By EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH
Students at the University of Mary Washington continually strive to make a difference. Investing in social issues and in their community is nothing new for them. One group, however, has made its mark abroad as well as on campus.
Students Helping Honduras is quickly approaching its goal of building 1,000 schools in Honduran villages in need. In 2012, the group inaugurated a bilingual school in Villa Soleada, a village in El Progreso, Honduras.
This year, SHH is continuing to raise funds for schools like the Villa Soleada Bilingual School, as well as undertaking new projects that will benefit Honduran children.
President of SHH, senior Randi Crabbe, said she has been able to see the results of the group’s fundraising first hand. Crabbe, a psychology major, went to Honduras for the first time as a freshman in 2012.
“There was nothing at the village we went to,” Crabbe said, who had gone to Villa Soleada with other members of the UMW chapter.
Since Crabbe’s first trip, she and others in SHH built the Villa Soleada Bilingual School, as well as the Villa Soleada Children’s Home, which currently shelters 10 boys and 10 girls.
Crabbe has returned to Honduras every year since.
“As a senior and going back, so much has changed,” Crabbe said.
According to SHH, their mission is “to end extreme poverty and violence in Honduras through education and youth empowerment.”
While the organization has branches at universities across Virginia, UMW holds an important place in SHH’s history as its birthplace.
Founder Shin Fujiyama went on a group mission trip to Honduras with the Campus Christian Community in 2004. While there, he saw Honduras’ poverty, especially among its youth, and it drove him to want to help. Fujiyama founded SHH at UMW while his sister, Cosmo, began a similar group at the College of William and Mary.
“The group now has chapters in universities all over Virginia and in many high schools,” Crabbe said.
Another key aspect of the organization is providing education for Honduran children.
“A lot of these kids don’t have a good environment, and they feel like their only option is to join a gang,” Crabbe said.
Gang violence and fatalities in Honduras, especially among young people, is a serious problem. According to Time Magazine, San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ capital, is the most violent city in the world. Much of the violence is carried out by two major gangs: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 (Mara 18).
“Education will pull children away from gang violence and give them a safe place to go to,” international affairs major and secretary of SHH Nicole Scotti said.
In order to fulfill SHH’s mission statement to provide Honduran children with an education, the UMW group holds several fundraisers a year. One of their fundraisers last semester was the 5K Color Run, which took place in April. They partnered with UMW’s Running Club, who also raised money for the College Diabetes Network.
Participants were covered with brightly colored powder while on the run. The two student groups also organized an Easter egg hunt for the children at the events.
“It’s incredible to see everyone’s motivation. They’re doing hard work to improve somebody else’s life. Many of the members here are helping people they don’t even know,” Scotti said.
Other events include bake sales, handing out flyers to local businesses and “Dorm Storms,” which are when members go “door to door in student housing across campus, and ask for loose change,” according to Scotti.
“Every little bit helps,” Scotti added.
This year, SHH is pulling out an old fundraising favorite, the “Thrift SHHop.” Formerly housed in the Great Hall, the “Thrift SHHop” will be held on Ball circle, where the group will sell gently-used clothing, books and other supplies at a low price.
“Everything’s under $5,” Crabbe said.
As of yet, SHH has not planned a date for this event, but it is estimated to take place within the next few months.