January 13, 2014

For the past several years, my father Brent and other members of the Presbyterian Church in Cooperstown have worked with an organization called Living Waters for the World to provide clean drinking water systems to villages in Honduras. This January, twenty of us left the Cooperstown snow globe and headed south, with trunks packed full of plumbing supplies, collapsible hula hoops, and gardening tools. Our mission was to plant native fruit trees in a small village called El Pilon, share hula hoops with the children, and improve health in the village by installing pit toilets and a nearby water filtration system. 

A young member of the El Pilon community helping to construct a pit toilet 

A young member of the El Pilon community helping to construct a pit toilet 

Right away we began the work of digging holes to plant more than 100 native fruit trees throughout El Pilon. Each of the fourty-four houses in the village received a young orange, avocado, and mango tree. The home owners and local children joined us in the planting with great enthusiasm, providing compost, water, helping hands, and fencing to finish. Despite language barriers and cultural differences, working with soil and roots connected us to one another, reminding us of our universal dependence on the earth. The energy of the children was uplifting, as our future depends on the working hands, minds, and spirits of these younger generations.  

Aside from planting fruit trees, I passed many hours hula hooping with the children. My love for the hula hoop was ignited a year and a half ago, when I spontaneously decided to purchase my first hoop at a general store. Since then, hula hooping has become a great source of inspiration, expression, and movement in my life. Because of it's simplicity, durability, and low cost, hula hoops are the perfect toy for village children to share. With very few material possessions, the children of El Pilon have boundless imaginations for play. They were fascinated with the hula hoops, creating new games and spinning in circles for hours and days. 

On the final day of the trip, we traveled to a nearby village called San Miguel where my dad and others had installed the clean water system provided by Living Waters. Hundreds of villagers, politicians, and town leaders joined us to celebrate a new era of clean water and health in their community. During the ceremony, villagers were encouraged to replace soda for water in their diets, which was previously the less expensive product. The ceremony concluded with the distribution of hundreds of cups of clean water, an exalting cheers, and a vibrant celebration with music and dancing.  

My father, Brent, implementing a water filtration system in San Miguel, Honduras

My father, Brent, implementing a water filtration system in San Miguel, Honduras

While we had arrived in Honduras to help others, we too were greatly enriched by learning from and connecting to these small communities. The villagers taught us the importance of community; that there are still corners of the world where multi-generational families live together and raise children together. Their livestock roam freely around the village, signifying a people who are directly connected to the animal lives that nourish them. With little money and few extraneous possessions, the villagers in El Pilon depend on simple earthen houses and wood fired ovens, utilizing what is locally available and treading lightly on the planet. In both El Pilon and San Miguel, the cross-cultural exchange revealed the shared humanity in all of us: the desire to connect and share, laugh and love, and to live healthy lives filled with fruits, clean water, and plenty of play. 

The photos below were shot with a 35mm film camera that my father used during the 80's 

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