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Ariel Ross poses for a picture with a Honduran child in the village of Villa Soleada in El Progreso, Honduras Jan. 10, 2013.
Ariel Ross poses for a picture with a Honduran child in the village of Villa Soleada in El Progreso, Honduras Jan. 10, 2013. (Submitted photo)

I am now a senior at Towson University, and I have been an active member of Students Helping Honduras — SHH — since the fall of 2013. This organization sends thousands of volunteers each year to several rural villages in Honduras. San Pedro Sula, the capital city of Honduras, is the murder capital of the world. Gangs rule the streets, as well as the legal courts. Honduras' weak political presence along with corruption in the police force has left many of the children of this beautiful country in a dangerous situation with no way out. During winter break, I am going back to Honduras for my second time in order to work with SHH and create a brighter future for the children of there. The project that the Towson SHH branch has been working on is a library for the village of Villa Soleada located in El Progeso, Honduras.

I first heard of Students Helping Honduras through two of my former co-workers, Keegan Abernathy and Alayna Cote. We all taught yoga together and during the winter of 2012, Keegan and Alayna went to Honduras. I vividly remember seeing their faces when they returned to the U.S. They looked confused, amazed, happy and sad all at once. I wanted to see what they saw. I had never been out of the country. I decided to take the leap and visit Honduras in January of 2014. I know it sounds cliche to say, but it was the best eight days of my life. I returned to the U.S. frustrated, determined and anxious. I asked myself: How could people in such a terrible situation be so loving and inviting?

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In the spring semester of this year, I raised $500 toward the library that my classmates and I began construction of last January. My fundraising technique is unique to other volunteers because of my work as a registered yoga instructor. Through several special fundraising events during which I taught yoga at locations throughout Baltimore County, I have been able to fully fund my trip back to Honduras this January. I have put together healthy bake sales, glow-in-the-dark yoga raves, and have even guest bartended at a local bar to raise awareness and funds for our cause. SHH is a special group that I have found myself fully immersed in. Currently, I am studying to learn how to teach yoga in Spanish so that I can teach a full yoga class in Honduras in their native language.

Eight days in a developing country may not seem like the ideal retreat during winter break. It takes a special individual to want to go to a new world. The reason why I volunteer is because I believe it is my destiny to help others. Something I have found to be an inspiration for personal growth is the idea of constantly stepping outside of my comfort zone to gain new perspectives on life. Honduras was beautiful for this reason. The people there have no money, no shoes and houses made out of sticks. It seems like they would be cold or desperate, but that is far from the case. The people of Honduras are the most beautiful people I have ever met. All of the children in the village wanted to be friends with us and play soccer with us. It's amazing how wonderful they are at communicating in English. It was amazing to see with my own eyes all the wonderful things created with our hard work, both through fundraising and building. I have never been so motivated to mix cement by hand and shovel dirt! I hope to continue to travel to Honduras every year to see the evolution of Villa Soleada, the children we sponsor and the schools we are building.

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