By RHYS JOHNSON
The UMW chapter of Students Helping Honduras held a fundraiser on Campus Walk near Ball Circle from Wed., Oct. 24 to Fri., Oct. 26. This fundraiser was their most successful to date, raising $2,010.
Students Helping Honduras (SHH) is a nonprofit organization that provides educational and career opportunities to Honduran children, recruiting college students across the United States to raise money for and volunteer to build schools. Its official mission is “to end extreme poverty and violence in Honduras through education and youth empowerment.”
According to SHH’s website, “The organization began its work in 2006 when Shin Fujiyama and his younger sister Cosmo began raising money on their college campuses (The University of Mary Washington and the College of William and Mary) for the many orphanages in Honduras. What began as a small penny drive grew and grew, and eventually Shin, Cosmo, and their friends began raising hundreds of thousands of dollars together through bake sales, car washes, and benefit dinners.”
In the years since, SHH has had a profound impact on the presence and quality of education in the Latin American nation, where over two-thirds of the population lives in poverty. “The organization hosts nearly 1,000 volunteers from all over the world each year in Honduras, and nearly 100 high school and universities have created SHH Chapters to raise funds and help the organization reach its goal of building 1,000 schools in Honduras”, the website says. “21 schools have been built as of 2015, and construction on 11 schools has already begun for completion in 2016.”
For this particular fundraiser, the organization collected used clothing and other items in donation bins around campus. The donations were then displayed for sale on tables in front of Ball Circle, with the profits going to the organization. Clothes, shoes, and books were among the items for sale.
“At Club Carnival, I fell in love with all the pictures that I saw and the posters and I really wanted to be a part of something that could help people. I just want to help as much as I can,” said Khaila Nelson, a volunteer.
“Every club on campus has a club account with Student Activities and Engagement. And so that money as it gets given to us [sic] gets sent down to Honduras through SHH and the actual organization down there, and as the money gets sent down, the schools get built. So if money isn’t getting made or sent down the schools don’t get built,” said the chapter president, Sophie Ahava.
“Most of our money is [used] either to build the schools or pays our Honduran masons that are down there. 100% of the proceeds go towards the organization and then the organization will take it to buy school supplies or pay the masons. If they’re not buying cinder blocks for the walls, they’re buying books and chairs and desks for all the students,” she said.
Ahava said that sweaters were the best selling items. “And flannels, and dresses. Definitely cold weather kind of stuff.”
“My best friend, Mallory Young, she actually joined Students Helping Honduras our freshman year and she went in to be president pretty early in college and she finally got to convince me [to join] in our sophomore and junior years. It took me a while because I kind of needed convincing that the money really did just go to help build the schools and educate the kids down there. After finally being part of the group involved in fundraisers and all that and being able to go down to Honduras last winter, I was like yeah, this is definitely something that I need to be a part of and something that I want to continue back at home and not just going down to travel,” said senior Hina Zafar, a club member.
When asked if she thought that the organization’s charity work tied in to the recent wave of migrants leaving Honduras, Zafar said, “We can’t change things directly right away. Everything takes time, but right now education, to me, is the most important part of making a society more stable and I think educating the kids while they’re young and giving them the opportunities to support themselves. Right now it’s around El Progreso and communities nearby, but Students Helping Honduras is hoping to expand to other communities in Honduras that aren’t just near El Progreso. Right now we have chapters all across the East Coast at different colleges and high schools have chapters as well.”