By Linda Gilbert
For 13 years, Hands to Honduras-Tela (H2HT) has provided significant service to the Tela community. We appreciate the wonderful people and the interesting culture, and we know and accept that nothing is really easy in Honduras. Through our many successful humanitarian activities, we have developed good relationships because we come with a defined agenda and complete our promises. That makes all the difference.
The director and teachers of Tres de Octubre school, located in the San Alejo Palm Plantation, asked H2HT for help. They had 38 students in eighth and ninth grades who did not have classrooms or desks. These students were currently sitting in with lower-level grades. They asked if H2HT would build two classrooms and two latrines.
After reviewing the need, we agreed to construct a divided 15-foot-by-30-foot cement block building and two latrines. Some of the H2HT 47 volunteers worked diligently to construct the school in February alongside local masons and parents and our Tela American School volunteers. The physical work included shoveling sand, mixing cement, carrying and laying cement blocks, constructing rebar columns, making wooden forms to enclose the rebar columns, and skim coating the rough cement walls.
These tasks were new to many of the volunteers and took much concentration and teamwork, which is not easy in 90-degree weather. However, the joy of hearing the students playing and laughing during recess was soothing, and the parents of the children made lunch daily for the volunteers as their way to show appreciation.
We wanted to be sure the students would have desks as soon as the classrooms were finished, so we ordered 38 desks via email in Dec. 2016 from a factory in San Pedro Sula.
We soon learned why it is important to be on top of all project details. After many follow-up calls to the manufacturer, we were notified at the end of February (a week prior to our departure from Honduras) that the desks were completed, and payment had to be received prior to delivery. The only viable option was to wire money bank-to-bank. Our local Tela bank was not able to wire money to the manufacturer’s bank. We then went to our bank, withdrew the required lempiras, and walked to another bank that would wire money to the designated bank. Within an hour, we were notified the lempira transfer was successful and a confirmation was produced via email.
The Tela Mayor had graciously offered to send a truck the following day to San Pedro Sula to pick up the desks and deliver them to the school. That morning, we received a call saying we needed to meet the truck at the Tela gas station to personally pay the 2,000 lempiras for diesel fuel, physically watch the fuel go in the tank and sign a paper to witness it. Transparency in negotiations is required.
The truck arrived at the school, and we carried the desks, each wrapped in plastic, to a prepared storage area. We left the next morning to return to Vermont. The classrooms will be completed soon and filled with the new desks.
For information about H2HT, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, and watch us on Facebook Hands to Honduras Tela.