By Chris Morris
times_sentinel@denpubs.com
Vermont Times Sentinel
March 5, 2008

SHELBURNE – It’s amazing how a trio of grants approved in northern Vermont can change the lives of children in Central America.

In early 2008, the Charlotte/ Shelburne, Barre, and Williston Rotary Clubs approved three District Simplified Grants (DSG) that the Vermont chapter of Hands-to-Honduras (H2H) Tela program applied for, and later received. The grants helped fund three water projects in Tela, Honduras. “The money we received helped to cover some of the expenses of the projects,” said Linda Gilbert, a spokesperson for H2H. “Our community fundraising efforts also helped cover the projects.”

The DSG grant from the Charlotte/ Shelburne Rotary club was used to fund the partial completion of a critical water system at the Center for the Integrated Rehabilitation of Disabled Children (IRDC). According to Gilbert, the center did not have running water during day light hours while in operation. “Consequently,” added Gilbert. “Disabled children in the community could not be given the sanitary services required. Water had to be carried in buckets from an outside water tank that was periodically filled by the local fire department.” Specifically, the grant money was used to purchase and install a 5,000-liter below-ground water tank and a 750-liter water tower. Additionally, H2H purchased and installed a one-half horsepower pump to create water pressure. “Now there is water for the three toilets and four washbowls that we installed last year,” said Gilbert.

The grant provided by the Barre Rotary club funded a substantial upgrade of the water system at the Tela Health Center — the primary healthcare facility in the community of Tela. As with the IRDC, patients could not be given sanitary services. “When we visited the center, there were long lines of patients waiting to be treated,” said Gilbert. “At certain times during the day, water pressure dropped to zero.” Gilbert said that work on the project was slow, but eventually successful, as volunteers mounted a 2,500-liter water tank on a 20-foot tower, equipped with a one-half horsepower pump.

The DSG from the Williston Rotary club funded the construction of two latrines, a cistern and an associated water system that included a pump, pressure tank, two water faucets, and additional piping. This water upgrade was installed at the JFK School in Tela — a school with a student population of 800 students and 20 teachers. The pair of latrines — both meter-squared — and four of latrines currently under construction, provide students and teachers with clean, functional toilets. The project also provides the school with much-needed hand-washing facilities. “Children and teachers will now be able to wash their hands after using the sanitary facilities,” said Gilbert. “No hand washing facilities were available before we came in with the grant money.”

Other H2H accomplishments from 2008
Only two months have passed since 2008 began, and the Vermont chapter of Hand-to-Honduras has already reached several milestones in the of Tela.

Volunteers constructed a concrete block classroom that replaced a much smaller, open thatched roof classroom for the Jazmin School. H2H also provided the school with 15 soccer uniforms, complete with shin guards, cleats, socks and soccer balls. Gilbert noted that these were the first sets of complete uniforms the students had ever worn.

At the Gravil Avelar School — 240 students grades one through six — H2H donated the materials for the construction of rooves over three classrooms. Additionally, the school was able to build and install new basketball back boards at an outdoor basketball court.

The Vermont H2H organizing committee consists of the following: Samuel Feitelberg, Alphonse Gilbert, Linda Gilbert, Colleen Haag, Dorrice Hammer, John Hammer, and Norm Robinson.