By Linda Gilbert
The Charlotte News
April 8, 2010

The pieces of time and the adventures you share fit in a kind of mosaic that evolves into some near-perfect shape that stays with you and becomes the fabric of your life. You know that you didn’t just get rich, not in the way you expected, but you got so very lucky to be involved in this life changing experience.”

Charlotters – Jeanne Greenblatt, Zak Adams, Andrew DesLauriers, John Hammer, Dorrice Hammer, Al Gilbert and Linda Gilbert – were part of the large Vermont-Hands to Honduras-Tela (H2H-T) humanitarian service trip in February.

Memories include shrimp, rice, beans, bananas, coconut, tortillas; Honduran school children speaking loudly in unison “Buenos Dias;” youth volunteers realizing it is good to help others; machetes; concrete blocks; medical teams; handcuffs and bullet proof vests for the police; medicines for the health centers; swaying bridge in the bamboo forest; a bike for the teacher; smiles; go-with-the-flow attitude; success of forming rebar; rain; sunburn; sweat; soccer balls; children giggling; mañana; perfect sunset over ocean waves …

Projects numbered over 20 and included some of the following.

Las Palmas: Work continued on the double-size classroom that H2H-T constructed in 2009. The school is in a very poor rural area, and secure heavy-weight doors and screened bar windows were installed. The teacher selected two beautiful blue colors, and the H2H-T team painted the interior and exterior, with much help from the local community. For many Hondurans, this was the first opportunity they ever had to paint and they loved it, especially wearing the gloves!

Campo Elvir Day Care Center: Accessible only by 4-wheel drive truck, here H2H-T constructed a 20 x 24 foot kindergarten classroom. In 2009, H2H-T constructed latrines and prior to that a kitchen for this center.

Lancetilla: A 19 x 25 foot school building with latrines was constructed for 35 children. The steep mountain worksite was a 30-minute hike through a bamboo forest, over a swaying bridge in a remote poor area. Concrete blocks were carried by horse or one by one by volunteers.

Puerto Arturo: The renovation at this rural health center was expansive. H2H-T replaced a deteriorated roof; constructed two examination rooms, a nurses station, a room to store medical supplies, an administrative office; painted the interior and exterior of the completed building; installed new restroom and water facilities.

Medical projects: H2H-T medical teams provided training for Honduran nurses and physicians and offered health clinics in the rural areas. Clinics to test women for cervical cancer in rural areas were offered by the H2H-T Women’s Health team. One clinic held at Rio Tinto Island was an hour away by small open boat over ocean waves. The team loved this adventure and treated many women who had never had an exam. Over the five days, 169 women were seen and treated; without these clinics, many cancers would not have been detected. H2H-T also provided a pediatric clinic and training at a rural health center and dental fluoride clinics for the children at the child care center.

The Principal Necessities Project proved successful. Requests were made by teachers, physicians and nurses, policemen and firefighters for the most needed items. H2H-T succeeded in fulfilling many of the needs by purchasing in the locally depressed Tela community and also by bringing numerous donated goods from Vermont community members.

Honduran school children are required to wear uniforms – white shirts, navy blue slacks or pleated skirts. Many families cannot afford the $16 purchase price. Without a uniform, a child can’t attend school. Many trips to the local stores were made to purchase the exact sizes, provided by the teachers, for the 80 uniforms for the children in need at two schools. H2H-T received many requests for the 2011 uniform project and plans to include backpacks (total $25 per student).

In 2009, H2H-T built two large classrooms at the IHNFA Child Care Center. During this trip John Hammer and other volunteers painted the exterior and interior of these rooms. This doubled the number of children that IHNFA (located in the center of Tela) can now provide care for. Carpentry projects, and repairs and plumbing maintenance were conducted by the H2H-T carpentry team.

The 2010 trip was very successful due to the determined and can-do attitudes of the volunteers.

Friends and relatives ask, “Why do you go every year to help in Honduras?” The answer is simple. H2H-T is making a difference for many, especially the Honduran children.

A volunteer said on her return to Vermont, “I’ve been thinking a lot about Tela since I returned. Mainly I’m comparing my days here to my days there and thinking about how my time there seemed so well spent. Even though I was only hauling rocks uphill in a bucket or mixing concrete or pushing a wheelbarrow, there was an immediate correlation between the effort expended and the results in front of me at the end of the day.”

For information about the Hands to Honduras-Tela program, please contact Linda Gilbert, lindaggilbert@gmail.com.