24 Feb Roatan Home Building
I was talking to Bose, my friend and employee for the Gates Foundation. Bose, there is a family in Honduras that needs our help. It is a family of 4, 2 little girls with a father that fell into a rock crusher and lost his leg and an arm and is wheel chair bound. The family is living in a small 10 by 12 room, connected to a store about the same size and they are making their living with what they can sell from the store. They are being forced out of their home and store. Let’s see if we can help them.
One thing about Bose is he never says no. So with a “Yeah, let’s do it!” The process begins. Needing a home 50% larger than the standard home to accommodate a store and then making it handicap accessible, we had a few more challenges than usual. More money to raise, more work to do and more help needed to fulfill our mission to help this family and give the young kids a home.
So with our base team of Mark, Bose, John and Tanya, our quest began, recruit some people interested in helping others. It was Bose’s goal to bring his wife, Leah to join us, but before she could commit, she was blessed with the wonderful news that they were expecting a child. Bose continued to share his needs for help with friends and Harish, his wife Chitra and their friend Tharika agreed to join us. He had talked to his neighbor Tracy and she agreed to join us also. Now we have a complete team!
Now comes the daunting task of raising funds. Our goal is $16,500.00 to raise funds for the home for the kids, a septic tank, toilet, wheel chair ramps and a store front with shelves and counters that could support a store front. We had to do as much as we could because it would not be possible for Emilio to do any improvements himself. For us as individuals, I didn’t realize how hard it would be to raise that much money. John, the world traveler has a following of friends that have followed his travels and are generous in their contributions and were eager to contribute. Bose, with a large following of friends, asked everyone he knew for a small donation to our fundraising campaign, in addition received generous matching funds from the Gates Foundation for all of his contributions. He asked for $20 contributions and was blessed with gifts from $50 to $100 and more. Harish and Chitra , Microsoft employees were able to donate and receive matching funds from Microsoft. Now it comes to me, I haven’t worked in 6 months, I gave what I could, but now it is time for me to come up with my fair share and we have a long, long way to go. I have always been able to come up with what I needed, but now I don’t have the resources. I have to ask for help, which is something I have never done before.
One of the things about these trips is, I see the smiles and happiness in the people I am surrounded by. They are happy and proud. Their mind isn’t cluttered with the thoughts we have regarding what we have, our jobs, keeping up with the next person or our possessions. Their thoughts and needs are simple, shelter, clothing and where the next meal is coming from. They are more concerned about helping their fellow man. They have needs and can understand the needs of other and they are willing to do whatever it takes to help their neighbor. I guess those are some of the things I do not find where I live. I learn from the people I meet here in Honduras. I learn compassion and respect. They accept what they have, appreciate it and make the best of it. They find happiness in what they do have, not sorrow in what they don’t have. When they pray, they think about others first and give thanks for friends, family, health and they thank God for all they are blessed with.
The purpose for me on these trips is not necessarily to give the gift of a home to the people in need, but more so to open my eyes to the needs of people in the world that are not as blessed as I have been. The difference between me and the people I meet can be as simple as the place I was born. My goal is to learn from the people I am surrounded by and to share my experience with others that cannot participate on their own. For those that are able to join me on these trips, I try to provide an environment where they can feel like they are using their talents to make a contribution of their time and efforts to the families. It is more about the personal interaction between us and with the friends, families and neighbors, being able to understand and respect their lives and for what they give us than it is about the small gift of a home we provide for them. I take away much more than I give and it is my goal to share what they give me with the world.
So, back to fundraising… I realize that I have done all I could to donate and have exhausted my resources. Now comes a new experience for me, humility. I realize the need to help others is bigger than myself and I have to ask for help. This is something new to me. I do not like to bother people with requests for money. I am annoyed by the people on the street corner asking for money. I usually throw all the junk mail I receive asking for support in the trash before I even open them. When they pass the offering basket, I usually make only a token contribution. I question what any donation I make and wonder what it is going to be used for. I ask myself, is that beggar on the corner a professional or is he really someone in need? I get calloused by all the requests for help. Then I think about what I am doing. What I see is a pure need. I see the family with kids that have nothing and every penny I contribute goes directly to providing something for them. I talked to one mom and she explained to me, if they have money, at meal time, she walks a mile to the store to purchase the food for their next meal, and then she walks home to prepare the meal for her family. There is no refrigerator at home to store food. There is no credit card to charge food if you are short at the end of the week. It is simple, no money, no food. I understand now what I need to do if I want to help these deserving people. I sat down and asked my friends and family to do what they could to help me. All I asked was for a small donation of $20 just to show me that they thought this was a good cause and that they thought I was doing the right thing. The support was overwhelming. Instead of $20 donations, I received some donations in excess of $1000. I had no idea that my friends and family believed so much in what I did and were willing to support me. Our fundraising goal was soon met. We ended up with over 100 people making contributions and showing our team support in trying to help this family.
Fundraising completed, it’s time to travel. The team arrived on Saturday. We unpacked and settled in to our little oceanside cabins. As people got settled, a few of us met poolside and were quickly reminded of the small insects that love to feed on bare ankles. We had a quick scramble for the insect repellent. I don’t think the bug juice ever left my side the whole trip. The team met for dinner with Tom and Linnea Hackett including my wife Arlene. With our anniversary approaching soon, she agreed to join us so we could share it together.
Sunday was a day to get acquainted with the Island and to visit new and old job sites. In the afternoon, we headed to visit the Pavon family. They had heard we were in town and had been waiting patiently for days for us to show up. The whole family were dressed in their best and stayed at home in anticipation of our arrival but really having no idea of when or what day that might be. In March, Bose, John, Tanya and myself had completed a home for this family. They have a lovely family of 3 young girls and one son the oldest one being 16 and a younger boy 4. The mom had been working as a cleaner when we were building their home but was currently unemployed.
We had an absolutely wonderful time constructing the Pavon’s home in March. The family was there every day helping. The young girls were anxious to help lend a hand. They would be dressed in their skirts, barefoot and be pounding nails with us but be perfectly clean and composed, while we were wet dirty, muddy and sweaty. I could never understand how they stayed so clean until I saw the youngest girl doing her laundry on a wash board. It is a lot of work to clean your clothes so you “Don’t get them Dirty”. When we provided a home for this family, we gave them a place that stayed clean and dry and a place where they could put their pillow. They now have a room of their own and a bed that all 3 girls still share. One of the reasons for the visit is that the best gift you can give someone is the gift of knowledge. The better education the kids have, the better chance they will have to succeed and be able to help others like themselves. The biggest gift I could give the family is the opportunity to get an education. Kayla, the oldest, was enrolled in college classes. She might be the first in her family to get complete school. It would take about ½ the total family income to pay for her yearly school expenses. My goal is to help her get the education she deserves. The challenge I had to try to work with the family is being able to communicate what I can give and find out what they need to make sure Kayla can complete her schooling.
I had no idea of how to help with her education, but I knew that this would be the best way to do my part to help others. My sister Kathi was instrumental in helping me come up with ideas. I was able to create a scholarship for Keyla. She would have to have good grades, get a teachers to write a letter of recommendation and apply for the Pavon Scholarship every year. She will have to work hard for the support I am offering, but the rewards she receives will be priceless and earned totally by her. We had a meeting with the family to discuss what I had to offer. It is always challenging trying to communicate without creating false expectations and to find out what their real needs are. The language barrier can be a big challenge at times. I can only hope that enough understanding is shared and I can successfully help Keyla achieve her education goal. She and her family were in tears with appreciation; knowing that Keylas dreams of and education might be realized.
The hardest part is seeing 3 more wonderful kids that could use the same help…
What about the others…