Natural disasters have become a trend. If we haven’t ventured down to the Gulf Coast to brave the conditions and contribute to relief efforts, we’ve witnessed the effects on television, we’ve seen the pictures. If we haven’t spoken with victims in New Orleans or known someone with some connection to the recent disaster, we’ve read their testimonies in newspapers. While Rita, Wilma and Katrina have left the Gulf Coast with record-breaking devastation, Americans continue to evolve as a culture of persistence and survival.
However, as volunteers from around the country, even MSU, continue heading down to cities like Waveland and Biloxi to aid in the efforts, another group of MSU students ventured down to Honduras where hurricane relief efforts have been almost forgotten by the media and overlooked by anyone not directly connected to the Central American country. Since Hurricane Mitch engulfed the country back in 1998, Hondurans are still working and persevering today to preserve their homes and culture-makes you wonder if relief efforts will ever end. And while Americans continue the search for hope in retrieving their homes and culture of cities like New Orleans, the group of 17 MSU Alternative Spring Break volunteers discovered answers and hope through the culture and work ethic of Hondurans. Taking a look deeper into the heart of Honduran culture, these photos help to illustrate the importance of stamina to rebuild and maintain when devastation takes its toll and threatens to strip a culture of its identity.
Up the Mountain
The group of MSU volunteers head up the mountainside to a set of houses being built in Cofradia, Honduras. An organization called Christian Commission Development conducted the housing project, and the houses were meant for single mothers who lost their homes during Hurricane Mitch to live in after the project was finished.
One Block at a Time
One of the local workers involved with the housing project in Cofradia passes concrete blocks down the line as the group works to prepare bricks to be laid on one of the houses. The local workers have worked almost everyday on the project and expect to have the houses ready to be lived in by June.
Political science and theater senior Carol Bontekoe (front), physiology senior Samuel Pappas (middle) and medical technology senior Tiffany Dickerson use pick axes to hack into a wall of dirt that was to be laid out as a foundation for another house. With what would take maybe a couple of hours to dig into with a bulldozer, the feat took the MSU volunteers, with help from some of the local children who were eager to work, every day of volunteering to flatten the area.
Clearing the Way
International studies junior Nathan Coplin tosses another shovel of dirt into a wheelbarrow to continue clearing a foundation for the new house. With what would take maybe a couple of hours to dig into with a bulldozer, the feat took the MSU volunteers, with help from some of the local children who were eager to work, every day of volunteering to flatten and clear the area.
Strain of Sand
With a beautiful view of other mountains in the background, Dickerson and nursing junior Rachael Way shovel dirt through a sifter to prepare it for making concrete. The local workers at the worksite greeted the MSU volunteers every morning and taught them to do everything by hand on the site from laying bricks to roofing houses.
Strength of Mind
Two local Honduran girls named Rebecca (front) and Daniella shovel dirt right along side the MSU volunteers. The two young girls, who lived in one of the houses being built with their grandmother Mercedes, were a prime example of how dedicated and strong Honduran culture can be as they willingly picked up tools every day that the volunteers worked and even shoveled for hours without asking for work gloves.
Taking a short break from shoveling, Rebecca and Daniella drink Gatorade in the shade. The girls insisted on working saying that it was fun for them, and the group’s bus driver worked everyday as well on the site including a day where he cut his finger, was stung by a bee and fell off a roof, all within an hour and then continued to finish the work day.
Young at Heart
Site staff advisor of the MSU group and former ASB advisor Carlos Fuentes reads a children’s book he had brought from home to Rebecca, Daniella and a little boy named Danny, who is the son of one of the local workers. Although the children displayed a strong work ethic on the site and have been raised within a culture that forced them to grow up fast and take on a great deal of responsibility early, their energy and enthusiasm was a reminder that they were still young and eager to play.
All Work…and Play
Pushing Danny in a wheelbarrow, human biology junior Bret Lindstrom has fun in between moving dirt from one area to another. While working on the site, the group was able to interact and play with the children a great deal, making the workday not only bearable but enjoyable.
A local community member holds up a shirt as he sorts through clothes being sold on the last day of volunteer work for the group. Before departing from Michigan, the ASB volunteers packed an additional suitcase filled with donations to bring down to Honduras, and a garage sale was held in Cofradia where community members came from the base of the mountain to shop for themselves and their families.
Insisting on paying for items she wanted from the garage sale, Mercedes gives psychology junior Sahar Eftekhar Honduran Lempiras. Although profits from the sale were donated to CCD, it was suggested to the group that the community members pay at least a small amount so that community members can be proud to have earned the belongings rather than simply taking them.
A local Honduran girl shades herself from the sun under an umbrella as her mother shops at the garage sale. Although the child may have been too young to have experienced the disaster that ensued due to Hurricane Mitch, she will continue to grow up within a culture dominated by resilience and the will to survive.
Life Goes On
Before leaving Honduras, the group learned a great deal about the stability of a culture devastated by natural disaster and saw Hondurans as an exceptional example of what it really means to endure. Walking away with enlightenment and hope, it is now possible to see through the eyes of a Honduran that life really does go on.