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Making a difference to better the lives of children in need

Making a difference to better the lives of children in need
Diana Goldsmith poses for a picture with Angie, a Honduran child, in Villa Soleada, Honduras, Jan. 2013. (Submitted photo)

My roommates and I would wake up at 7 every morning to the knocking on the door or the soft tinkling of someone's alarm. It was early, but we would stretch and climb out of bed. We brushed our teeth using the water from our water bottles — the water from the tap isn't safe to use. We ate breakfast quickly and were then briefed on the day's activities: Some people would be hauling buckets of dirt, others shoveling cement, some tying rebar and still others hefting wheelbarrows of cinder blocks. The work was hard, but we were undaunted, because we knew what we were working toward. Whether it is a school, a children's home, a library or a soccer field, volunteering in Honduras is all about the hard work, and the priceless finished product.

As volunteers we lived and worked in a community in Honduras, toiling alongside the local workers who we chatted with easily in Spanish. They were always helpful in correcting us, and as long as we were able to laugh at ourselves and all of our linguistic mistakes, we got along fine. The days were hot and long and indescribably fun. We listened to Reggaeton music to get energized, and talked and told jokes in the assembly lines as we passed buckets or cinder blocks. At lunch, covered in sweat and dried cement, we sat around picnic tables wolfing down soup and rice before reapplying sunscreen and heading back to the work site. We jokingly sang and danced to make the work enjoyable, but really the enjoyment came from knowing that once we were finished, we would have created a beautiful new addition to a rural village in Honduras, one of the poorest nations in the Western hemisphere.

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Going to Honduras always breaks my heart — witnessing the kids run around without shoes, driving down dirt roads pockmarked with holes, seeing the tiny shacks that whole families live in without running water or electricity — it brings the idea of the developing world into sharp focus. I have been to Honduras twice with Towson University Students Helping Honduras. Students Helping Honduras is a movement through which college students can lend a hand by helping to construct much-needed buildings in the poverty-stricken country of Honduras. I have had a hand in constructing essential buildings in Towson's sister village, Villa Soleada. I even have my name on a couple of the plaques decorating the structures, thanking Towson and its students for their contributions. But it isn't my name on a plaque that matters. What matters is knowing that whatever I've helped to build is going to change someone's life.

I volunteer because I know that however small my contribution may be, it is part of a bigger movement that can and will transform a community, even an entire nation. Whether it is the bilingual school where Angie will go to learn English and math, or the children's home where Josué will grow up with a devoted housemother and a loving community to care for him, instead of in the overcrowded and underfunded state-run orphanage, or the library that will be filled with books and computers that the entire village can benefit from, I volunteer because I believe that serving others is the highest form of humanity. I strongly feel that part of our purpose in this world is to give back, and volunteering is just one of the ways that we can do that.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have been born into the life and opportunities that I have had. I was born in the United States, arguably one of the most affluent countries in the world. My family never wanted for anything. I always had clean water to drink and food to eat, and possibly most important of all, I was able to go to school and get an education, and not only primary or secondary, but at the university level as well. How many other people in the world get that kind of chance?

I volunteer because I feel so fortunate to have had all of these opportunities and now it is my turn to see that other people have access to the same kinds of opportunities that I did. In Honduras, this is especially important. Building children's homes and schools is investing in the future of the Honduran people; it's giving these kids and their families a chance to escape the crippling cycle of poverty that they have been trapped in for generations. If that means getting up early in the morning to cover myself in bug spray and spend the day in the sun doing lots of heavy lifting, then so be it. Because it's worth it to see the pride that the kids have in their schoolwork, the hope reflected in the eyes of their parents, the gratitude that you can hear in the laughter of the children living there. Volunteering in Honduras means changing the lives of countless villagers, as well as the lives of the volunteers.

The Volunteer Voices section highlights outstanding volunteers in the Baltimore County area. If you're a volunteer and are interested in submitting to the series, please email elaina.clarke@communitytimes.com.

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