Amazing understates the impact of my summer experience working in Honduras. Getting off the plane placed me into a another world that I had no idea existed. Children run up begging for money and you look at their faces that tell you how hungry they are. All thirty suitcases, fifteen of which were filled with jeans for the orphans, were thrown into the van along with us, fifteen Americans. I first decided to come on this mission trip with my church, St. Andrews, because I thought the experience would change me and how I look at life. I thought of myself as selfish and a little unworthy of what I have. I also wanted to go and help with anything I could at the orphanage and be there to support and love the children. Little did I know, this breath taking journey opened my eyes wider than I ever thought possible, and portrayed the meaning of family, and what it means. Not only did it change me, but my sister Kirby and I went and grew together throughout the trip. We are like best friends, and this trip only made us closer. Her reasons for going were the same as mine and we both got more out of the trip than we were expecting. Even though I was only there for a week, it changed my whole life in the best ways possible. Driving through the city makes you realize how fortunate we are in the states. Guards with guns that were as long as my body stood every forty feet throughout the city, and machetes were in the hands of anyone that had enough money for protection. At El Hogar, the orphanage I stayed at, the children were more than welcoming. The first child I saw was carrying one of our fifty pound suitcases into the volunteer house with the biggest smile on his face, before I even got out of the car. Immediately, you feel a sense of attachment with every child and do not feel like you can do enough to help them, when really, just being in their presence and loving them is what they want most. Owning nothing but a pair of socks, shoes, shirt, and shorts makes the kids happier than I have ever dreamed of. They consider themselves the “lucky ones” for having “so much”.
Hearing these kids’ stories about their mothers burning them to death and attacking them with machetes was unheard of before I stepped foot in the country. My group and I took four honor roll students to McDonald's for lunch, and while my group was feasting, I look over to see the kids not eating. I ask why and they tell one of our leaders, “I need to share with my family and friends back at the orphanage.” When I hear the kids say these things about sharing and having so much, I realize that I no longer want as much as I do. It costs thirty american dollars for a mother with four children to live in a one room “shack”. Most of the mothers try their absolute hardest in order to put some rice and beans on the table, yet, sometimes they cannot get that money together. Other mothers abandon their kids and no longer want them. The children become family and I wanted to stay and hold them for as long as I possibly could. When it was time to say goodbye, my emotions built up like never before and I did not want to let go of them. "Nobody really understands what I am saying until they are actually here" says Anna Quinn, a friend who was also on the trip. I agree completely and overly encourage everyone to have at least one experience like I have had because whoever does, comes back a better and changed person.
Francisco is a boy who I became closer with then anyone else. His mother did not want him and would send him out to beg for money so she could get food. She thought that by having more kids there would be more money. What she did not know was that the more kids she has the more food they need. He is only ten years old and has already been through much more than I have in my entire life. Before I left the orphanage at the end of the week, He came and sat next to me. Holding his hand out next to mine, he drew a heart; half on my hand and half on his. Both of us start crying and I kneel down and look up at him. I repeat over and over "te quiro mucho", which means "I love you" in spanish. We hold onto each other for as long as possible before it is time for us to go. Even though he lives so far away, he is apart of my family now and I cannot wait for the day I see him again. I fell in love with this little boy and will never forget him.
I'v read about poverty, and have watched movies on it, yet, I did not feel the same when I was actually there. When I got home, I took one look at my room and broke down in tears. I wanted to put all of my belongings into garbage bags and get rid of them. I was disgusted when I looked at my bed at four a.m. in the morning, so I slept on the floor, and continued to sleep on my floor for the next three nights. The only thing I could think about was the lady's house where I went for a home visit. She had the same size bed as me, (queen) that held five people. There is not a day that goes by where I do not think about my experience at El Hogar, and I cannot wait to go back and see everyone I met. I learned so much and appreciate everything I have so much more than I did before I left for this trip. Learning from these children is a lesson that I will never forget and will appreciate everyday.
My priest once said “Sometimes when you are helping pull as many people out of the river as possible, you need to stop and walk upstream to find out how they are getting into it in the first place.”