By Lynn Monty, Free Press Staff Writer
Burlington Free Press
September 22, 2010

The local nonprofit Hands to Honduras was formed seven years ago with the help of Colleen Haag of Shelburne and Linda Gilbert of Charlotte. After Hurricane Mitch struck the Central American country few folks felt compelled to help. Now Haag and Gilbert are preparing for their seventh trip to Tela, Honduras, with a group of about 70. They leave in January.

They are also preparing for the Shelburne Farms Harvest Fest where they hope to raise about $1,000 by selling Comayagua Honduras Organic Shade Grown Coffee. Look for them on Oct. 10 at Pierson Library’s book sale in Shelburne, too.

The money raised will go toward community, school and health center projects in Honduras. Haag and Gilbert have also headed a program to help Honduran families purchase mandatory school uniforms.

“The need in Honduras is so great,” Gilbert said.

Haag said she goes back every year because she has grown to love the people. “You want them to have a better life,” she said. “You connect with people and you want to go back and see them. It’s not only a wonderful experience, it’s a privilege. It grounds us a little bit.”

The group will stay for about a month working on construction and health care infrastructure and maintenance.

Haag and Gilbert have also worked extensively at developing a program to educate new volunteers. “There’s a lot to know,” Gilbert said. “Especially how to keep hydrated. We often find ourselves carrying heavy backpacks and building materials way up into the mountains.”