Nuevo Paraíso village is a children's village. This is where children from families that either have no parents or have parents who cannot care for them or who abuse them can come to live and learn in safety. They have small children and teenage girls in the village. We didn't have as much time with the girls as we did with the Flor Azul boys, but we did have a fun day of play. In addition, Dr. Sagasti Suppes collaborated with Dr. Annemarie Grassi, a youth worker from Cleveland who runs Open Doors Academy, and with help from Ferrum student Christi Williams taught a workshop on self esteem and sex education. We also had an evening in which the women in our group had their hair and nails done by the girls. There is never enough time, but the little time we spent with the girls was fun.
Flor Azul is a place up on a mountain where the most wonderful boys live. There are over sixty boys between the ages of twelve and twenty-two. All of them have experienced extreme poverty, most of them have experienced abuse or violence, all of them have hearts as big as the world. The time we spent with them was magical, and we were able to connect with them individually as we played, learned, and taught English, art, and geography. Mostly we had a chance to talk to them and get to know them and to be humbled by their graciousness, humility, and love.
Just a few photos of some of the performances and puppet-making crafts. We visited three elementary schools, two kindergartens, Flor Azul, and the university in Catacamas. Overall the students performed this play eight times, for different ages, always with wonderful reactions. The best were the kids who had never seem puppets or theater of any kind.
When I agreed to venture on the trip to Honduras months ago, I had no idea the impact that it would have on me or how much a simple week could change my life. I came with the attitude of wanting to help children less fortunate than I but also with an open mind to being changed. I knew that the people I would encounter would offer me more than I could ever possibly give back to them... Little did I know just how much. I think it is cliche to say that "this trip changed my life forever" but in my case it has been the truth. It has been amazing to me to see people in such poverty, literally starving without food, children without education yet with all those negatives in their lives, they always find a reason to smile. The people of Honduras are genuily happy, they are grateful for what little they have, their family and the little things in life that I think as Americans we have been taught to overlook. We are so used to our fast paced lives revolving around name brands, money and status that we forget about the moments in life that truly matter.. something that I have been reminded each day since being in Honduras.
One quote from our nightly reflections this week has really stuck with me... "every day is a life time in its self, an adventure... how did you spend yours today?" This question really made me think of all the amazing things I had encountered in just a single day of being here, how many new things I had learned, seen, and been amazed by. This statement looking back over the week has proved to be true for me.. and I am blessed to have been able to spend five little lifetime adventures with such amazing people.
Over the course of this past week our Ferrum group has had the opportunity to touch the lives of so many children as we attended a few different schools, giving out school supplies and clothes. We also put together a Cinderella play which we performed at each school and had the students make small paper bag puppets with us. I think the most amazing part though was not the children... it was the teachers and other adults in the village and how eager they were to participate. It really made me think. Many of the adults in Honduras, especially the women within many of these towns, never truly had a "childhood". It made my day to be able to create a small piece of that for these adults and see their creativity come alive as they put together paper bag puppets and the smiles on their faces as they looked over their completed project. Once again something, we as Americans seem to take for granted... the simple idea of "childhood".
Another aspect of our trip, was being able to open our hearts to the teenage boys of Flor Azul. These boys truly touched our hearts as they welcomed us with open arms.. trusting us, and seeing the best qualities we had to offer rather than all the negatives. The boys range in age from 12 to 20 and spend their time working on chores, studying and trying to better themselves for their future. Never in my life have I seen boys so eager to learn and the drive to do so. Our first day at Flor Azul, a group of boys went up to Profe and asked if they could have a lesson in English because they had an exam on Wednesday and wanted to study and review in advance... This was on a SATURDAY. It absolutely amazed and blew me away at how these group of boys instead on wanting to play soccer outside and goof off, would have rather learned English skills because their education came first.
It is these little qualities that have truly captured my heart.
During this week I actually greatly bonded with one of the boys, Jose Angel... he is 15 years old and has so much to offer the world. He has a smile that could brighten a room and opens his heart to all those around him. He truly has a passion for people, and cares about others in a way that isn't seen very often in the United States. I chose to make the decision to sponsor him, and help him to achieve his dream of becoming a mechanic one day. Which in Honduras is a great job to obtain. By sponsoring I am helping him with day to day items, that are a necessity. Once again things that, we all take for granted. But to be able to describe the friendship that has been created over a simple week is beyond words.. it is something that I cherish deeply, not only with Jose but with all the boys from Flor Azul.
I honestly could go on and on about all the ways this trip has changed my life, but it would take days to finish explaining how I feel. All in all, this has been one of the best experiences of my life and I wouldn't change a single thing. I hope to return to this great country and to continue helping all the wonderful people here.
And Mom.. I didn't forget about you :) I love you and miss you dearly!
The students and faculty who traveled together to Honduras for a service-learning course wrote about our adventures on this blog, both during and after our travels.