Central America,  She Constructs,  University of Life

Building Empowerment

Saying yes to the unknown reveals strengths

When I saw my friend’s post about traveling to Honduras to build a school, I knew in my heart that I needed to as well. There was something inside me that just screamed GO; you must do this. I did not know the organization that I was signing up with. I did not know how I was going to raise the money to go (close to $3,000.) I did know that I trusted the universe to guide me through this decision and that I had to take this opportunity to put some good into the world myself.

World Accord’s headquarters is in Kitchener, Ontario. I loved that they were a local company. They organize several construction expeditions a year to Honduras. In the past, they also were present in Guatemala and Nepal. What is important to know is that World Accord does not attempt to go in and change the culture of people, but to teach them. For example, they have taught farmers better ways to store their crops so that rodents and bugs do not destroy them.

World Accord has the assistance of the community when building a new school. The community is responsible for completing the foundation before the Canadian volunteers arrive to build the school. The government will pay for a teacher to teach in a school; however, the government will not build the schools. Mostly the focus has been on building schools for kindergarten-age children. They are simple one-room schools, with a small bathroom. When young children can attend school, young moms can return to high school. Yes, ideally it would be great to reduce the number of young moms, but realistically, this is a wonderful solution to keep education a priority for youth.

I put all my trust into them and my friend, who I had not seen in person for over 20 years! I signed up, knowing that I needed to fundraise money to cover my room and board, building materials for the school, and the cost of my flight. I had many generous donations; I held an online yard sale, and I tried some unsuccessful raffles. I did raise the money, with the help of some incredible connections that helped me reach my goal.

It was an opportunity to let young women see what they can do and to plant the seed in the minds of men and women that women can build.

Once I arrived in Honduras, we toured around the property and small town that we were staying in. Our cabins were much like traditional camp cabins. We had a little washroom with hot water to shower. Our worksite was about an hour’s drive away. We were inland, in the mountains, in the rural community of La Buena Fe, Horconcitos, close to the south end of Lago de Yojoa.

We arrived on Sunday morning and were ready to work on Monday morning. We had a site super who was fantastic and patient with us. As volunteers, we stacked and packed cement blocks for six days, maybe seven. We were tired at night and a little stiff, but it didn’t matter when I was surrounded by the smiling faces of community members, women who brought us snacks and coffee, and the helpful kids who were excited to have a new school.

Ours was a mixed-gender group of volunteers. As a woman on the site, I was watched a bit. Not in a weird way but in total awe as usually there are not women doing this type of work. For me, it was an opportunity to let young women see what they can do and to plant the seed in the minds of men and women that women can build. I had several young girls wanting to help twist the wire with me the first week, and one mom came and joined us cutting wire. Later the following week several female teenagers wanted to help lay the tile floor. I hope that perhaps my presence there did more than just provide a needed school but provided a difference in perception. I was proud to be an example to them. I was proud that the local men thought that I was strong and that I impressed them with my ability. I hope that I was able to make a small crack in the mindset that women cannot work in construction. I hope that they will always remember me as a strong woman who could.

I encourage you, if the opportunity presents itself, please volunteer for these types of things, regardless of what you think your abilities are. It is an experience unlike any I have had before. It changed me. It warmed my heart. I feel that I have made that big drop in the pond of life, where the ripples spread out and touch many people. People who may forget my name, but I am confident they will not forget my face.

I have been twice to Honduras. I will be going again.

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