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All for the children
GSU students spend break helping Honduran orphans, families
W Honduras 2
Georgia Southern students, volunteers from a Honduran high school and the children from the orphanage are seen in this undated photo. - photo by Special
    While others headed for sandy beaches and sunshine, 10 Georgia Southern University students headed to San Pedro Sula, Honduras during Spring Break March 14-21.
    Much like a similar group that spent the popular holiday week in Ireland, this group chose the alternative spring break trip so they could make a difference and travel to a part of the world they may not have been able to otherwise, said Ron Jones, manager of GSU’s International Admissions office.
    The trip was a joint effort of the admissions office and the Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement, he said.
    The opportunity “combines service, relationship building, international student recruitment and cultural immersion,” he said.
     Students volunteered at two local orphanages, “interacting with children who have been abused, abandoned or who have severe medical conditions,” he said. They also “helped build houses in an impoverished village outside of San Pedro Sula.”
    Before the trip, several of GSU’s  Honduran students  helped prepare the participants for the trip, coaching them in Honduran history, language, local customs and etiquette, he said.
    The students were hosted by  families of current Honduran students.
    In addition to providing a service to Honduran orphans and families in need, as well as being a learning experience for the participating students, the efforts were also instrumental in building upon the existing relationship between GSU and Honduran citizens, helping recruit students to attend GSU, Jones said.
    While nine of the 10 students enjoyed the opportunity to visit a country they had never seen, Fares Lagos was going home. The Honduran student still learned a great deal as he returned to his home country to help make the lives of orphans at Copprome and Cuidad Blanca orphanages better.
    The residents of Copprome “never met their parents, have no family, were picked up off the streets,” he said. “We brought them presents, but a hug or kiss would be enough for them. They get very excited when they see people coming to help them.”
    At Cuidad Blanca, the orphans suffer from disabilities and many were abandoned on the streets, he said. Nuns care for the children, many who suffer from hydrocephalus, deformities and profound disabilities, he said.
    “It was hard to go there,” he said. “You see stuff that is not normal to see. They don’t even have the ability to buy food.
     Deborah Rodriquez Garcia  was stricken to learn that the  children don’t get a balanced diet. One child she helped feed only had bananas and milk for supper, she said.
    “The nuns can’t afford any more,” she said.
    Seeing the children at the orphanages “hit me the most emotionally,” she said. “To see these kids without families, in poor condition, yet they were so happy.”
    She donated clothing to the orphanages, and one day when she saw a girl wearing one of her old shirts, “I just burst into tears,” she said.
    Garcia spoke of helping build homes for villagers who lost everything in a flood, and how grateful  they were for help.
    “It was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life, physically demanding, but it was so much fun.” she said. “The people (whose homes had been destroyed) were so happy to be there.”
    Jones said the alternative spring break trips are beneficial in so many ways, including relationship-building with other countries. The trips to Honduras have been so successful, he has been asked to travel to New York to speak about the program model.
    “It’s a model that is pretty innovative,” he said.
    The recent trip to Honduras was the second time Lagos returned to his home country through a GSU alternative spring break program.
    “I’ve been there before, but it was the first time in six years,” he said. “It was really hard, but at he same time made me feel proud of myself” for helping others. “It helps people learn what is happening and is really amazing. If I had more capacity to help these kids I would so it, but this is what I can do.”

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