A Deeper Look Into Honduras

April 13, 2016

*Today’s post is from Soles4Souls’ CEO, Buddy Teaster

Last week, I had the good fortune to travel to Honduras with an eclectic group and it was one of my best trips with Soles4Souls. A reporter from Footwear News, a senior staff member from fundraising partner Causely, a top Boy Scouts of America executive, a three time Honduras traveler, and a top notch photographer and her 13 year old son. The chemistry was exceptional. And while this group might have gelled anyway, because we focused more on understanding micro-enterprise, I think we had a different level of experience.
We did, of course, also distribute free shoes. We went to some of the hardest to reach villages I’ve been to. To get to Monterrey, for example, required a nearly vertical descent on a dirt road, a river crossing (you could choose boat, foot or horse) followed by another few kilometers of tooth rattling travel in construction truck. Another, Las Crucitas, took us from sea level to about 1400m (5000 ft) of near constant “up” on a rutted track. My guess is that you don’t go up or down very often because of how hard the trip is. At this elevation, gorgeous coffee trees drape over the steep mountains, punctuated by these trees with stunning yellow flowers. 

Hond Yellow TreeYellow flowered trees amongst the coffee trees lining the steep path to the village of Las Crucitas

Honduras_2016_S4S-643Unique methods of travel required to reach our destination 
But, most of our time was spent understanding our still young micro-enteprise efforts there. Working with Raul Carrasco and Shannon Casey, we get real insight into how selling shoes is impacting different communities around El Progreso. First, in Remolino, we talked with Tracy who is leading the effort there. Many of these women earn less than $20/month doing agricultural work with few options. Yet they’ve already sold their first several large boxes and are hungry for more…no pun intended.
Tracy has an amazing vision for her community and I have no doubt it will happen. As we sat near a one room school house, in a village with no running water and a five mile walk to the nearest public transportation, she said she had “no limits” in what she believed she could do. I get goose bumps just recalling that. She wasn’t boasting or posing…100% truth for her.
NatOur micro-enterprise leader in Remolino, Tracy, along with her beautiful daughter 
Next we visited on a street corner with Natalia. In her late 50s, she’s working (in addition to selling shoes, she’s a micro coffee roaster!) to feed the 10 people in her house and wants to use the proceeds from the shoe project to start a soup kitchen so she can help others who have even less. She practically vibrates with energy! Like any good business owner, she thanked us for the opportunity and then went right into what we needed to do to make her business better by providing more kids shoes! I love it! She knows that without a successful enterprise, she’ll not get to her dream of feeding others, giving them skills, teaching them how to run their own businesses. It was a joy to see her in action.

nattThe always energetic Natalia who passionately runs her business on a street corner

Lastly, we revisited Los Olivos. This a community we first visited in 2011 and they’ve come a long way from the near fatal conditions they first lived in. They have a shoe co-op there, run by four women, who are the directors and are taking this very  seriously. Life and death might be an exaggeration, but not by much. They just don’t have many other options for earning a living and taking care of their families. They face huge logistics, safety, and political issues yet I could feel their unrelenting willingness to fight through that so they can create opportunities for themselves and their families
Honduras_2016_S4S-1341A scene of daily life for residents in Los Olivos 

There’s one other story that I can’t let go of, several acts of pure selflessness. Our travel leader, Tiffany Johnson, and our 3x traveler, spent a lot of time fitting shoes for our free distribution. And, late in the day, we didn’t have any large sizes left. Yet those kids wanted shoes too. On three different occasions these women took off their own shoes and gave them away. I don’t think they even thought about it that much…just automatic. Their hearts were full and they just acted.

IMG_6006S4S team member, Tiffany Johnson, happily gives her own sneakers to a local childHond BubblesAlthough they clearly didn’t have an easy time, the children of Las Crucitas love bubbles as much as the next!Honduras_2016_S4S-425Children eagerly await their fitting at a S4S shoe distribution 
All in all in a profound week. Those two strands: head and heart, form the very core of what we do. To see it in action is humbling and inspiring, selfish and selfless. I hope you’ll travel with us sometime and experience it for yourself.
*Photos courtesy of Briana Marie

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