Puerto Rico, Park City, Scottsdale, Aruba, Norway and a lovely place called Honduras.
Volunteering in Honduras with Humanity and Hope
It all started one December morning in Vermont while filming a show called The Bachelor Winter Games. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it 😉 Benjamin Higgins and I were sitting on the floor engrossed in conversation for two hours when we realized we had lots in common. Apart from receiving roses, crying on national television and being mediocre at winter sports, purposeful travel fills our souls. I was telling him how much I adore the island of Puerto Rico and had just partook in some disaster relief with a few non-profits out of Miami when he began to let me in on why Honduras stole his heart. When we found out we had a mutual friend who had big interested in both locations, we agreed to make a visit to each location together.
Cut to February. I had a fake key in my pocket and Winter Games was airing – but we traded press interviews and cast reunions for Honduras. Yep, it’s that great.
Humanity and Hope began serving communities of Honduras in 2010 when its insanely cool founder, Riley Fuller, had an epiphany during a family trip. He arrived on a relief trip, forced to go because he’d wrecked his dad’s car when he skipped the trip the year before.
Before that first trip to Honduras, I knew nothing about putting myself in someone else’s shoes. I was blind and selfish, I had no idea how much struggle and heartache happened throughout the world, and I didn’t know how much human potential was being wasted. I also didn’t know how much we could do to change it if we worked together.
Stepping off that bus, Riley saw a house using a plastic tarp to keep rain out. Printed on the tarp were the words “Delta Trash.” That moment changed everything for Riley.
I had no idea why I had won the birth lottery, but I knew I had to use what I’d been given to help people who were suffering.
Since that time, Humanity and Hope has focused all of its efforts on the people of Honduras while creating sustainable change (taking root in an organization and going from efforts to change to actually establishing ways of doing business that the local men and women can carry out through their own efforts) and aiding in giving jobs, education, clean water and purpose to three prospering communities that otherwise had nothing.
Population: 9+ million
Currency: Honduran lempiraLanguage: Spanish
H&H Communities: El Progresso, San Pedro Sula
Bordered by Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Caribbean Sea, Honduras is known for its coffee, bananas, pineapples and palms. Lest we forget about the world class scuba diving throughout the second largest coral reef in the world near Roatán, a place I’ll have to return to asap for new memories…
Despite the resources and beauty, almost 70% of Hondurans earn less than $1,200 a year, and one in five Hondurans living in rural areas live in extreme poverty, earning less than $700 each year—less than $1.90 per day. When H&H arrived in 2010, the communities couldn’t believe a group of Americans were coming to help when even own government wouldn’t lift a finger. They are grateful and thankful to have the helping hand, just as we are grateful and thankful on how they receive us with open arms.
If we don’t buy this land, the people won’t have jobs. If they don’t have jobs, how can we say we’re creating sustainable change? – Darwin Suazo
H&H came to this village in 2010 when the vast majority of people didn’t have a high school degree, and there was little opportunity to work more than one day per week. Now they employ 18 men for 5 days/week working on the corn and plantain projects while the 12 women who work every day tend to the chicken and pig farms. This, of course, trickles down from them and onto their growing families as they provide food, water and education. La Coroza continues to be a great example of unity, hard work and what sustainable change looks like via Humanity and Hope. The locals of the village realize this and want to pass along their skills to people in other villages so that they may have the same opportunities for change.
Someday you’ll do for another village what we are doing for you right now. -The People of La Coroza
Currently: H&H’s biggest project to-date is fundraising $200,000 for the Grand Farm which will provide land, livestock and crops for the village. If you want to help but can’t make it to Honduras, please consider donating here.
It wasn’t that we weren’t doing things right. It’s just that now, we’re doing things better. -Daniel Mejia
This place is chock FULL of natural beauty and one of my favorite rivers I’ve had the pleasure of frolicking in back in February 🙂
H&H has been in the village for the past 8 years creating opportunity for jobs. One of my favorite things about Remolino was seeing the single moms working in the sheep business providing for their children. They carry heavy bails of hay down the hill every day, proving to everyone around them that women can do anything, even manual labor. I got chills with all the girl power in this place. So much power, so much purpose. They continue to work on their businesses and evaluate what they can improve on with each day.
This was the first full day for our group in Honduras, and I knew everyone was having a good time when our bus broke down…in the rain…at the very end of the day…and people were still smiling. I mean, look at the man literally UNDERNEATH the bus. People kicked it into high gear real fast and started picking up rocks and sticks to fill the trenches, and then someone got the bright idea to take the bumper off. It worked 🙂 Shout out to Milton and his pride and joy, Alexandra.
I don’t play favorites, but a piece of my heart will live here forever. In February this year, we were able to watch Finding Nemo in La Cuchilla since it was their first time with electricity. I held a baby girl in my arms throughout the entire movie. During my second trip, I think I came thiiiiis close to a heat stroke as I played and played and played with those same kids in what felt like 200 degree weather. We were drenched, overheated and gross… but damn we were happy.
It’s pretty clear where my priorities stood this time around. We counted in Spanish, we counted in English, we played hide & seek until we couldn’t due to high temps. We played with cool cameras but preferred the great outdoors and running on soccer fields surrounded by corn stalks much taller than we were. These kids don’t have much, and yet they are the most joyous people I’ve ever been around. I loved being able to see familiar faces from my 1st trip back in February alongside a lush plantain farm and prospering chicken farm that were hardly up and running, if at all, 6 months ago.
When H&H asked what the people of La Cuchilla valued most/would like to see changed, the community had a surprising answer, one that even came before clean water: Jobs for Women. Humanity & Hope took that to heart and has raised $45,000 for the La Cuchilla Chicken Business benefiting women living in the community by creating jobs and giving them a sense of purpose and gender equality. Money raised went directly towards start-up & farm production costs for the first year – and I was taken aback to see it totally prospering just 6 months later. Again, the power and purpose here is palpable.
Final Thoughts & Upcoming Trips
I am here to serve you guys and the people of Honduras. -EJ Underwood
The H&H runs about 1 trip a month to these beautiful villages of Honduras. If this blog post resonated with you, let that sit for a second. If it moved you at all or called you to action, my advice? GO. Send in a request to join! EJ guided our trip this September, and I’d like to officially put in my request to clone this man if at all possible. And Riley Fuller as well. And probably Ben Higgins while we’re at it.
The amount of joy I got from making lifelong friends on both of these trips to Honduras is priceless. Seeing their kind hearts fuels mine to be bigger and far more giving. Going back a second time this month only solidified the fact that I love this country and the people who reside inside of it. The kids put a big smile on my face and keep me belly laughing for days. They are Honduras’ future, and my hope is to be able to watch them grow as I return time and time again. I remember leaving the country in February and feeling really sad. I thought to myself, “I may never see those people ever again.” Leaving this time around was a teeny tiny easier because I know I’ll be back for lots of piggy backs, smiles and high fives.
My first trip to Honduras was very different than the second in a few ways. Truth be told, I felt very distracted during February. I remember having the hardest time staying in the moment since the show was airing and my new relationship was not playing out in the merriest of ways. I was so distracted and a little frustrated with myself for not being fully present with these people and this country. That all changed in September. That and the itinerary. February included a portion to learn about Generous Coffee, the for-profit/for-purpose business that feeds into H&H. If you know anything about Ben Higgins, you probably know something about Generous Coffee. He led our group through an extremely remote area of the country and up the literal side of a mountain to one of the highest points in the Cordillera de Celaque mountain range. We met the families that operate the farm and those who carry the beans and pick the berries by hand doing extremely tough manual labor. It was super eye opening to see this kind of activity happening before me.
I have a new found appreciation from learning how much work in the field goes into producing my morning cup of coffee to seeing first hand how profits have a direct impact in arming communities with jobs, education and lots of love. I truly believe that collaborating with one another and sharing stories makes the world go round. Special thanks to Ben, Riley, Darwin and team for your dedication to spreading hope and love in this beautiful country!
Most photos by talented photographer Kayla Lynn Bacon