If you have known me for any amount of time, you know how dedicated I am to Rotary. The work our organization does in our community and around the world is mind boggling. In four years with our club I’ve seen the difference we make first hand. On a local level I’ve volunteered at the Mooresville Soup Kitchen, assisted in grant writing to fund a new van for the Ada Jenkins Center and awarded multiple scholarships to outstanding youth in our community.
Last October I traveled to Copán Ruinas, Honduras with members of our club to bring change to the lives of an entire Chorti Indian village. There were many lives impacted on that trip, including my own.
Traveling to Honduras is fairly easy. The flights from Charlotte to Atlanta to San Pedro Sula were just like flying anywhere else. You take off, you land, you deplane. But that’s where the similarities stop. Upon arrival we met our driver who took us on a 4 hour ride to the home of Steve & Audrey Long, North Carolina missionaries who have served Copan for nearly 30 years. Driving in Honduras is much like being in a NASCAR race. In our case, it was a NASCAR race during torrential down pours through flooded areas. There are no lines on the road, no speed limits and no fear by anyone. I’ve been scared before but never for four full hours. At some point I decided to close my eyes and hope for the best.
Our first two days were spent working in a factory where we assisted in manufacturing concrete smokeless stoves. These stoves, designed by Stove Team International (www.stoveteam.org), bring revolutionary change to homes by providing a safe way to cook indoors. The stoves burn only a fraction of the amount of wood typically used and make very little smoke. Without these stoves, families are forced to build open fires in the middle of homes which is dangerous and unhealthy as there is a constant fog that is inhaled during the process. Our club purchased 13 of these stoves which we were able to deliver to the Chorti upon completion of manufacturing.
The second resource we provided to the Chorti were water filters from Filter of Hope (www.filterofhope.org). Our club purchased 13 of these filter systems which provides clean water for up to 5 years. The filters are small and easily installed into a 5 gallon bucket making them extremely effective.
Our third day began with an hour drive in a convoy to the Chorti village with our stoves and filters in tow. Some of the pictures below were hard for me to take. Even today they are still hard for me to see. My first job out of college was to inspect houses for my family’s insurance business. I spent three years in all parts of southern West Virginia where I regularly saw the best and the worst my state had to offer. I’ve seen poverty in America and thought I was ready for this trip. But this was different.
Our missionary Audrey has an exceptional friendship with the elder, Rosa, of the village. It was for this reason that we were able to enter her home to visit for a few moments. Sticks for walls, no doors and a shaky roof was the entirety of the dwelling. All items must be hung as there is severe flooding any time it rains. It had been particularly rainy in the days before we arrived so she was wearing no shoes. She told us she left them off because she only had one pair and did not want them to get muddy. We saw the shoes, which were flip flops. This home was not particularly better or worse than any other in the village. I would call it average.
Because none of the villagers had a stove or water filter in their home we gathered everyone for a demonstration. We brought two instructors from Stove Team International who taught for around an hour. Part curious, part confused and totally excited, the villagers jumped in learn how to use the stoves. The ladies of the group patted out baleadas (tortillas) to cook, which were excellent.
Once we finished the stove demo we moved on to water filters. The photo below was from a moment that changed my life. The Chorti have no plumbing and no fresh water source. They collect water by using a rain barrel. When we took a bucket of yellow-ish dirty water from the rain barrel and ran it through the filter the water came out clear. When the glass of water was offered to the village, everyone hesitated. It took me a minute to realize no one was wanted to be the first to try the water because no one in the village had seen clear filtered water before. Finally, a woman stepped forward to try it. This photo was the first time that she had ever had a drink of clean water. The others reluctantly followed suit.
It’s one thing to hear about the great work that our Rotary Club is doing internationally but it’s another to see it first-hand. The total investment by our club for the stoves and filters was $3,000. For only $3,000 we were able to bring clean water and a safe way to cook to an entire village of 13 homes. I know our club changed a lot of lives that day. One of the lives most impacted was my own.
I never had an interest in international service and was surprised to learn that half of the money our club raises helps abroad. The other half stays in our community being used for projects our club selects. Our club has no corporate sponsors and no big donors. We raise money through only four fundraisers each year. I’m leading our newest service project and fundraiser on July 26th, Project Chicken Chicken Chicken and we need your support.
On our website, www.projectchickenchickenchicken.com donors are able to buy meals and donate them to: (1) Veterans, (2) First responders, (3) Those in need. A portion of each sale stays with our Rotary club to do more work in our town and around the world. Our goal is to provide 150 meals to those in need at the Mooresville Soup Kitchen on July 26th. We’re running out of time and need all the support we can get. I’m asking for your help today. It is your support that allows us to continue our mission of improving our local community and communities all around the world.
Yours in Rotary Service,