By Neal Beard, past president of the Rotary Club of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, USA
Rotary members from District 6760 returned from Central America on 5 Feburary, after completing a 59-home electrification project in Chaguiton, Honduras. This was the tenth leg of a journey that began in 2006 for my club.
Over the course of the last ten years, the most exciting and rewarding moments of our lives took place not in the office, or on the shop floor, or while sitting in front of a computer screen, but in the remote mountain villages of southern Honduras.
Those moments have been filled with pure emotion. Like the time when a mother and her children looked on as we built a water storage tank and laundry table that would eliminate their need to carry large quantities of water, often up steep embankments and over long distances, for cooking or drinking or bathing or washing clothes (in 2006).
Drilling through solid rock
Or like the time when the whole village gathered round to watch a drilling machine push down a water well 150 feet deep through solid rock to give the village a water supply that would support them even through the dry seasons (in 2009).
Or like the time when we conducted our first dental clinic and the entire community turned out — our dentist pulled 450 teeth that day. I remember an old man, his face beaming with joy under a weathered straw hat, coming up to me, pointing to the wide gap in his mouth, and with the other hand holding up four fingers — years of agonizing pain gone. He embraced me in a bear hug. I cried when I realized what he was trying to say (in 2008).
Or like the occasion when thirteen faces of an impoverished family filled with awe as their new four-room home was presented to them replacing a dilapidated stick hovel that had barely perched on the edge of a steep hillside — courtesy of one team member’s personal contribution (in 2009).
Let there be light
And like a moment, still fresh in my mind, of an elderly lady’s teary-eyed smile as she pulled a pendant string hanging from the single light fixture in her kitchen — I’m not sure whose eyes held the most tears — hers or mine. She said that she never thought she would live long enough to see that day (in 2015).
There are a thousand more moments like these in every Rotary team member’s memory. The list could go on and on. But there is another dimension of our humanitarian work in Honduras that begs to be told: and that is the realization that our lives have been changed too. We have built strong friendships, we’ve shared ideas, we’ve laughed, and we’ve cried. We’ve created bonds that can never be broken.
Every return trip is like a family reunion we look forward to all-year long. Together we have been a force for good that has made a difference in the world. Together we have witnessed happiness, gained a deeper understanding of the world’s needs, and discovered beauty where we didn’t know it existed. Service Above Self is no longer a slogan we recite, it’s part of what makes us tick. You can learn more about our project by visiting our website.