A donation of $5,000 to $10,000 a year from Cayman’s Rotary Sunrise is all that’s needed to pay for schooling, a meal a day, Internet and an after-school program for children in two rural villages in Honduras. Photography is part of the after-school program, called Guaruma, and Rotary is hosting an exhibit and fundraiser Wednesday evening to show off the students’ work and raise money for the project.
Rotary Sunrise has been helping fund the Honduras program for about 10 years, said Dr. John Lee, a Rotary volunteer who has traveled to the Cangrejal Valley in Honduras to see how the program works and to offer his medical services.
He said in recent years organizations from the United States have stopped sending funds to the program, citing the economic downturn, making Cayman’s contribution even more important.
“Money goes a very long way there,” he said, “providing schooling, a school meal and an after-school program to 50-plus kids.”
The after-school program is the main thrust of Rotary’s support, as it trains students and gives them access to computers and the Internet. The objective, Dr. Lee said, is to help the Honduran students “see how they fit into the rest of the world and learn about the world beyond their borders.”
The exhibit includes notes from the students about their experiences in the program and explaining each photograph. Rosalina Pinto, 17, from El Pital village, writes: “Guaruma motivates me because I have learned many things, including how to take photographs, learning English and computers, which really helps me in my schooling. The most important thing we learn is to respect the environment and how to be good leaders.”
The Guaruma project is a nongovernment organization with the primary goal of developing ecotourism in the jungle of the Honduran interior. Dr. Lee said Rotary was lucky to have a relationship with Guaruma because he and Rotary are “confident about the program and that the funds are spent on what they’re intended for.”
One benefit of running the fiber Internet line to the villages, Dr. Lee said, is that each village along the way could also use the new infrastructure to connect online.
The villages are near La Ceiba, a port town on the country’s northern coast. To get to the villages, Dr. Lee said, involves a 5-mile drive along the Rio Cangrejal on a dusty, potholed road. The second village is 2 miles beyond that. He said he visited last September to volunteer in the medical clinic, and he was struck by the poverty in the region.
“The kids were all in rags,” he said, and had very little access to regular medical care. He told one short story about a doctor telling someone they needed an inhaler. The next time the doctor went back, he asked if the medicine helped, but the patient said they couldn’t get a loan to be able to afford the inhaler.
The region is mainly agricultural, but the ecotourism industry has also started to take hold. Rio Cangrejal has become known as a world-class whitewater rapids destination and it’s adjacent to the Pico Bonito National Park, a mountainous, dense jungle park that hopes to attract adventurous ecotourists.
The Rotary Sunrise photo exhibit is open to the public at the George Town Yacht Club from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 22.