Thursday, March 22, 2012

Columbia University's Alternate Spring Break

Columbia University Volunteers at OYE, March 2012
In the early morning of March 9, 2012 a group of graduate students from Columbia University arrived in sunny and warm El Progreso, Honduras. For many of them it was their first time to the country.

The group was led by none other than Justin Eldridge, one of the co-founders of OYE. When the group arrived to the OYE office they were greeted by the OYE staff with open arms. The graduate students would be here for nine days, just enough to get a taste of the real Honduras and to trade their busy New York life to come down south for some service, learning, and ritmo hondureño.

Justin Otero, Co-Founder of OYE and group leader
All of the students had traveled abroad before and they were excited to work with an organization that helped youth. Even though the students come from many different backgrounds (United States, Russia, India, Haiti, etc.), their love for helping others was evident. The group jumped right into helping by traveling to Proniño, an organization and residency for former street children, for an intense game of football. They ended the night with a fabulous dinner of baleadas at OYE scholar and youth coordinator Yarli Yanes’s house.

Day two of their journey consisted of sitting in a capacity building class and meeting the becados. The volunteers were able to get a feel for the material that the becados learn in their capacity building classes. That week’s classes were on sexuality and gender diversity, and they were taught by Stephanie Matute, an OYE becada and student of medicine, and OYE staff member Michael Solis. The graduate students were very surprised at how mature the becados were throughout the classes. Later that night they headed to the house of Gerald Velasquez, youth coordinator of the art program, for dinner and some yummy tres leches cake!

Amy Williamson with a local dancer at Valle Encantado
On their third day they ventured out to Campamento de las Americas for a hike with amazing views. Although the hike took an extra hour and a half, the team was able to see Honduras in a different light. For dinner the group went to Valle Encantado, where they danced with Honduran locals from the late afternoon into the evening. They also enjoyed listening to a live band play punta and bachata music.

Forum on the Honduran Reality with invited guests

The next day the graduate students had an in depth conversation with invited Honduran professions to talk about the reality of Honduras. The panel was made up of school teachers, a psychologist, and a writer. The conversation was led by Justin and the topics consisted of the strain on writers to write about the truth, the problems facing the educational system, and the poverty in Honduras. After this insightful conversation the group got some fresh air at the Jardin Botánico Torogón, along with a tour by garden owner and local artist, Guillermo Mahchi. At the garden, the students were able to observe the natural beauty of Honduras first-hand. Dinner was at the house of Fabiola Oro, OYE scholar and youth coordinator.

Volunteer Wendy Lee at Mahci's Botanical Garden

Before starting their service project at OYE, the graduate students visited two schools and to get a chance to see what their conditions were like. The last two days before heading off to Cayos Cochinos the team spent their days painting the upstairs of the OYE office. This project is very important for the future of OYE’s art program because the upstairs of the building will become El Progreso’s first youth art gallery. With the newly painted walls OYE is ready for future events. The volunteers ended their experience with a dance class with Yarli Yanes and Ariana Reyes.
Columbia University group at the botanical garden with Guillermo Mahci

For their last few days in Honduras the graduate students traveled to the islands of Cayos Cochinos for two days. It was a great way to end a somewhat busy week and to relax and rejuvenate before their final few weeks of school. Many of them will be graduating in May. Overall, the experience was a wonderful opportunity for the students of Columbia University to get culturally immersed and to give their time to help the youth of Honduras.

Volunteers Jasmine Clerisme and Nadine Carole covered in paint!

CU volunteers painting OYE's youth art gallery

Decisions, decisions...Ranjit Thomas Koshi and Pushkar Sharma
CU before dance class with Yarli
Honduran dance class in the newly painted youth art gallery.

Many thanks to an amazing group of volunteers.

Many thanks to an amazing group of volunteers: Darlene Sainvil, Ranjit Thomas Koshi, Gina Patterson, Jasmine Clerisme, Winfrida Mbewe-Chen, Nadine Carole, Wendy Lee, Marina Leytes, Mona Jaber, Adrienne Lever, Pushkar Sharma, Maria Snegovaya, and Justin. We hope to see you back in Honduras soon!
Amy Williamson is an OYE intern and social work student at Mary Baldwin College.

1 comment:

Pushkar said...

What a terrific trip! Thanks so much for hosting us so well. All the best to our OYE family!!