Monday, August 06, 2012

Young people step up for Honduran children

Lunch at the pool yesterday, courtesy of Charrissa
I've always known there were exceptional young people doing volunteer work in the challenged countries of the world, but it's been heartening to see so many of them in action here in Copan Ruinas.
Like me, a lot of them have ended up helping out at the children's guardaria here in Copan, where about 40 children are cared for in rough conditions (some live there, others are in day care).
I recently met three young Americans who stumbled upon Angelitos Felices last year when they were on holiday here and then came back this summer for several weeks specifically to volunteer their time at the home every day. Another fellow from Stockton, Calif. was here in early June doing the same thing, overseeing a small construction project at Angelitos in an attempt to rectify at least some of the many structural problems the place has.
The young woman who introduced me to Angelitos four months ago, Emily Monroe, is a particular force for good at Angelitos. She's a go-getter from Pittsburgh who has been in Copan almost two years teaching English at the American-run Mayatan Bilingual School.
She has finished that work but is staying on in the community for another year or so to realize a really big dream of hers: To build a bigger, better home in Copan for children like the kids at Angelitos, one that not only provides food and shelter but more support in all the areas children need help with to grow into healthy, happy and productive adults. (Read more about her project and how you can support her here.)
Emily has played a major role in introducing other travellers to Angelitos and helping them find ways to use their skills to support the children. I've started to think of her as the "hub" for all of us - the one who knows everything that's going on at the place and puts in time to help us connect our collective efforts for maximum impact.
A young woman from New Zealand, Charrissa Taylor, arrived in town recently to spend five months volunteering four days a week at Angelitos, doing child-development activities with the children under five. There'd be no such thing at the home if it weren't for her.
She and Emily are regulars at the every-other-Sunday swims that Paul and I are doing with the kids. And they often bring along other young travellers who don't hesitate to jump into the pool to lead a game of Simon Says with the children, or to swim back and forth with various young ones hanging from their necks (a favourite activity).
Today Emily shared the blog of Kristen Pierce, a young woman from South Carolina who has returned home after a month at Angelitos and is now doing her best to get back here as soon as she can to do more with the children.
 "If an animal craves attention, how much more so a human being?" writes Kristen. "This is what I find to be the most necessary element missing from the children’s lives: love. Everything is a competition, everything a struggle, because there are not enough people to go around to love them all. Each is precious, special, individual, but who is there to find out about it, to really see them?"
It's an honour to meet these young people. They're down here spending their money and their time on challenges that I imagine are far-removed from their own childhood experiences. Some come because their personal faith compels them, but many come simply because they see the vast needs of these children and just can't turn away.
Nobody arranges to bring these young volunteers here. Nobody gives them a handbook on what to do once they arrive. They just listen to their hearts, and lovely things happen.

(Find Emily on Facebook here. And as long as you're there, why not "like" her Casitas Copan page?)

No comments: