Honduras service trip: ‘Muchas gracias y mucho amor’ (Many thanks and lots of love)

During spring break, four groups of Duhawks traveled across the country and internationally on service trips through Loras College Campus Ministry. The three national trips served in New Orleans,LA, Grainger County, TN and Camden, NJ. One group flew to Flores, Honduras, and spent the week serving a group called APUFRAM. The trip was led by juniors Rachel Munro and Rachel Swindell, and they were joined by students Brooke Prososki-Green, Mildred Chihak, Lori Obendorf, Mckenna Gillespie, Miriam McKee, Lizzie Kaczmarek, Logan Schroeder, Alyssa Corcoran, Ava Lalor, and faculty and staff Dr. Valerie Bell, Hannah Shuler, and Mick Urbain.

Leaving Loras College at about 10:30 p.m. on Friday, April 7, the group drove to the O’Hare airport to catch their flight. Despite a few bumps in the road (and the airport), they boarded their plane and flew to Houston before re-boarding for Tegucigalpa, Honduras’ capital. Greeted by a mountainous landscape and warm weather, the group was excited to begin their week of service.

Photos by Ava Lalor. Loras students, faculty and staff on the bus to the retreat house in Flores.

The group stayed at the St. Therese of Lisieux retreat center in Flores, a rural area about an hour outside of Tegucigalpa. The retreat center is run by an organization called APUFRAM, which stands for  “Asociación Pueblo Franciscano de Muchachos y Muchachas” (Association of Franciscan Boys Towns and Girls Towns). Based on their motto “God, Study, Work,” this Catholic organization takes in and educates underprivileged children in Honduras.

Throughout the week, the Duhawks visited the girls’ school, on the same property as the retreat center. When they first arrived that Saturday, they were timid toward these girls, unsure of how to approach them with their limited knowledge of Spanish. It didn’t take long for this to change. Soon they were laughing along with their voices, communicating through simple phrases, expressions, and hand motions. They did not hold the Duhawks’ language skills against them but rather helped them and eagerly learned a few English words as well. Between bubbles, soccer, a pool party and a bonfire, the kids easily found a way into their hearts.

Junior Ava Lalor and senior Lizzie Kaczmarek have fun with Honduran children.

Outside of playing with these girls, the group put a roof on a building at the boys’ high school. The organization had expected the Duhawks to take three or four days to complete this project, but it only took them two days. They were so efficient that they were also able to clean the rooms they were covering, sweeping rubble from the old roof out of the rooms. On the third day, the group helped paint a kitchen at the girls’ school with a cement mixture to reinforce the walls. They also experienced the culture through attending Mass on Palm Sunday and watching their Good Friday procession in one of the towns, Comayagua.

The group also had many opportunities to bond with one another. Between morning prayers, evening reflection, siesta, iguana scares, a shared love of tang, and nighttime games, they shared many moments that they will never forget. They also realized the blessings they have as Americans. While some may expect living a week with cold showers, no mirrors, and limited phone access would be impossible, they quickly learned how freeing it is to not worry about themselves. Instead, they were able to be present to each other and the people they encountered.

When they left on Saturday, April 15, they were torn as the people of Honduras had taught them so much about being present to people even amidst differences. The group was made up of people who walked past each other at Loras but may never have known each other were it not for Honduras. Leaving the country, they could genuinely say, “Muchas gracias, Honduras, y mucho amor” — many thanks, Honduras, and lots of love.

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