A brief history of St. Mary Immaculate Conception’s Twinning relationship with the Parish of San Gaspar, Taulabe, Honduras.
With the help of the School Sisters of St. Frances from Milwaukee Wisconsin, we formed a Twinning relationship with San Gaspar in 2002. In February 2003, we took our first trip to San Gaspar wondering what we could do as a Parish to help our brothers and sisters in Christ. The first year we met Padre Tito and many other wonderful people. We came home with many ideas but not one clear idea as to what we could do.
On our 2004 trip, we visited many schools both in the city of Taulabe and in the mountain villages surrounding Taulabe. We knew when we came home that education could be the key to help them become self-sufficient.
So it began. We returned in February 2005 sponsoring 3 youth. In July 2005, Padre Tito and a group from Honduras came to West Bend for their first visit and to make a Mission Appeal. That group along became the committee at San Gaspar overseeing the youth that were being sponsored. Later that summer the School Sisters of St. Frances approached us and asked if we, as a parish, could and would be willing to take on the responsibility of sponsoring 10 youth that they had been sponsoring. It was a commitment that they had for several years but could no longer keep due to difficultly in raising funds. This just happened to be the direction that we wanted to go, so we offered this opportunity to the parish at our first annual sponsorship drive in October 2005, and needless to say we had a tremendous response. Enough families said yes to sponsor the youth of Taulabe that we went back in February 2006 sponsoring 15 youth and each year since this program has continued to grow. Again, we offer this opportunity to parishioners and friends every October so we will know how many youth will be sponsored for the next school year which begins in February. This year 2012, at least 56 youth will receive the gift of hope for a brighter tomorrow from our wonderful sponsors. Click the “Sponsorship form” to see how this works.
In 2009, the Twinning committee started “Amigos Unidos”, (which translate to “close friends”), through which we hope to help many children begin their education. We raise money by selling “Fair Trade” coffee or we accept any donation to help the children. The cost of keeping a child in elementary school for a year is between $30.00 and $35.00. This money will be given to our committee in Taulabe to purchase school supplies, book bags, shoes, and school uniforms. Helping to raise funds for this program was St. Mary’s school children and staff in a project they call “Kids helping Kids”. The 2012 project raised over $600.00. Click the “Coffee order form” to order Fair trade coffee.
This year in 2012 we are celebrating our 10th visit to our Sister Parish in Taulabe
Reflections from a first time visitor to Hondarus 2012
Lots of preparations finally led us to our mission trip to Taulabe Honduras with 5 travelers. With such a packed week it’s hard to condense it down in a short reflection letter but I’ll do my best.
We arrived in San Pedro Sula, Honduras Wed. 2/22, at 12:30PM to 90 degree heat that was a pleasant and welcomed surprise. Gathering to pick us up were 4 friends from Taulabe. Because it was Ash Wed. we gathered for mass that evening before arriving for a welcome social at Irma’s house.
The next day Thur. 2/23, we gathered at Gustavo A. Castaneda Elementary school for the presentation of school supplies, shoes, and clothes to help 105 students attend school. During the afternoon, we visited some of the homes of the students who received help in this program.
Fri. 2/24, we visited the local high school where many of the students in our high school sponsorship program attend. We also visited the Cultural center in Taulabe. In the afternoon we went to visit the homes of the students we personally sponsor.
Sat. 2/25, we met, visited, interviewed and photographed the 59 students in the Sponsorship program.
Sun. 2/26, we visited Zamorano Agricultural University near the city of Tegucigalpa which was an entire day excursion.
Mon. 2/27, we gathered at a local mountain lodge called Los Pinos. There we saw many hummingbirds migrating there from many places in North America. Afterwards we visited one of two chapels being built in Padre Tito’s area with funds from our St. Mary’s mission appeal program. Padre now has 38 chapels to manage.
Tue. 2/28 was a casual day spent with our host families ending with a send off social where we reflected upon our 10 year relationship and the past week.
Wed. 2/29, we left Honduras at 1PM arriving back in West Bend at 3AM Thur. 3/1
Reflections from February 2011 Trip
I wanted to say a few words about the Twinning Committee and our recent trip to Honduras. This was my first time going along after having been involved in the group for several years as a translator. I have always felt inspired by the students’ stories that they shared in letters, but being able to see these people in their element, I was able to gain a whole new understanding of why the Twinning Committee is so important not just to Taulabe but also to West Bend.
Our sponsorship program has grown so much since its beginnings seven years ago. Starting out with just two students being sponsored, the program now supports 56 students, along with 40 students who have already graduated. I was able to meet with some of the graduates during my time in Taulabe and this really showed the ripple effect that a positive influence can have in the community. One former graduate, Josue, was a prime example of this. About the same age as me, he took over the role as head of the household after the death of his mother and is now supporting his three younger sisters. The reason he is able to do this is because, with the help of the scholarship, he was able to finish school with an electricity degree and get a job in Taulabe. He works six days a week and often for 12 hours a day. But despite all of his struggles, he was always smiling when we would meet him on the street and he used the little free time he had to encourage other youth in the community by leading a youth group on Saturday nights. It is amazing what the effect of a little encouragement can be for these students who sometimes feel like no one cares about them. With people like Josue, they can see that they aren’t alone and his success serves as an example of what they can do with their own lives if they work hard and take advantage of the opportunities offered to them.
In the other program, the Twinning Committee worked to raise money for the elementary students of Taulabe who are unable to attend school because they cannot afford supplies. This year, we were able to hand out school supplies, uniforms and shoes to 80 children. These children showed so much promise for their futures and all they needed was a little help to push them forward. This is also a reflection of the future of Taulabe in general. Since the seven years this program has been growing, the community of Taulabe has also been growing. When we toured the middle school, we saw recent renovations of the home economics classrooms that were made possible by the hard work of dedicated teachers. We also saw the expansion of the woodworking and metalworking shops so that more students can learn these valuable skills.
And I think that no discussion about Taulabe is complete without mentioning Padre Tito. He is such a strong, inspiring leader not only in the parish community but in the entire community of Taulabe and the outlying areas. His passion for ensuring the well being of his community was shown in the most simple and profound ways. One afternoon, he invited us to his park. This is a piece of property that Padre bought, which started out as nothing more than a mess of overgrown vegetation. However, over the years Padre Tito has slowly been transforming this area into a beautiful park by cleaning up, planting new trees and flowers, and building bathroom facilities and a covered stage for entertainment. This is a work in progress that still has a ways to go but the steps already made have been amazing. This park will be open to the entire community of Taulabe, just one of the many gifts that Padre offers to inspire progress for all of the individuals living there.
In many ways, the Twinning Committee’s relationship can be likened to this park. It started out with many possibilities, but no one was really sure where it would go. As the years went on, this relationship grew stronger and more people began to see the positive affects that their hard work was yielding. As trees grew and flowers bloomed in Padre’s park, students progressed in their educations and passed this knowledge on to family and friends in the community. This success inspired more of you here to get involved and help more students. It is exciting to see the continuous progress being made between our two communities. These students have taking these scholarships and turned that money into a lifelong education, much greater than what they started with. In the same way, Padre transformed this land that he started with and turned it into a beautiful, inspiring representation of the continuous forward movement taking place in Taulabe. This project is not finished however. There is still much work to be done. As Padre enthusiastically explained all of his future plans for improving this park, it reminded me of the ever-growing relationship between San Gaspar and St. Mary’s. We have come so far from the two original students and in order to maintain this progress, it takes constant attention. This is why writing to the sponsored students is so important, as well as visits every year. The growth of this relationship is limitless when we keep working together, and with community leaders like Padre Tito, people continue to be inspired to work for something bigger than themselves. I can’t wait to see the progress on Padre’s park next year, along with all the new ideas he’s come up with in the meantime. I’m sure that this will be the same case with our relationship with the students and counterpart committee, as individuals continue to be inspired by the work of those around them. I hope my words have inspired some of you to bring your time and ideas to the Twinning Committee. The contributions you have made thus far have resulted in amazing progress and we hope to continue sharing the new developments of the Twinning Committee and our friends in Taulabe with you all.
Written by Amy Polenske, student majoring in Spanish translation on her recent trip to Honduras.