Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stories from Honduras

Enjoy these candid pieces written by students of Glen Urquhart School in Beverly, Massachusetts who visited Rancho Santa Fe at NPH Honduras and learned about the various facilities at the ranch and all the hard work that goes into making this a home for the children who need it most.

Rancho Santa Fe
By Cole Symes

As you drive through the gate of Rancho Santa Fe, there is a clinic, pharmacy and surgery center on the left. Most people would think of a surgery center in a Central American country as not the best, but when I had a tour it was as good as, or better, than some in the United States. Once you pass the clinic, you see a sign for the school and a walking path leading the other way. It is a small Montessori school for all of the kids at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) Honduras and a couple of kids from a nearby village. It has classes up to eighth grade, and each kid can learn at their own pace. After eighth grade, NPH will pay for them to go to high school, but they have to do a year of work or año familiar first.

Soon after passing the school, you reach an intersection; one road goes to El Buen Pastor (the Good Shepherd, or the boys’ homes), while the other leads to Talleres (vocational workshops) and San Cristobal (the visitors’ home). After sixth grade, the kids learn a trade at talleres. They can learn metalworking, tailoring, woodworking, shoemaking, carpentry or electrical systems. The last path would bring you down to the farm were they raise bunnies, chickens, and cows.

After San Cristobal, there is the bodega where they keep all of the donations and clothes for NPH. Next to the bodega is the kitchen, where they cook all the food for 600 kids every day. Most days, the food is beans and rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Near the kitchen is the tortilla house where they make 2 tortillas for every child’s dinner. On the other side of the Ranch from the boys’ homes are the girls’ homes. 

Finally, between San Cristobal and the kitchen are the canchas, consisting of two cement basketball courts and a cement soccer field. Next to the canchas is Casa Suyapa, the coed home for children under six. Rancho Santa Fe is surrounded by mountains on three sides, and has trees and animals everywhere. If you climb one mountain, you can see the whole Ranch. It is one of the most beautiful landscapes you could see.

The Bodega
by Katya VanAnderlecht

The large steel door clangs shut behind us and we descend down the cement stairs into the bodega, temporarily feeling cooled by the slight drop of temperature in the basement. To my left I see almost half the room filled with black garbage bags, and to my right three mounds of shoes ranging in various sizes, baby, child and adult. The ground is littered with sneakers, sandals and the occasional fur-lined boot (Yes, because it's definitely going to snow in Honduras!), which leave only a small section of open floor for us to sit down and start sorting.

We commence searching for the long lost pairs in the stragglers left behind from yesterday’s work, excitedly calling out once we reunited a pair, followed by a chorus of under-enthusiastic cheers and weak clapping, for to be honest what’s so exciting about matching shoes? The matched shoes are either tied, velcroed, rubber banded or taped together and tossed into the corresponding pile. As we settle in, there is an ever-constant flow of talking, singing and occasional shoe pun made by Cobo or me in an attempt to keep up our ongoing pun battle throughout the week. Once it is clearly hopeless that another pair will be discovered, Señora Kelley tips over one of the bags, revealing what that half of the room was full of, bags upon bags of shoes. A layer about one foot high (haha) fills the remaining floor space with footwear and we go at it again, shoes flying every which way after we all claim a type of shoe, collect that type and sort through. I ended up with the task of matching girls dress shoes; you would be surprised at how many makes of practically the same shoe there were. Although it was nice to have so many shoe donations, it is amazing what you can find. There was this one pink snow boot that kept showing up, being a different size and for the same foot, none of them matched. Right on cue, as if he had been planning it the whole time (which he probably was), Cobo comments on how he is experiencing déjà shoe.

Many shoes were not even worth pairing and were thrown into the reject pile, destined for a dump. In some ways, I felt like people thought this was a way of justifying getting rid of something that was no longer usable, because of dirt, grime and heels separated (the poor little souls!) just because you were donating it. Giving up my position of dress shoe sorter to Jack, I make my way across to Jenny to aid her in untangling a mass of tennis shoes that were all tied together. There were probably seven pairs with very similar white laces all bound by the mother of all knots in the center. We successfully got a few pairs loose but it was obvious that no progress was being made and after spending at least 20 minutes on it, that was abandoned.

We probably paired more shoes than we will ever own in our lifetimes, but it still felt like we didn’t make a dent on what was left to come. We may have done a lot but I didn’t feel exactly fulfilled at the thought that I had played a big game of matching the whole morning while I could have been cooking a meal for the children or collecting eggs at the farm. If you take away something from this speech, just let it be to please, and I repeat please tie shoes together when you donate them!

La Cocina
by Orren Fox

Six-hundred hungry mouths needed to be fed each day. Not once or twice, but three times. The kitchen ladies wake up many hours before any of us would ever consider in order to cook breakfast. No days off, and three times a day. The least we could do would be help. If it involved chopping, sweeping, or scrubbing we would do it. It did not matter what task we were assigned, we would do it and we would do a good job.

With my work group of Chris, Cole and Steve, we headed up to la cocina on Friday to start our final work job. That day we would chop about 50 plátanos for the soup. We would make a shallow cut down the center of the banana, and use it to help us peel. After we peeled the plantains, we would chop them to a specific size and shape and then toss them in a large bowl of water. On the outside, they were a dirty green color and very tough. On the inside they were a beautiful color. A mixture of vanilla and peach, this banana-like formation was truly beautiful.

We also chopped many potatoes and luckily, did not have to peel them. Instead, all we had to do was select the rotten ones, throw them out and move on with the edible ones. We then took our huge bowl of potatoes and walked them over to the machine. This 40-inch- high, metal cylinder required a key to turn it on, but unfortunately, the woman with the key came to work around 8:00 a.m. and it was only 7:30. The nice young man who showed us how to do everything in the kitchen had an idea. He grabbed two knives, kneeled down behind the machine and jiggled the knives until the machine seized and turned on. He picked the lock with two kitchen knives! We only had to pour the potatoes in, wait a minute, and pull them out when ready. The machine turned and rumbled the potatoes around until they came out, scrubbed and peeled. The bi-product was a brown mush of potato skins oozing out the bottom into a large, square tub.

While shucking corn and inspecting the cob, it was terrifying to peel back one of the leaves and find an inch-long caterpillar squirming around inside. There were some terrifying moments and some mouth watering ones, but all together the kitchen receives five stars in my book for being a great place to work.

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