Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Second Time Around- Words from a Volunteer

Below is the reflection of a Loras College alumnus who recently volunteered with us in Honduras along with six of her friends. They were true blessings for everyone they came in contact with and we were all sad to see them go. Several of the kids even cried on the group's last night here. Even though they left nearly three weeks ago, the kids still ask about them and want to know when they are returning. When I explained that they had to work and study so they couldn't come back right now, one of the kids said, "Well, then just write a note to their teacher or boss and tell them they need to come back to Honduras." This proves that the relationships volunteers form with the kids, even if only for a week, are true friendships that neither one forgets. I see the positive affects those relationships have on the kids and, from Erin's reflection, you can see the affect the kids have on volunteers

I first experienced APUFRAM in Honduras in March of 2008 and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  I absolutely fell in love with the volunteer center from the second I stepped foot in it, and knew after that first service trip that it would forever hold a place in my heart.  There is nothing that could have prepared me for what I would see and experience while there.  The kids are absolutely amazing gifts of God.  From the second meet them you feel more than welcome and whole-heartedly loved by each and every one.  It never ceases to amaze me how much joy and love they seem to have in their hearts even when they have next to nothing in their pockets.  They are amazing examples of faith and unconditional love to me.  I enjoyed the trip so much the first time that I recently went back for the second time for 10 days over Holy Week and Easter.  The mission and the kids exceeded my expectations from two years ago.  I was thrilled to remember some of the kids from my last trip and amazed that some of them even remembered me.  Both of my experiences in Honduras were life changing and I would highly recommend the trip to anyone looking for a little faith and love in their lives.  I know I’ll be going back again as soon as I get the chance!

Erin Horst – Dubuque, IA

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Special Day

Yesterday I attended a "convivio" with some of the fifth and sixth grade boys and girls from our school . This is an annual conference for students from some of the Catholic schools in the Comayagua and La Paz area. The students from our school were selected by their teachers to attend the special day. I was there as a chaperon, along with one of the teachers from the school and one of the house moms from Guadalupe.

The students were so excited to get to leave El Conejo and venture to La Paz, which is only about a 10 minute drive. Before the conference started, we explained to them that they were representing our school and needed to be on their best behavior and participate in all the activities. Since none of them had ever been to anything like this, they were extremely quiet and nervous at first. Believe me, this is not how they normally act.

I was so impressed by the behavior or our students throughout the day. They were extremely respectful of the presenter and I never had to tell them to be quiet. The same cannot be said for the other schools. I was appalled at the behavior of some of the students. Even at the break times, we were having fun, but our students were not running around the school causing problems like the other students.

The day consisted of a bunch of icebreaker-type activities- silly songs with actions that we had to sing or games that involved a lot of running around. There was also a song which involved standing in a line and moving together. It was a competition among the schools to see who could perform it the best. While the leader declared a tie, I definitely think that our kids did the best:) After the kids performed, the leader made all the teachers do the same thing. We were much worse than the kids. They couldn't stop laughing at us.

The day also included some reflections on the Resurrection. We broke into groups and the kids were challenged to think of ways that we could live the Resurrection daily. The groups consisted of a few students from each school. I was put in charge of one of the groups. After explaining the activity to them, they all just stared at me. The students from our school were the basically the only ones offering suggestions. Most of the other kids didn't seem to care. I was so surprised by this. I tried to ask them questions to pull them in to the conversation, but they didn't respond. Instead they just walked away. Eventually a few more helped out, but it was not the kind of participation I was expecting.

At lunch, I was discussing with the other teachers what happened in the small group and they said that they had similar experiences in their groups. One of the teachers then explained to me why there was such a difference between our kids and the other kids. She said that these other schools are very expensive to attend and most of the students are children of doctors and lawyers. She said that because they are from the upper class, they have a sense of entitlement and don't respect authority. Our kids are from the complete opposite end of the spectrum. They don't take anything for granted. While what they get in our schools may not compare to what these other kids have, they know they are extremely blessed to have APUFRAM's help. To them, this was such a special day because they hardly ever get to leave the boarding facilities. They really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and enjoy every minute of it.

After she said this, my observations of the way the kids were acting changed. During a game involving forming groups of a certain number with kids from every school in it, our kids were almost always the ones left out. Watching their faces, it seemed like they knew they were not on the same level as the other kids. It broke my heart to see these kids who are usually so outgoing and not the least bit shy, just stand back and watch everyone else. Once I realized this, I tried even harder to get them involved. By the end of the day, they were themselves again. It didn't matter that we had to bring our lunches while the other kids got to buy hamburgers and chips or that we had to cram on a tiny buy while the other schools rode nice big buses. What mattered is that we were having fun with each other and enjoying a special experience. I guarantee that our kids got a lot more out of the day than any of the other students.

Attending this conference is something that neither the kids nor I will forget. We still sing the songs and laugh about things that happened that day. It is also a motivation for the younger students to study hard and behave. Only the students that the teacher thought best represented our school were chosen, so it was an honor. Hearing about the fun the other kids had will hopefully inspire them to work hard so they can attend next year. The overall message from the day- Christ has risen! Alleluia! May He resurrect every part of our lives so we may be better able to serve Him and others!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Great American Pastime- Honduran Style

A couple of weeks ago, Twana, a volunteer from the United States, came to Honduras for the week. One of her main goals in coming down here was to bring baseball equipment to use with our elementary-school boys at La Villa San Antonio.

So one afternoon, we had an "American Saturday" at La Villa. We started with hot dogs and chips. Many of the boys had never seen or eaten a hot dog before, so they were a little hesitant. They looked at it, smelled it, ate pieces of the bun, then finally took a bite. Once they tried it, they devoured it. It was fun to watch them try something new, especially when it is something that almost every kid in the United States knows and loves.

After the hot dogs, the kids were given a new baseball or basketball shirt and a new hat. They all felt "cool" in their new shirts. I really enjoyed watching them pick out their hats. It was a big decision and they wanted to make sure they got the perfect hat. It is amazing to me how something as simple as getting a new hat makes them feel so special. Usually, they are just given clothes, but being able to actually pick out the hat made it really feel like their own. Some of them have worn their hats every day since.

Now that they were properly dressed like baseball players, it was time to "play ball." While the children are all familiar with baseball, very few of them had actually played it before. They play a version called "bate," which involves them hitting a tennis ball with their hands. It's not quite like real baseball. They were very excited to put on gloves a swing a real bat. It took a lot of explaining to get them to put the gloves on correctly and to hold the correct end of the bat. But once we started playing, they didn't want to stop. I did a lot of rule-explaining while we were playing and while they didn't see the reasoning behind some of it (i.e. foul balls), they actually tried to follow the rules.

I was amazed by the natural talent of some of the boys. For having never played before, some of them were able to whack the ball pretty far, resulting in many home runs. Catching took a little longer to learn, but throwing on target wasn't a problem for most of them. Of course, some of the boys didn't catch on so quickly.   But the boys were patient with each other. Everyone was allowed to play- no exceptions. Even though it was hard for some of them at first, they realized the importance of including everyone. We didn't follow the three strikes and you're out rule for some of the younger boys and no one even mentioned it. When one of the boys who was struggling finally got a hit, the other boys were so happy for him. Even the kids on the other team patted him on the back.

Watching these boys play made me reflect on the true reasons that sports were invented and how much of that has been lost in American culture. Sports bring people together. It is a way to pass a Saturday afternoon with your community. Sports shouldn't involve a lot of pressure or cause people to dislike each other. It should be about a love of the game and sharing that love with others. Of course, winning in nice, but in the end it is about trying your best and supporting each other's accomplishments. I think it would do professional athletes or even some Little League coaches a lot of good to come and watch these kids play sports. Maybe we wouldn't have kids crying because they struck out or other kids being left out or sitting on the bench the whole game because they aren't as talented. Maybe parents wouldn't be getting in fights with each other or the umpires. Maybe, just maybe, sports in the United States would return to what they once were and still are here.

In the end, we had a great day bringing a traditional American activity to these children in Honduras. We ended the day with everyone's favorite thing- cake. These kids go crazy for cake. One of the best things about the day was that we gained a lot of new baseball equipment so that we can continue playing. Who knows, we might have the next member of the Honduran national baseball team in our midst:)

Peace and Blessings,