We spent last week in Roatan, Honduras on a mission trip. Our group of 17 volunteers had three objectives:
1) The medical team with a doctor and nurses did check-ups for children in the local schools.
They saw hundreds of children, mostly healthy, but many that complained of headaches and stomachaches. Lots of ibuprofen was handed out along with hugs and smiles.
The team had toted jillions of vitamins to dispense. Toothbrushes, toothpaste and some basic hygiene products were made available.
Some more serious issues were addressed with students and teachers, but mostly we were happy that it was mostly healthy happy children.
This is a routine procedure in America, but in an impoverished country, good health care is NOT routine, it’s a privilege.
2) The activity team provided entertainment and social interaction with the school children.
Basically, they played. Laughter and music and big smiles cross all kinds of communication barriers.
The schools that the team visited were public schools, but the kids must pay for uniforms and materials.
The education system is underfunded and the classroom size is overcrowded. (Sound familiar?)
But the team could offer some joy and hope in the form of fun and games, free toothbrushes/toothpaste, and… sharing the gospel. They were rewarded with grins that came easily.
3) The construction team, this was where I landed.
As I described in last week’s article, our week was spent making repairs in an orphanage that exists solely on donations.
We scrubbed and screened and slapped gallons of clean paint. And we sweat. At least I did. A lot.
I’m a farmer’s daughter and I’m not afraid of hard, hot work. I had many childhood memories while working in the little boy’s rooms in the Roatan Orphanage.
One was the time my dad made the much older sister and I paint a metal grain wagon on a hot summer day, we felt like roasted chickens. I had the same feeling painting under those bunk beds in Roatan.
Another memory was of cleaning out the farrowing house at the farm. I remembered shoveling and washing out those sow’s pens.
I had the same feeling in that boy’s home. We had little guys come in and want to help us paint their rooms, so we handed over brushes and poured more paint into cups we had pulled out of the trash.
Little Calvin was helping me in a hot corner and he must have noticed I was dripping with sweat. He disappeared for a while and came back with a cup of water that he presented to me. I kinda teared up.
It didn’t matter that we’d been instructed not to drink the water; you can bet I took that gift and gulped. (The doctor gave me an antibiotic pill later, just in case....)
We did what we could with the time and supplies and resources we had. Hopefully we made life a tiny bit better for some little people that don’t complain or feel entitled.
I know being home with a clean bed, and sticking my toothbrush under the faucet with abandon is a bigger deal than it was a week ago. There’s a chance we benefitted more than the folks we helped, even so-mission accomplished.
Patti Beth Anderson has more than 20 years of experience in the group travel industry taking people all over the world. Her motto is "I return with the same number of people I left with… not necessarily the same people, but the same number nevertheless. So no 'crankpots' allowed" She may be reached at 918-786-3318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.