Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner December 17, 2020
With an air of hope and determination even in a difficult COVID-19 year, the board and supporters of the local international aid group, Friends of Honduran Children met virtually in November.
With Zoom technology, they were able to bring in their Honduran partner Carolina Aguero of Sociedad Amigos de los Ninos, who reported on conditions in the Central American country, especially in the children’s village, called “Nuevo Paraiso” that Friends has supported since 1980. It has 150 children and teens living in homes of 12 with a woman (a “tia”or “aunt”) in charge.
Aguero said that the country, with a population of 9 million people and a poverty rate of 60%, has experienced severe food shortages, and has an inflation rate of 4%, but no reported surge in the crime rate. The difference in the per capita annual income between Canada and Honduras is staggering: $47,000 to $5000.
“Spirituality and solidarity have been our main supports,” she said.
Hunger has increased in the pandemic, especially in the aftermath of two hurricanes. Earlier in the summer, Friends organized a special drive for funds for food baskets in the capital city of Tegucigalpa itself. The food packages included cornmeal, beans, oil, rice and pasta for several weeks.
Just as a measure of the hardship in Honduras, the U.S. State Department and the Canadian government advise no travel to the country, but that message is for tourists. For Friends, courage and tenacity lead their work. For the brigades of volunteers, educational, medical and construction, extra security is arranged.
Finance chair Peter White reported that although donations in 2020 had decreased, Friends was still able to transfer more than half a million dollars to Honduras. A registered charity with an office on Clonsilla Avenue at Westmount Plaza, and two employees, Friends has more than 1,000 donors.
It is a remarkable story of quiet Peterborough philanthropy. Started by Dr. Jim McCallum and his wife Anne McCallum in 1993, FoHC’s parent organization had been Horizons of Friendship in Cobourg. When Horizons expanded into other Central American countries, the local supporters decided to intensify their support of Sister Maria Rosa Leggol, an inspirational Honduran nun.
Sr. Maria Rosa died in October at age 93. She had instilled in scores of Honduran youth, teachers and social workers and international volunteers a deep commitment to aid their society.
Libby Dalrymple, who teaches Spanish at Lakefield College School, reported via video with ESL teacher, Luis, about his work with the children at the Village. Skills in English and Spanish will help them in later education and employment. The village has a technical high school, and Friends offers scholarships for impoverished students in the surrounding area to attend.
Retired Peterborough teacher Dan Durst has long been interested in the children as they become young adults. He was instrumental in bringing two sisters, Fanny and Evin, to Fleming College in 2017. They graduated with honours and went on to Cleveland to John Carroll University, sponsored by a professor there.
For several years, Grace United Church, led by minister Lyle Horn, has given volunteers and funds to Friends. They organize building teams. and small schools in seven villages near Nuevo have been constructed. Jane Bleecker of Grace Church has volunteered nine years in a row.
Medical teams led by Dr. Kathy Chapman of Lindsay take personnel and supplies to remote villages around Nuevo Paraiso, often facing challenging terrain. Volunteers raise funds to finance their brigade.
The meeting announced its Volunteer of the Year award, to the Life Team at Trinity United Church. It was accepted by Chris and Dave Freeman. Trinity’s congregation has sponsored two children since 2009. Also Installed at the meeting were two new directors, Steve Bark and Gary Lister.