Saint Rose Students Travel to Honduras for Community Service By Regina Iannizzotto Staff Writer
The group in the Honduras.
Michelle Schroll with a Honduran child.
Michelle Schroll and another student sanding chairs. Students from Saint Rose flew the two thousand miles from the United States to Honduras in order to help those children in desperate need and boy did they succeed â€“ and in more ways than one. The plan was to help make a better learning environment for the children of a small area in Honduras, but this plan, for some students, did not include getting attached to the children and learning a lot as they went along. Upon return, Michelle Schroll feels her experience "cannot be put into words." Accompanying the students were two people who guided the students along their journey through this two week adventure. Sr. Sean and Fr. Chris had experiences this trip that they will remember for a lifetime, and hope to find again in their plans to return next year. The blog that was set up to let us viewers at home sitting in our pajamas live vicariously through them during their time there. To read it yourself visit: http://strosehondurastrip2011.blogspot.com and see how these students lived their lives day by day in the awful heat the Hondurans themselves complained about. According to this blog, the students set out to four possible places: a school for handicapped children, a school for the community that scavenges on the dump, a daycare, and an orphanage. Each experience was different and taught the students how to appreciate the lives they have back home. "The children have so much love and never stop smiling when they have nothing compared to the United States," said Schroll who already has plans on returning next year. The students started out painting a small schoolhouse containing only two rooms, the second added sometime last year. There are new desks, but still few textbooks. However, that does not stop the children from learning all they can. "We were struck by the poverty of the children whose families scavenge on the dump for a living -- but were heartened by the childrenÂ´s eagerness to learn," as stated by the blog. The students painted the schoolhouse inside and out, sanded and painted the seats, and almost completed a bathroom for the 75 children in La Bomba.
Help was also needed at the school for the handicapped students, which the blog claims was low on teacher participation. "…We found the children excited to be in school, but wished that they had more staff so that students could have [more] individualized instruction..." Recently, the National Congress has helped out each student of this area by giving them a small school related gift. This included four new notebooks, two pencils, an eraser, and a pencil sharpener. Fr. Chris had his own personal experience with a young boy named Hector. He cried when they left and refused to let go of him. "My promise to return next year…did not help until I told him he could keep my pencil until I saw him [again]." Once he received the pencil, his tears ceased. "How deeply we come," Fr. Chris said," to touch others lives in such a short time. It is tough to say goodbye…" In the pueblo of La Bomba, many families just squeak by to live. "About 35 families live in the community…originally displaced by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. About 5 years ago, the government…gave the community some land on which to build their homes, but did not include land for farming, which had been their primary livelihood before the storm." Making bread and other little jobs are the only ways they find to make their living. They do not "make enough to purchase new supplies let alone make a profit," as said by the blog. Sr. Sean's most memorable experience, as well as many of the students, was meeting Susanna, the unofficial "mayor" of La Bomba. She is a mother of eleven (only six surviving to adulthood) and has lived in La Bomba for forty years. "She demonstrated what the people of Honduras manifest again and again with their lives – ‘stuff' is not so important. What they hold dear is relationships – family and community," said Sr. Sean. Meeting Susanna helped the group realize what values they hold dear and how material things are not as important as they seem. "What can you do but carry on. You must endure for the living", said Susanna about the loss of her children, husband and father in a short span of time. Aside from helping the children and their education, the group of Saint Rose students got an education of their own. They explored the national park of Cayos Cuchinos and visited the Jungle School by Helping Honduras Kids which is a sponsor of the orphanage. According to the blog, "The Jungle School is one of a few free schools in this area. While many public schools provide basic education, … the students must purchase a uniform…, the school materials and pay what to us would be a small fee, but which, for the poor of Honduras, is too much to imagine." However, the Jungle School provides everything from pencils to full meals to the uniforms on their backs. Now we all know the story our grandparents tell us about how they had to walk two hours in the snow, uphill, and with no shoes. Well for these students attending the Jungle School, minus the snow and add some jaguars. Every single day the students have to make sure they are walking the approximate two hours back and forth during the daylight to avoid these tricky felines. Overall, the experience was more than amazing in the eyes of the group who took time out of their summer to help others in need. Now the students have a fresh learning environment, an almost completed bathroom, and memories that will last a lifetime. Sr. Sean said, "This is my
seventh year going and every year reminds me of how important it is for our students to see a different worldâ€ŚIt's worth it to keep going back."