ASHLAND, Ohio – Crestview and Clear Fork FFA members began their life changing journey to Honduras on June 5. Travelers included Clear Fork FFA students Ellyse Shafer, Brent Ball, Austin Miller, Cora McConkie and Crestview FFA students Emily Fulk, Jenna Purvis, Isaac Fulk, Kaitlyn Hunt, Erin Bernhard, and Kathy Lehman. The group was accompanied by Clear Fork High School Principal Brian Brown, Mr. Ball (parent), Crestview FFA Advisor Joel Albright, Liberty Center High School FFA Advisor Mark Starkey, Whitney Short of Anthony Wayne High School, Jessica Shanahan of the Ohio FFA Foundation, and Dr. Jamie Cano and Tyler Agner of The Ohio State University.
After much airport security the first ever high school students to attend a study abroad trip with the Ohio State University boarded the plane to Atlanta where they would board the final flight to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Once the group arrived in Honduras, they boarded a bus and headed east to El Sembrador, a private school that is located outside the city of Catacamas, in the Honduran “state” of Olancho.
The following morning, on June 6, the students and teachers were able to tour the farm school where they viewed corn that was planted. The group learned that at the school they harvest two crops a year, and have just began planting the corn in pairs of two narrow rows followed by a space to aid in the irrigation system’s efficiency.
Next, the dairy operation was toured and many expressed surprise at how modern and organized the dairy operation was.
Finally, the group walked through the student class rooms where 96 boys, ages 12 to 18, attend classes. From there, everyone loaded the bus for a long drive to Choluteca, Honduras where the duration of the week would be spent.
On Sunday, June 7, the group attended a Catholic Church that was nationally televised. This served to be an interesting culture experience as the service was conducted all in Spanish.
After church, the city of Choluteca was toured, allowing students to experience many cultural customs.
In the evening, another church service was attended that took place at the home of a mission family. Unlike the Catholic Church, there was much more singing and dancing for everyone to participate in. Students said the best part of church was watching the celebration of a group member’s birthday. This moment was fascinating as every member of the congregation formed a long line to hug and congratulate them. Students said the love and compassion of the Latino culture really showed its true colors during this moment.
On Monday, June 8, the students and educators traveled to Manuel Bonilla, an agricultural high school 45 minutes from Choluteca. The main goal at the school was to help build a pig pen for a gilt (female pig) that Cano and many other people helped purchase for the students at the school.
The hope was to start a breeding chain to help raise money for the school and provide for the community, while also teaching the students how to properly raise livestock.
The FFA group was able to tour the school, pick up trash, and pull weeds which were then added to a compost barrel. An interesting twist was added to the day as it started to pour rain. Students noted the best part of the whole experience was undoubtedly when the bus driver realized that the bus was stuck.
After the driver’s concerted but ineffective efforts, the FFA students unanimously decided it would be best to start pushing the bus to the freedom of the road. Everyone, including the Honduran students, gathered at the back of the bus to push it out of the swamp that the rain created. Students noted that all of the travelers were able to see how helpful and willing the Hondurans were.
On Tuesday, June 9, the group started off the morning with a trip to the El Mercado de la Cuidad, the city market. As everyone ventured through the tight maze of clothes, raw meat and vegetables, an overwhelming smell permeated the air. The raw meat and fish were nearly consumed with flies and other insects that made them unsanitary, but the townspeople still ate them.
From there, trip members experienced the milk processing plant, Leche Grande Rio, in the Los Mangos community, where cheese is produced. Students got the opportunity to aid workers in the cheese making process. Students later had an opportunity to taste the cheese.
Travelers later took a bus ride to the Choluteca Vocational School to assist in making a concrete sidewalk and surveying the slope of land. On the work site, many of the students and Hondurans worked together leveling the walkway to four inches below the top of the running board.
Once leveled stones, sand, water and cement were mixed to make concrete to dump inside the marked out pathway. While this was going on, a few people surveyed the land in the back of the school to build a pond in which to raise fish.
On Wednesday, June 10, the group boarded the bus and headed to the dock. Everyone boarded a fishing boat which went out to the island. A compost barrel and stand were brought to the island for the locals to use in their hoop house.
The hoop house feeds about four families for the whole year. Prior to the hoop houses, the locals relied on only the water to get their food. If they have a bad day of fishing, they can now use the hoop house.
Since they cannot grow anything in the sand, they have to use the compost to make soil to grow the plants. It takes about three weeks or so for the soil to be ready.
After delivering the compost barrel, the students and teachers went to the beach to swim in the Pacific Ocean and take a small break from all the travel. From there, the group traveled back to the school, Manuel Bonilla in Apacilagua, to view progress on the pig pen and trash clean up. When everyone arrived, students were pleased to see that the pig pen was done and there was no trash.
On Thursday, June 11, the group traveled to the town of Valle de Angeles where students browsed the town and purchased souvenirs. This was described as “really neat” as local Hondurans sold their goods and the tourists were able to contribute to their income.
The skill of the Hondurans was apparent, as intricately carved boxes as well as hand-made leather belts, purses, and fanny packs were displayed. Many of the goods were handcrafted while tourists watched, which was a unique experience.
The highlight of the day, though, happened after supper. Each student had chosen one photo from their Honduras experience and wrote a reflection of how the picture described their trip.
Each and every student had a meaningful photo combined with a well-thought description of their photo and what they experienced. Thoughts ranged from the contrast of Honduran culture to American culture, to the relationships that students developed with Honduran students.
It was apparent that all of the students took something away from the trip that will impact the rest of their lives and their service at home.
The next day when it was time to board the plane for Ohio everyone expressed a wish for more time to be spent in Honduras but all were certainly grateful for the life changing opportunity. As one trip member stated, “I needed Honduras, more than Honduras needed me.”