care that are given to precious little souls to lift them out of the deep crippling poverty that has entrenched them and their family. There is nothing more beautiful and authentic than that.
Though Ethiopia was clearly more impoverished, this first day in Honduras was nonetheless a shock to the system. We are so unbelievably fortunate in the United States.