I have been involved with Timmy’s Mountain for the last 6 years, as a donor and event attendee. Two years ago, I joined the Board, and have been sponsoring a child for the last two years, as well. One of the highlights of the trip was when our 7 year old sponsored child, Mirna, greeted me with a great big hug. This was a girl I had never met, and wasn’t entirely sure she knew that she had a sponsor.
Part of what drew me to the organization was the original story of Diane, going to Honduras, and being taken to the mountain to see the malnutrition and extreme poverty present upon the mountain. I was particularly taken by the fact that someone saw a problem, like many of us do all the time, and instead of saying “That’s really sad”, they actually did something to change the situation.
I had felt that in order to be an effective board member, and also to understand where my donations were really going, I needed to see this place of which others speak so fondly, for myself. I am incredibly grateful that I was able to be able to spend 4 days on the Mountain- it really is an eye-opening experience and a needed reminder of the how much that we take for granted.
We arrived in San Pedro Sula, and had about an hour drive to the mountain. We were escorted by guards to the mountain. This may very well be overkill, in that I never felt threatened or unsafe for even a moment. However, the safety of visitors to the mountain is of the utmost importance and something where no shortcuts are taken to ensure that all the visitors have a rewarding and safe trip. One of the things that I could not grasp before was that this really is not a “town” like we might have here, it is really a very rural mountain where hundreds of family live on this mountain. Some of them live in areas that are not navigable by car. Many of the 150+ children walk several hours per day getting to and from school, and some of these children are only 6 years old! They do it for two reasons: 1) A genuine desire to learn and 2) Coming to school means they get to eat, where staying at home may very well mean they don’t eat that day.
One of the jobs that we were asked to help with on our trip was interviewing the children. We did this over two days, with the first day being at the grade school and the second day talking with the high school children and the young adults who have now graduated high school and are in college. As you might expect, the experience of talking with the youth of the mountain varied a lot by the age of the children. The younger children were all very cute- some painfully shy, and others couldn’t wait to talk with us. The younger children all stated they liked school, liked learning, and really liked the trinkets and candy that they have grown to expect the few times a year that visitors arrive on the mountain. In the older children, it was easier to see that they really understood that education is important, and they want to be able to have better opportunities than their parents had. They also had a deep understanding that their opportunity is the product of the work of Timmy’s Mountain, and without the support given by the donors and volunteers; they would not be in high school or college, they would likely be doing manual labor in a field.
As many readers are aware, this has been a challenging year for the mountain. Because of food prices, the organization had to make a tough decision to scale back from feeding the children 5 days a week to 4. This is particularly hard on the younger children, as in Honduran culture, the younger children are the last to eat at the family home- so if there isn’t enough food to go around, the young ones bear the brunt of the shortage. Due to the cutbacks, I didn’t know if I would see malnutrition like Diane first witnessed. I am happy to say that I did not see this- the children appear happy and in relatively good health. However, Judith, the wonderful lady who oversees many of the daily operations on the mountain reported that the younger children are struggling more because of the cutbacks, and the school sees a significant increase in absenteeism on Wednesday, when there is no food. To me, this underscores the challenges that Timmy’s Mountain face- rising costs, increasing population on the mountain (the school population has more than doubled over the last 12 years), and spreading the word about Timmy’s Mountain back at home so that more donors can help make a difference for this little village and for 150+ youth who desperately want a chance to thrive!
When I came back, people would ask me how my trip was. I felt strange saying that my trip was good, when the reality is that you are going to a deeply impoverished rural village where electricity in the homes is non-existent, parasites from drinking contaminated water is common, and daily food is a luxury. But, I can say that my trip was very rewarding. I say this because I got to see where my donations are going- that they are being stretched as far as possible, that the return on my investment is real, and life-changing for the residents of the mountain. At the same time, it reinforces that our work is nowhere near complete. Like poverty in the United States, it is impossible for us to completely eradicate hunger and poverty on the mountain, but we are making a difference. As the first classes of college graduates emerge in the coming years, we will be able to see that small sacrifices that each of us make lead to very real, significant differences in the lives of these children and their families. Almost to a man, the high school children want to succeed, they want to use their educations to open doors for them, and they want to be able to help support their families in the future to help keep making a difference.
I would encourage anyone to make the trip to Honduras. The accommodations that are available for visitors are hardly “roughing it.” In stark contrast to how the families on the mountain live, there is plenty of food, comfortable lodging, and a chance to see absolutely gorgeous scenery and a people who could not be more friendly and welcoming. I know that I will certainly return, and hopefully you will be with me- Timmy’s Mountain needs you!
For more information about Timmy’s Mountain and how you can help please visit www.timmysmountain.com.