Instead of traveling to exotic destinations to relax during spring break, nine Cal Poly students went to Honduras to help victims of the hurricane that destroyed much of the country in 1998.
The trip was sponsored by Cal Poly's Student Community Services and was the organization's first international service event.
"Hurricane Mitch left more than 2 million people homeless, hopeless, and living in subhuman conditions," said Matt Huy, a student volunteer and third-year ecology and systematic biology junior from Lafayette.
"We witnessed naked children running in the streets and six-person families living in tiny homes made of only a tarp," Huy said. "The visions of poverty shocked the group and made us realize the great economic disparity between the United States and Honduras."
The group served in Nueva Esperanza, a community 90 miles southwest of Tegucigalpa that needed help in building a drainage ditch and a trash incinerator. The drainage ditch will reduce the amount of stagnant water that serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes that cause malaria.
"The incinerator is crucial for trash management," Huy said, "because without a designated place, people are simply throwing their trash away 'wherever it lands,' creating unsanitary conditions where diseases flourish."
During their stay, the group experienced the daily life of the Nueva Esperanza residents.
"Each student came away with the knowledge and appreciation of a culture that is strikingly kind, generous, and appreciative," Huy said. "The children were amazingly beautiful and innocent beyond measure, and the group spent nearly every free moment with them."
"Traveling and volunteering abroad can be an amazing experience full of personal insight, cultural exchange, and great acquisition of perspective," said Marcy Ryan, a Cal Poly human development senior from Leucadia. She described the trip as "an inspiring experience that will forever change the way I view the world."
For more information or pictures of the trip, call Student Community Services at 756-5834.
Public Affairs Offices/Campus News