There are many local things you can do to help the people of Honduras. When the Drew Honduras Project goes to Honduras each one of us carries two suitcases of donated clothes, shoes, school supplies, medical supplies, and other things the communities we work with need. Colleges, churches, schools, community organizations, and individuals regularly organize drives and then send what they have collected to Honduras. There is a huge need for school books–in English and in Spanish–and supplies such as notebooks and pens. Shoes are also important because kids can get both infections and parasites through the soles of their feet, and most poor children are barefoot, as you can see from our pictures. Children’s homes get through huge amounts of blue jeans, tee shirts, children’s underwear, sneakers, toothbrushes, and so forth. These things are also easy to collect from your neighbors and friends. Shoe drives, book drives, school supplies drives, etc. are generally very successful. On a larger scale, the children need computers so that they can participate in the global networks that some of us take for granted in the US.
Large scale donations
Some groups prefer to become involved on a larger scale, sending an ambulance through “Paramedics for Children,” for example (you can find them at: http://www.paramedicsforchildren.com/), a minivan to a school or an orphanage, or equipment to a hospital or clinic. Many children’s homes, orphanages, and volunteer groups have websites that include wish lists, or you can contact people already volunteering in Honduras via the project Honduras website (at http://www.projecthonduras.com/links.htm).
Shipping/transporting materials to Honduras
Donations can be shipped to Honduras by individuals or groups (although this is not a good idea for larger items if you don’t know what you are doing, as there are all kinds of import taxes and restrictions to be negotiated). Groups going to the country will also often take donations down with them if you can find a local group (check the project Honduras website for some lists of volunteer groups). Finally, you can network with other groups via the listserves organized by Project Honduras.
Many people volunteer in Honduras alone, not with a group. Some are long term volunteers (3 months to a year), but some places look for shorter term individual volunteers as well. The best way to find out about volunteer opportunities is to search the web and check out the Project Honduras listing. Some people volunteer with projects run by branches of their church (children’s homes, building projects, schools, medical clinics, AIDS outreach programs, or programs working with homeless children), but others volunteer as part of medical groups, or education programs.
To get a sense of the kinds of groups and opportunities, check out the “Project Honduras” listing of volunteer groups (listed by type of group).
As you consider volunteering, there are a number of questions you should ask. The first are general questions about the politics of volunteering (see below). However, you also need to think about the kinds of work you want to do–and the kinds of work you don’t want to do–and the kinds of group you want to work with. Many organizations, (such as the Micah Project, which took over some of the work of Casa Alianza in Tegucigalpa) do wonderful work but have a strong religious or missionary component. If you are not religious, or practice a different religion, you may find it difficult to uphold the values of the organization to those you hold. Some organizations simply give, which can create a culture of dependence. Others work hard to avoid such a problematic side effects of their work, as Paramedics for Children explains in connection with their “lollipop logic.”
You should also learn as much as you can about the culture, history, and socio-economic situation of the country in which you plan to spend time. This seems obvious but we have met many volunteers who know little about Honduras aside from that they feel called to “help” the people there. If you are to reach out to people it is helpful–and respectful–to know who they are. Understanding what is going on with the country also helps volunteers go in with their eyes open and avoid risk, crime, and rejection. We recommend several books that helped us to understand different facets of the country, and the internet includes more information.
Finally, think about your own personality. If you go abroad alone, you’ll spend a fair amount of your time alone, especially at first. If you need a lot of company, you might find this hard to deal with. Most children’s homes expect volunteers to follow the same rules as the children, including remaining on site, and refraining from smoking and drinking (on or off the premises). Ask about the rules before you go. And be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses. Over the years we’ve met a few unhappy long- and short- term volunteers who hadn’t thought about these issues, and some have ended up being a drain on the group they are supposed to be helping!
Others concerned with the situation in Honduras try to understand the larger context for the economic situation and work on such issues as trying to persuade the World Bank to forgive some of its loans to Honduras after the devastation of Hurricane Mitch, or the various US companies that operate in Honduras to pay a living wage, provide childcare facilities for their workers, and stop hiring children. Other political and social questions are asked by a number of groups working in Honduras, especially those working to stop child prostitution and deal with the issues of homeless and glue addicted children.
This website provides links to some information about such issues (at http://www.groups.drew.edu/honduras/news_info.htm), but you’ll want to conduct your own research and think about your goals before you go out and act (see below).