The following are two Elms College students’ reflections on their trip to Honduras.
Keep scrolling down to read more heartfelt stories by other Elms College students who spent their spring break doing service for others.
By Meg Donnelly
Class of 2010
Honduras, te llevo en mi corazón
Honduras, I carry you in my heart!
Recently, I was in Talanga, Honduras with eight other Elms college students, aSister of Saint JosephCarol Allan and our chaplain, Father Mark Stelzer, working aside the five Passionist Volunteers that are currently stationed there. I am now back in America, processing everything I saw and felt, desperately trying not to readapt myself to the lifestyle I was living prior to the trip. I always dread the week after a service trip, simply because after I’ve experienced extreme poverty and suffering, it’s nearly impossible to focus on school work. Shakespeare and medieval drama seem rather insignificant in the larger scheme of things. I accompanied the poor and empathized with their struggles; if I allow myself to be unchanged from this experience, I will not only be letting the people down, but I will be letting myself down.
Prior to leaving for Talanga, I built up great expectations for myself, primarily because I wanted to feel what Hondurans feel and wanted to experience the complex lives of a developing country. I believe I have connected with the poor on an extremely intimate level by allowing my vulnerability to overcome me, and by forcing myself out of the limits of my comfort zone. It was during these times that I was able to see life through another perspective, to piece together its mysteries in order to discern some truth, so that I could shape my spirit into its greatest potential. To axe down the walls we build around our souls is much easier said than done, but if we can accomplish this, our lives will be forever altered; for it is when we allow ourselves to be ourselves that we feel the most real.
Talanga, Honduras is approximately an hour drive outside of the capital, Tegucigalpa. Its people are sensational. Though they struggle immensely on a daily basis, the resilience of their spirits is more than just admirable; for me, it’s incomprehensible. As many times as I tried to understand the strength, generosity and worth of these people, I could only feel what they had shown me; I could not explain it. When one has no material items to rely on for happiness or protection, something amazing happens, in that people must rely on other people in order to make it. God sides with the poor; therefore, it is when we surround ourselves with the poor that we see God most apparent. In this small town is where I found God and where I found humanity at its best.
Though many Hondurans suffer from depression, and many women endure domestic abuse, they somehow find a way to keep faith. Their smiles are so genuine; they smile with their whole face, showing off their spirits within. Sometimes, though, a smile isn’t possible. Whenever I would see a person too sad to hide their sufferings, I would see God even more strongly. It was through these people that I was suddenly hit with their very difficult reality. Though I must admit, I did not meet one child who I did not see smiling. We can learn so much from the innocence and beauty of the children of Honduras. They come up from behind you, grab your hand without questioning your intentions, and never second-guess your trustworthiness. Though we gringas are different in appearance and behavior, these children wouldn’t even know how to discriminate against us. We are welcomed in without a single breath of hesitation. I never knew this behavior existed outside of an idealistic world, and feel so fortunate and grateful to have experienced this beauty in their culture.
One of the days during our trip, I went to the fourth grade class, accompanied by four fellow volunteers and one Passionist volunteer, to help teach English. Not two minutes had passed, after sitting in a corner of the tightly crammed room of almost fifty students, that I was approached by a child, given a sticker, a smile and a warm hug. Mere seconds passed and I was being showered with more gifts, one of which was a necklace with a cross. These children have nothing. Many of them are starving, so this generosity was not just something to admire; it was something that brought me to tears, and which gave me hope in humanity again. These children reflected God, in the sense that not only were they thanking me for being there with them, but they were telling me to be grateful, extremely grateful, for experiencing what I was.
The people of Talanga are living such meaningful lives. Just because they are poor does not mean they are not living the best lives they could be. Simply because they are underprivileged does not mean they are incapable. Simply because they don’t own things does not mean they are not rich. I know, thanks to the grace of God, that I will never be able to rid myself of these people or this profound experience, and I am so grateful for this! Please remember to pray for those in Honduras, and remember that people are always suffering in ways we cannot fathom. Though we live in an extremely greedy and corrupt world, we must remember that it is those who are oppressed who reflect God the most.. These people are left to die. It is only through their strength that they survive. Remember that, and fight against the injustices that they have to endure. These people did not choose to be poor, nor did they become poor because of bad decision-making. They were born into it, and most likely, will never leave it. We can no longer live in ignorance. We must fight for those who are depending on us; we cannot let them down.
By Madeline Dandeneau
Class of 2013
Through out our lives we all have pivoting points during which life as we know it changes. As I stepped out of the airport in Honduras, surrounded by eight girls that I hardly knew, I had this feeling that week to come would change life as I knew it.
I wish I could say I had prepared myself completely for the trip, I thought I had, but no matter how much you plan ahead nothing could have prepared me completely for how devastatingly different everything was. Everything from the weather, the landscape, the culture, and most of all the people was nothing like I had ever encountered before. I had originally looked into the trip because I have been feeling a calling to work in the mission’s field after I graduate, and I figured this was a good start. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others, I wanted to show God’s love to people whatever that meant. I know now that God was not only going to use me to bless others, but also to use the people to change my heart. For every one of the kids and mothers were blessings to me. I went with the idea of sharing love and hope, but I ended up finding love, hope and God in the people.
During the first couple days I remember thinking: “What have I gotten myself into?” I felt lost, alone in a whirlwind of dust and Spanish. The poverty and harsh realities of life were more then I could comprehend, and trying to process it all was almost impossible. But I began to find my strength and purpose in the eyes of the children. Slowly I started to feel as if I belonged there, to the point that I didn’t want to come home. By the end of the week I felt such an overwhelming peace and sense of purpose in everything that I did. I felt that for the first time in my life God was walking beside me saying: “Yes, this is the plan I have for you.” I often become so overwhelmed with the hectic monotony of life that my sense of purpose becomes lost. As the days past it was hard to believe that the week would come to an end and we would have to pack up and leave the place we had all come to love in such a short amount of time.
Through out the week we spent our mornings playing, working with and giving food to the children. We spent hours every day coming to know the little ones the world has forgotten, but I know I shall never forget. Everything we did for the children and families from playing to painting we did for their benefit, but the truth is that through each person I met God blessed me more then I could ever give in return. I have a new appreciation for life; a new understanding of the lives around me, and a hope that one-day God will enable me to return. He may never bring me back to Honduras, but I do believe that He has a lot in store for me and I can only hope that it will involve something similar to our work and time in Honduras. If I could wake up every day feeling the same peace and purpose in my daily walk as I did in Honduras I would want for nothing.