Students Helping Honduras is a national non-profit organization with college and high school chapters across the U.S., including at Queens College.
Philanthropist Shin Fujiyama founded the organization in 2006. Its goals are to end poverty and violence in Honduran village by providing an education for young children to succeed.
Ryoma Abe, a QC alum, founded the QC chapter of SHH last semester. Kevon Manners, a senior majoring in nutrition and exercise science and vice president of SHH, said Abe is someone he knows as passionate.
“Ryoma was just so inspired because he went to Honduras once before he came to QC and he met all of the children and helped out doing manual labor at the work-site. It really started because he wanted an opportunity to spread the word and convince the QC community to contribute to this great cause,” Manners said.
Abe transferred from Stony Brook University, where he worked with its chapter. He wanted to create one at QC so Manners and Meera Desai, a junior and current president of SHH, helped him establish the club. In February 2015, the club officially began.
Honduras suffers from crime and violence to the point where the State Department placed a travel warning for U.S. citizens. Yet the organization is committed to providing help to villagers.
“The organization tries to build schools in poor villages and children’s homes, where they house children whose parents can’t care for them properly,” Desai said. “They’re trying to pick up kids who might be more susceptible to joining gangs.”
The club stressed they never impose the villages and prefer working besides residents.
“It’s an American program being implemented in Honduras. The organization’s plan is to enhance what’s already there and just help them with what they want for their own country. Only they know what’s best for them, we’re just their sidekicks,” Manners said.
This past summer, club members went to Honduras. Despite a few obstacles, they went and personally interacted with villagers and children.
“Unfortunately, the provost at CUNY didn’t approve of our trip because of the dangerous conditions in Honduras,” Manners said. “So we ended up having to pay out of pocket for the trip. Everyone was so dedicated to the organization and to the cause that money didn’t become a factor anymore.”
Members built schools and cooked meals for local families. In terms of safety, guards followed the members everywhere.
“Their base is in Villa Soleada. That’s where the hostel is for the volunteers and, from there, they take you to whatever school is being worked on at that moment. It’s not only one school. They’re working on a bunch of different schools at a time,” Desai said.
Members felt welcomed on their trip to Honduras and thanked by villagers for their efforts in the country.
“The kids were so willing to help and so accepting of us that they didn’t see us as strangers or anything. Even though they’re so young, they understood why we were there and understood that’s why they’re going to school now, because of this organization,” Manners said.
The national organization hopes to build 1,000 schools in Honduras. In 2015, six schools were built and the goal for 2016, the organization’s 10-year anniversary, is 10 schools.
The chapter also received awards from Student Association for its efforts. Last semester, Abe was awarded the QC Humanitarian Award for starting the club and spreading awareness on problems in Honduras.
This club has raised more than $1,500 so far this semester for underprivileged kids in Honduras and their goal is to raise $3,000 by the end of the semester.
“We have bake sales every Monday and host bigger events, like thrift ‘SHHops,’ where we receive clothes from QC students and sell them on campus for cheap,” Manners said.
Their next thrift “SHHop” is going to be on Nov. 23 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Student Union ballroom. Also, a benefit concert is scheduled on Dec. 9 in Agora Cafe, where they will charge a fee to raise money.
For more information on getting involved with Students Helping Honduras, email qc.shhonduras[at]gmail.com.