The gift that cost nothing to give: Reflections on my mission trip to Santa Rosa, Honduras

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, February 25, 2016

Figure 14 A Typical Side StreetWEB

Editor’s note: Ron Kauffman is a columnist for the Tryon Daily Bulletin, writing on issues pertaining to seniors called “Senior Lifetyles.” Late last year, he went on a medical mission trip to Honduras with a team led by Dr. Nathan Williams of Asheville. The organizing group was Hope Chest for Women, also of Asheville. 


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The missions are made up of an eclectic mix of volunteers who pay their own way “just to give of themselves in any way they are able,” says Kauffman. The majority of the 36 volunteers on the trip were from the Asheville area. For most, this was their first mission trip. Many have indicated a desire to return again on future missions to the same area.


Below, Kauffman shares some of his thoughts on and photos of his trip.


As have many people, several years ago, I, too, began creating what became my “Bucket List,” and a medical mission to a foreign country was one of my items. I was raised in a family that encouraged giving back to society in the form of money, time or talent, so when the opportunity to travel to Honduras presented itself, I grabbed it.


I learned that a medical mission based out of Asheville was seeking volunteers to join them to work at an orphanage and in a hospital in the poor town of Santa Rosa, Honduras. Because of my EMT medical background and my willingness to do whatever I could do to assist during the eight-day effort, I was accepted on the team and went to Honduras this past October.


Most of the 35 members of our team, like me, had never been on a mission, nor had we previously been to Honduras, and most of us either spoke little or no Spanish at all.


The trip opened my eyes to some harsh realities that we in America cannot imagine unless we’ve traveled to other very poor nations around the world.


The trip from the airport in San Pedro Sula to our accommodations took about two hours. We stayed at the almost completed dormitory-style building, which was built entirely with American donations and opened the day we arrived.


While the building is new and beautiful, there were a few shortcomings that we quickly identified. With temperatures in the 90s, the building offered no air conditioning, and for the first two days, until we installed window units in most sleeping rooms, we suffered mightily.


There were only a few bed frames available and because of my age, I was allowed one of them. For the other younger team members, mattresses were placed on the floors. The facility didn’t have hot water for showers and the drinking water had not yet been tested for purity for drinking. Suffice it to say, almost all of us had some interesting issues to deal with and adjust to over the next few days.


The bedrooms were Spartan, with no furnishings and just one small window, but we soon learned that was the least of our challenges.


We quickly realized we were not alone in our rooms: there were ants on the floors, mosquitoes in the air, and scorpions that crawled into our shoes, clothing and bags.

Morning and evening meals were primarily in the building where we lived; team members cooked breakfast which was served from 6 to 7 a.m. That was followed by a short prayer service and our daily assignment meetings.

Our duties varied from doing some much needed repair work at the orphanage and rebuilding bicycles from a pile of scrap frames and parts for the children, to manning the medical clinics in nearby smaller towns and assisting in surgeries in the local hospital.

Poverty is rampant, yet somehow the local Hondurans seem to cope with situations in virtually every aspect of their lives that in America we can’t imagine. From housing, doing laundry or to the rare occasion when a tourist might donate a few cents so they might enjoy a treat such as an ice cream bar, the images are harsh. Travel is also difficult as there are few main roads and many side streets in the small towns are unpaved and can be both treacherous to walk and challenging to drive.

The mission to Honduras left indelible images like the ones shown here. Seeing these begins to change one’s opinions about poverty in third-world countries. But it’s the children, the orphans most of all, who leave a lasting impression on your heart. They’re all so innocent and young, and they didn’t ask to be born into such a difficult life.  Those of us who went on this mission gave what we could in time and money, but the gift that we found to be most meaningful for these little girls cost us nothing. All they asked, even for just the few days we were there, was to feel wanted and to be loved. For me that gift and opportunity came in the form of a cute little eight-year old girl named Abilene.

That recent mission to Honduras is more than memorable, it’s unforgettable.


Submitted by Ron Kauffman