Because we were not able to transfer the project funds to our account in Honduras before our Latin America Rotary Aid (LARA) team departed last February, the Santa Barbara Rotarians led the construction work in our absence. As of November 2013, the concrete block walls and the roof were completed (see the picture). We hope to have a community celebration for the project when we return to Las Brisas del Pinal next week.
Enthusiasm has grown within our Rotary district for the work we are doing. Our team this year includes twice as many participants as we have had on the past two trips. One could ask whether the airlines are the real beneficiaries of our service rather than needy people in Honduras. What is the real benefit of our traveling to Honduras to provide service? If our goal were simply to improve health and educational opportunities, we would be more effective simply by sending money to local aid organizations. Part of the object of Rotary to build an international FELLOWSHIP of people united in service to advance understanding, goodwill, and world peace. The emphasis is on the importance of PERSONAL acquaintance. Our service will have greater impact if we develop on-going relationships within our group, with Santa Barbara Rotarians, and with families in the communities we assist. With a group of 25, it will be a challenge to reach beyond our familiar acquiantances, but I think doing so will enhance the value of the trip for all of us.
Kids' Future Success Grows From Long-Term Partnerships
I am a newcomer to LARA. This year will be Becky's and my third trip. Much of our effectiveness during our brief visits is a result of on-going relationships that started more than twenty years ago, largely through the joint efforts of Delores Williams, a Santa Barbara Rotarian, and Ted Will, a Bemidji Rotarian. Delores was a former Peace Corps volunteer who stayed in Honduras and established an aid center called Casa Rosa, which means "pink house" in Spanish. She operated out of a pink-colored house that was well known in the community. For many years, Delores operated as the commanding general for Rotary aid in Santa Barbara. She passed away before Becky and I joined a LARA team, but her spirit continues in many efforts. I met Ted Will at the Rotary district conference in Bemidji last spring, and his continuing enthusiasm for the mission might explain why our team is twice as large this year. He could not be more excited to see new participants on LARA teams as our service continues.
For many of us, our knowledge of Honduras is simply that it is a source of illegal immigrants. Many Hondurans do depend on income from abroad. A sixth of Honduras' gross national income is from money sent by family members working largely in North America. It is harder for us to see how our own personal actions contribute to a cycle of poverty in Honduras. Often the last thing we consider when we purchase bananas, T-shirts, coffee, or items containing palm oil is the history, policies, or working conditions that brought these items to our store shelves. One of the most obvious indications of North American influence in Honduras is what we see before we land in San Pedro Sula. The flat, fertile land surrounding the airport is dominated by banana and oil palm plantations for export crops. We will not see local food crops until we drive to the steep, rocky hillsides on our way to Santa Barbara. As we visit with Honduran families, we can ask what conditions promote kids' staying in school and girls' delaying raising families unitl after they develop the knowledge and skills needed for occupations supporting a sustainable lifestyle. Those are the conditions we hope to support through Latin America Rotary Aid.