March 26, 2013: Yesterday, Drew’s Committee for Travel Safety and Oversight, a new committee formed last year, decided that the Drew Honduras Project (DHP) could not travel to Honduras this year. Their review of safety was based on the US State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs Warning to travelers to Honduras, a warning that follows the temporary Travel Advisory issued in 2011.
The student board members and faculty advisor of DHP are currently reviewing alternative projects for 2013. Our goal is ideally to continue to work with one of our community partners but in a different country, or to develop a community partnership with an organization that has previously worked with a Drew group, or a Drew faculty or staff member. We believe it is of the utmost importance for all civic engagement programs to build and maintain deep and long-term relationships with a community and to work with an organization serving that community on issues identified as important by that community. We value the almost twenty-year relationship we have with El Hogar Projects in and around Tegucigalpa and with the students and faculty at the Agricultural Institute in Talanga, and we regret that we will not be able to work with them this year. We also value our newer, but we hope equally enduring, relationship with Paramedics for Children and the children of Copan. We will donate funds we have raised to these two organizations and plan to continue to serve Honduran children and organizations that care for and educate them, even if only financially for the next few years.
FOR OTHER VOLUNTEER GROUPS CONSIDERING TRAVEL TO HONDURAS
When the US State Department Travel Warning was announced, we discussed the situation with current and former community partners in Honduras, with scholars of Central America, and with people who live there. We participated in four online Town Hall Meetings organized by the US State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, and our faculty advisor spoke personally with representatives of the State Department. We also noted that the US is the only nation to issue a Travel Warning for Honduras and that the US State Department affirmed that “the situation in Honduras is not any worse than it was last year.” While we certainly wish that the situation were better than last year, and do not deny the risks associated with travel to some areas with particularly high crime rates, on the bases of all of this carefully considered information we decided in December not to cancel the trip.
If others are facing the same decision, we urge them to call the state department and discuss details of their planned trip, and we urge University officials to do the same thing. We strongly suggest not depending on “professional” or “insider” listservs and professional organizations, some of which recommend action based only on anecdote or on ill-informed individual fears. Nor should decisions be based on the optimism and lack of local information we have sometimes seen in volunteers and volunteer groups in Honduras. We encourage institutions to balance all information with direct communication with the State Department and to also consult with those who know the situation.
Decisions about international travel are never easy, and there is no such things as 100% safe travel–even to one’s local grocery store. We respect the need to err on the side of caution, and we hope that other groups in the same situation as us will continue to donate financially to Honduras and especially to the children who will suffer because of the political situation in and beyond their country.
Please consider donating to these organizations so they can continue to help children in Honduras in spite of the loss of volunteers: