We were up early for the daily 7 am breakfast and then rushed back to the volunteer house to pack and clean so that there would be time to give last notes and hugs to the children we had come to know over the week and we wanted to have some time to talk to Matt Engleby, Executive Director in Honduras, to pose the many questions that we had. The house was a buzz of activity when unexpectedly Gustavo came to the door and said "Claudia is ready to take you on a home visit". Plans changed and we scrambled to get out to the van in just a few minutes.
Gustavo drove us to the home of the grandmother of students Fernanda and her sister. We parked about a block away, crossed the street, walked across a path and down some stairs. Fernanda's home was built of wood and tin and was built into the hillside with other similar structures below and next to theirs. We entered 2 at a time. The home consisted of 2 small rooms with a mattress filling each room, a small kitchen and bathroom area. They had electricity but no running water or sanitation. 7 children, 3 adults, a large rooster and a larger dog shared the home. This visit left us with a sobering image of urban poverty in Tegucigalpa and helped us to understand the reality many live in and why El Hogar exists. Many felt it was important to see the urban home as compared to the other 2 more rural homes we had seen previously during the week.
We then returned to El Hogar, finished our chores and then had about an hour to meet with Matt and Erika, our team host for the week. We talked about our meeting the previous night with Heyser and our admiration and appreciation for the passionate and caring staff that we have encountered, seen in action and have gotten to know. Then, we discussed questions about social service systems or the lack thereof in Honduras- healthcare, housing, education, social security, etc. We ended with a discussion about what action steps Matt and Erika suggest for us upon our return. Matt asked us to remember Honduras, to learn more, to keep up with what's going on there as it is seldom reported in North America, to be aware that how we live in this world impacts Honduras and to really strive to live out a changed life, not just a changed view of the world. They asked us to keep this experience alive among us, that we have shared a experience that no one else truly understands. They asked us to do what we can to share this experience with others, particularly new people, and to support the organization.
We could have talked all morning but we needed to get to the airport by 10:30 so we said our final goodbyes and headed to the airport where we shopped and ate and then flew to Miami. In Miami, the US customs lines were very long but we managed to all get through and then go back through security for our domestic flights with time for burgers, beers and shakes. We were back in the US now where things work according to plan, right? Not so much...
Our flight to Charlotte was delayed and it quickly became clear that we would miss our connection to Boston. The crew in Miami told us to go to Charlotte and American Airlines would put us up in a hotel and rebook us on flights on Saturday. After we landed but before we de-planed, an announcement let us know that there actually weren't any rooms available in Charlotte. Kiana said she actually had tears in her eyes imagining another night in an airport. Liz and I quickly went online while waiting to deplane and Liz managed to have secured 5 rooms at the Hampton Inn (apparently American doesn't do business with them...) by the time we got off the plane. She won the MVP award for the day! Also before we deplaned, American called each of us to let us know that we were already rebooked on Saturday flights which was great because we did not have to stand in line at the gate with 100 other angry people and try to sort out flights for 9 people. (Sandy had her trials on the way to Honduras so she luckily got back without any problems.)
Once settled at the Hampton Inn at about 11:45, Jeremy and Megan headed across the street to get some beverages to aid in celebrating Megan's 24th birthday at midnight. Fun was had by all who joined in- some of us were stressed about turning 24 (getting old) and some of us can't even remember what we were doing when we were 24. It was so great for me to realize I am exactly twice Megan's age- ugh! No doubt Megan did not plan to have a birthday at the Hampton Inn in Charlotte, NC but maybe she will always remember where she was when she turned 24...
On Saturday we left on many flights in 1s and 2s from 7 am to 2:30 pm. Some flew direct, some through DC and some through Philly. I am happy to report that at 6:00 pm tonight all team members have arrived back in Boston!
I took a risk in suggesting that we take this trip- a group of colleagues travelling to a foreign land could be really good for our collegial relationships or really bad but I also knew it would be a great opportunity. This group of SSYP staff is committed to improving opportunities for youth, to supporting their education, to creating safe spaces for young people, to challenging systems and to making all young people feel valued. In so many ways, this is the same work that El Hogar is doing. For me, it was the perfect combination and I believe everyone who traveled with us would agree. There is so much work to be done in the world, near and far, and I could not have chosen better people to be in it with. It was my great privilege to lead this team and I look forward to seeing how we continue this work. May we be the agents that change the plans that poverty puts in place for all of the young people we care about.