By Phyl Newbeck
September 5th, 2013
For the last ten years, Vermonters have taken part in a variety of projects to help the people of Honduras in conjunction with a national program called Hands to Honduras. The Vermont division of this project, Hands to Honduras-Tela is overseen by the Rotary Club of Charlotte-Shelburne. Working exclusively with the residents of Tela, Honduras, project volunteers have built a maternity center, several public schools, day care centers and a public playground. In addition, they have provided more than 600 school uniforms, renovated two health centers, brought in a variety of medical personnel for dental and women’s health clinics, and assisted local police and firefighters with equipment and training.
Karen Mount of Williston has gone on several trips with Hands to Honduras and is planning on another one in February.
“It’s truly a life-changing experience to go,” she said. Mount’s first exposure to the program came when her husband’s family brought her oldest daughter with them on a trip. “She came back so excited about what she had seen and learned,” said Mount. “She came back with a greater appreciation for what she has here.”
Her own interest sparked, Mount joined the group the following year and has returned almost every year since, including one year when she brought her sons with her. “It’s been an amazing experience,” she said. “It’s something everyone should try at some point in their lives.”
Mount said many of the same volunteers return year after year, often with their children in tow. “It’s a great opportunity for people to do something special with their kids,” she said.
A fundraiser for the project is set for Sept. 13 at the Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms. Tickets for the event are $30 per person and all proceeds will support the February trip to construct what will be the first ever neo-natal intensive care unit at the hospital in Tela. The fundraiser will take the form of a Latin dance party, complete with Latin-inspired food and the nine-piece band, Alejandro and Grupo Sabor, performing music ranging from salsa to merengue and cha-cha. Lyne Renaud of the School Al Asur Tango of Montreal will provide tango instruction. Those who prefer to just tap their toes are more than welcome to sit on the sidelines and listen to the music.
Although all the projects she has participated in have been special in their own way, Mount has a soft spot for the Jazmin School, which she worked on during her first year in Honduras. She has since returned to the school to view the progress being made and to visit with the children who attend it.
Although most project work is within the city of Tela, some assignments are beyond the city limits. Mount remembers one project that required daily hikes through the jungle. On her next trip, she is looking forward to working on the neo-natal intensive care unit.
Mount urges those interested in volunteering to have an open mind. Honduras is a poor country, but she describes it as having a rustic beauty. What brings her back year after year, however, is the Hondurans themselves.
“My kids were surprised that other kids who have so little are so thankful and happy and appreciative,” she said. “They may not have many material possessions but they are proud of what they have and they are willing to share.”
Although her goal is to get her hands dirty doing hard physical work for—and with—the Hondurans, Mount finds the trips to be thoroughly enjoyable. “It’s an amazing experience,” she said “and I encourage anyone who is thinking about going to do it. Over the last couple of years, I’ve realized that life is too short not to do something you believe in. There’s no time like now.”
Reservations for the Latin Dance Night on Sept. 13 can be made by e-mailing [email protected]