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The Other World – Honduras

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2012) Permanent link   All Posts
 George Glock Since an early age I have had a strong will to help others. I believe all humans have this will, but mine seemed to be stronger than that of my peers – so strong that some things I wanted to do seemed farfetched to others. I held off and pursued other avenues during my high school career, the most prominent was leading my National Honor Society. But that is not what this blog is about; this blog will focus on my journey to Honduras in the spring of 2010 and the inspiring and disturbing experiences I had there.

There is a lot more to my experiences that what I will post here. If you wish to hear more about any part of my week, feel free to email me at George.G.Glock@uscga.edu and I will be more than happy to respond! My ultimate goal in writing this is to educate others on the devastation that innocent people must live with everyday in a hope that they, in the future, participate with similar organizations.

The Decision

It is my second year away from home. I am a sophomore (3/c) cadet at the United States Coast Guard Academy. I now have the opportunity and ability to go on a volunteer service trip to an underdeveloped country. After searching many organizations online, I choose Students Helping Honduras (SHH). I file my foreign travel memo to Honduras for spring break and begin to research the area. Before I know it, I am getting off the plane in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

The Orphanage

Words, no matter how blunt, are weak. It is hell on earth. For four long hours, I explore this hell and the children who live here. There are neither words nor images that can convey the way I feel in this orphanage. I will explain my experience to the best of my ability because I feel it is extremely important to make people aware of the situation that is more than wrong. Nothing is dramatized, merely pure experience and emotion.

The SHH school bus pulls up to the orphanage alongside a 10-foot high green wall. It is unbearably hot and humid. An SHH staff member warns us that is there nothing they can do to prepare us for what we are about to experience. Everyone is very quiet; we know that we have a very difficult four hours ahead of us.

We file out of the bus and enter the orphanage through a large door in the wall. There is a long stretch of dirt with small patches of dying grass leading to the entrance of the orphanage. There is an awkward silence occasionally disrupted by the buzz of insects. I see a child around the age of 11 come running out of the orphanage. He is wearing overalls and holding them up with his hands, barely keeping them above his waist. He runs to and hugs the first volunteer he sees for a moment before moving to another volunteer. He is making weird noises and yelling “bow!” and “bam!” pretending to punch the volunteers. Many of the children come from extremely abusive families; this will become more apparent as I continue.

As soon as we enter the building, children suddenly flood around us, jumping around with their arms in the air begging us to pick them up. (I later learned that the children live in bunk beds and some sleep on the floor all in the same room and are not allowed out unless there are visitors. There are only three women who work at the orphanage and they do not have the time to look after the kids. Many kids are violent and have special needs and the staff cannot risk them getting hurt. There is simply too much going on, especially with the infants, to have time to care for wounds).

An SHH staff member, Emily, asks me if I would like to go to the toddler room with her. I say yes and follow her upstairs. The door is locked from the outside. It is a heavy wooden door with a small opening with vertical bars. We unlock the door and enter. About twenty small toddlers swarm around up, jumping and pleading in Spanish for our attention. All of the kids were adorable. Some you could tell had special needs, and some were blind in one eye, some in both.

There is one child, about five years old, sitting with his legs straight out, hunched forward with his face on the ground. He has something in his hand and is scratching the concrete floor of the toddler room with it. It is an eerie sound; I do not know how to respond. I want to walk over and do something – anything – but I am afraid. You could tell the child was in extreme mental/emotional anguish; I have never felt so uncomfortable and saddened in my life. I feel powerless to do anything for the young boy.

A few feet away there is another boy, about the same age, lying on his stomach with his head turned sideways. His big brown eyes were wide open. He lies there motionless, showing no signs of life. There are several other children around the room, some lying but not moving, some banging their head against the wall or the floor, and others sitting and staring at nothing. It is so surreal; it is like I am in a movie. How can this… this hell exist here on earth, and with children nonetheless! I do all I can. I make sure I pick up every toddler and that no one is forgotten. They all enjoy when I pick them up and let them look out the window. They rarely get to see the outside of the orphanage. It breaks my heart knowing that my picking them up and letting them look out of a window – something so simple – will be the best thing that happened to them perhaps that entire week.

After being in the toddler room for almost an hour, Emily and I begin to make our way toward the door. The swarm of kids around us follow with arms stretched high and eyes wide. I have never felt so wanted – so needed – in my life. How can I, a gringo (westerner), be the only light in their life? Furthermore, how can I leave? These kids are living in this awful place, and I am going to simply walk out on them? (I later learned from the SHH staff that even though it is hard to leave, it is justified. There are other children that need us. And if one did stay, that’s only one person. However, if that person returns home and shares his/her story, helps to raise funds, and gets more volunteers, that is a lot better than one person staying in Honduras.)

The next room Emily and I go to is the infant room. I walk in and the first thing that hits me is the stench. The only way I can possible describe it is the smell of feces, puke, urine, and death, sprinkled with the hot humid air of Honduras. It is nauseating. I fight it and continue into the room. Three SHH female volunteers are holding babies and crying. I thought the toddler room was a bad, but this is beyond hell. Words cannot explain my emotions. I feel furious, scared, helpless… again, another child on the floor, flat on its stomach with its eyes wide open but not moving. What is going on here? They call this a government-run institution? How can America let something like this happen?

Suddenly, I have an epiphany. From all the devastation, hunger, and crime I have seen in Honduras, there is nothing as strong as seeing babies lying around a room dying. I need to come back. Not want; need. Because if I don’t, this memory will haunt me and guilt will remind me how I left these innocent children here to suffer while I return to my privileged life. I do also feel a sense of pride for finally going through with something that I have wanted to do for such a long time.

(It is difficult to write about the orphanage. There is a lot more to the story, but these two main events are what define my experience there. If you wish to know more about my experiences, please contact me).

The Village

Before we saw the new village of Villa Soleada, we visited the old village where the families used to live. There is a long dirt road leading to the village with piles of garbage burning on the side of it. The first thing I notice is the condition of the houses. They are built out of sheet-metal, the roofs leak, and are mostly empty. The little personal belongings the villagers have are old, rusted, and often broken or unsafe.

There are stray dogs roaming. I can see their ribs tearing at their skin. I have never seen a dog so malnourished. Many of the people are extremely skinny, though many children have large stomachs due to parasites. Children are dirty and you can tell they have not bathed in a very long time. They look up at us with big brown eyes. They are so cute. It is hard to believe these children could easily be healthy American children, yet they are stuck in the underdeveloped world they were born into.

The lack of sanitation is simply unbelievable. This is something I have only seen on television before. I have a totally different perspective now that I am here in person seeing the suffering and malnutrition. I want to bring all of the children back home so they can be healthy and live a better life. It seems so unfair. It is unfortunate that the majority of Americans are not aware of the poverty that still exists today. I keep hearing arguments about how “aid is bad,” but that depends on the type of aid one is analyzing. Sure, handouts create dependency and hurt the local entrepreneur, but my trip to Honduras taught me that there are other ways to implement aid that do not yield these negative consequences. My challenge will be to convince others that aid is more than simply donating money.

Villa Soleada

The new village is beautiful. There are many houses, each about the size of a one car garage. I can tell a lot of work has been put into Villa Soleada already. We are working on several projects this week. We are digging a trench around the new orphanage for a wall (required by Honduras law), laying bricks for the new orphanage, and mixing/laying cement for the floor of the Learning Center. It is extremely hot and the days are long, but it is a great experience working side-by-side with the families of the village.

As soon as I feel any fatigue, I can look up and see a 10-year-old boy working hard and digging with a pick-axe and I am motivated to continue working – that is what I came here for!

The Next Step

So what now? Here I am back in the U.S., but these children are still suffering. I learned that the best thing to do is to not be individualistic when it comes to volunteering. The best thing is to leave, go home, and share your story with friends, family, and strangers. Let them know about the human suffering. Perhaps even educate them on the comparative politics of underdeveloped countries and why their poverty is not their fault, and how aid, when implemented correctly, does not yield dependency. And even better than spreading the word, fundraise and get some people to return with you. That is now the next step in this journey.

More about George.