Travel can be a transforming experience, and perhaps at time is that more apparent than after volunteering abroad in the most poverty-stricken areas of the world. Building a community center in Honduras, changed BootsnAll writer Devin Foxall more than the village where the structure was erected. He describes the trip and the lingering questions his trip effected in his article What We Offer.
” Quick impressions ambush me in Santa Ines, a small village in the northwest of Honduras, the poorest country in our hemisphere after Haiti. First, and most oppressive, is the heat: an itchy blanket at the sun’s birth and death, a cauldron at midday. Second, even before the sweep of poverty hits, is the extensive variety of smiles. Whether euphoric or tranquil, with modestly closed lips or toothy grins: there is always a happy face to welcome mine.
Last – and here is where I first have trouble imagining what I know to be true – comes the sight of a child lost amongst the others who resembles, more than anything, a skeleton.
But he’s quickly absorbed into the crowd while I’m caught up in the rush of kids bringing me to my new home. They shout mas! a plea to carry more of our baggage, and how odd it is, I think, that they would ask for a greater burden.
Here’s the nitty-gritty: we had two weeks to turn a dilapidated structure into a center fit for literacy classes, weddings, funerals, and town meetings. At first sight, it didn’t seem possible. While the town had built the basic structure five years ago, they soon ran out of money and watched as nature took over. Between ourselves, we discussed what was possible. Slowly we realized that we were surrounded by dozens of kids. They wanted to help.
When people ask about Honduras, the story I tell goes something like this: Two worlds that couldn’t quite believe in one another created something, so that when they parted they were a little more real to one another.
I tell them about leaving in a sputtering taxicab and passing the children lining the dusty main street. I watched them hold out their hands, with hope for more of what they believed my world offered.
What I never mention is that sometimes I question whether offering the kids a vision of a new world – one they would probably never again realize – wasn’t, in some ways, a little cruel.”