The Drew Honduras Project started in 1995 through the help of the Reverend Wesley (“Wes”) Wubbenhorst, the former Assistant Rector at the Grace Episcopal Church in Madison, NJ. Wes served in the Peace Corps in Honduras and stayed in contact, in addition to taking groups of high school students there once a year. Drew students Nathaniel Raymond (CLA ’99) and Julia Schleck (CLA ’99) asked him to help them organize a similar program at Drew, and so the project was born. In 1995 and 1996 there was one week long trip a year during Drew’s Spring Break, and each time about twenty-five students traveled to Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. In the summer of 1997, Wes was transferred to Annapolis and Drew students began to run the project in name as well (with guidance from Wes).
Sadly, Wes Wubbenhorst passed away on March 15, 2016 (You can learn more about him and make donations in his name here). We have set up a small DHP scholarship fund in his name to support participants unable to raise the money to cover their trip. Please contact Sandra Jamieson to donate to this fund. Thanks Wes, your work spread far and wide!
Nathaniel and Julia were joined by Diana Gamarra (CLA ’98), Xiomara Guevara (CLA ’98) and Jason Fehr (CLA ’99) as treasurer, in planning the January 1998 Trip. Xiomara, Jason, Emily Litman (CLA ’99), Kim Engan (CLA ’00), and Julissa Garcia (CLA ’98), planned the March 1998 trip, and Jason, Emily, Kim, and Julissa took primary responsibility on site.
In November 1998, Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras. The group donated the money they had raised for a January trip to the relief fund and began planning two simultaneous trips in May 1999. Emily, Kim, and Tom Pendergast (CLA ’00) led one of these groups, and Julia and Nathaniel led the other. In 2000 the group organized one trip in January and another in May, with Tom Pendergast, James Davidson (’00), Neysa Miranda (CLA ’01), Wilbert Marte (CLA ’01), and Akbar Nasir (CLA ’01) as leaders.
In 2001 the group decided to sponsor only one trip a year and donate the additional money to the projects the students worked on when they were in country. So, in May 2001 there was one trip, led by Neysa, Wilbert, and Akbar, joined by Vanessa Llana (CLA ’02), and Elizabeth Salazar (CLA ’03). The board for 2002 was Vanessa, Elizabeth, David Dyer (CLA ’02), Rebecca Harris (CLA ’02), and Mike Manfredi (CLA ’04). Elizabeth, David, Rebecca, and Mike lead the May 2002 trip. The 2003 board saw Elizabeth Salazar joined by Bhavin Patel (CLA ’03), Laura McGinnis (CLA ’03), Charlie Anderson (CLA ’03), and Yanett Salazar (CLA ’04), with the first four leading the in-country portion of the project.
In 2004 Yanett was joined by Arlene Orvalle (CLA ’04), Jeena Shah (CLA ’04), Alex Apolito (CLA ’06), and Jen Wozniakewicz (CLA ’06), with the first four members leading the in-country portion of the project.
In 2005, Alex and Jen were joined by Sony Rodriguez (CLA ’07), who continued into 2006 and was joined by Jenny Troya (CLA ’06), Yuri Acosta (CLA ’06), and Josh Mirrer (CLA ’07). The leaders of the 2007 trip were Justin Yu (CLA ’08), Jose Melgarejo (CLA ’08), Danielle Lambert (CLA ’08), and Josh Mirrer; and in 2008, Danielle and Justin were joined by Sergio Paredes (CLA ’08) and Lauren Spiechowski (CLA ’10). The group volunteered at the Farm in Talanga (El Hogar Projects) and at a new Hogar in La Ceiba, sponsored by Helping Honduras Kids. Lauren was elected to the board again for the 2009 trip, joined by Cailin McGrorry (CLA ’09), Lionel Camacho (CLA ’09), and Yasin Abbak (CLA ’09) and the group went to the same locations as in 2008; and Lauren was elected again, in her final year, 2010, joined by Jackie Drachman (CLA ’10), Brian Walsh (CLA ’10), and Jennifer Hernandez (CLA ’11). Brian and Jennifer led the trip in country, where the group volunteered at the Agricultural School and Farm in Talanga (El Hogar Projects) and for the first time at SOS Children’s Villages in La Ceiba. The board for the 2011 trip was Jennifer Hernandez, Victor Perez (CLA ’13), Rita Della Valle (CLA ’13), and Sree Madappalli (CLA ’13), who took us back to La Ceiba in 2011, where we worked with another children’s home that is no longer open and with Paramedics for Children in Copán. In 2012, as fears about crime in La Ceiba and cross country travel rose, we volunteered with Paramedics for Children in Copán under the leadership of Victor Perez (CLA ’13) and Rita Della Valle (CLA ’13) again, joined by Karine Russ (CLA ’14) and Walkiria Gonzalez (CLA ’13).
In 2013 we made the difficult decision to leave Honduras in response to a Government travel warning and Drew’s concerns about our safety. We were lucky enough to be connected with a home for girls in Bonao, Dominican Republic, where we volunteered in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and will return in 2017. Read more about that decision here, and check out our main page for pictures. See “Student Leaders” and the list of student participants to keep up with our recent fabulous leaders and trip members.
We continue to keep in touch with our former community partners in Honduras via email and social media, both the institutions themselves and individual children–especially those who were students or teachers at La Finca in our last few years there and SOS. And we continue to make monetary donations individually and as a group to El Hogar Projects and Paramedics for Children. We encourage readers to do the same!