In the spirit of SwimWest giving back, our SwimWest families donated money for members of the SwimWest team to go to Roatan, Honduras, April 20 to April 26. With the money, we purchased baby formula for the families with AIDS, soccer balls for the area schools, gifts, and supplies for the school children and their parents. We were able to deliver our supplies to the schools and the clinic as well as reconnect with some old friends and make lots of new ones during this fantastic trip.
While away, the team put together a diary of their thoughts and what they did while they were there. Read below the team’s diary entries and view the slide show that tells the story of not only the team’s trip but of the amazing schools and events that they were able to help because of the kind donations of SwimWest families.
Our SwimWest Travel Journal
Families had donated over $1100 in cash for us to give to the families in Roatan. The giving of our community is incredible. We are blessed to have so many families that believe in our mission of a world without drowning, along with our love of giving back.
Supplies donated from our SwimWest families; we had enough supplies to fill up 7 large suitcases to bring with us.
Head to Bananarama in West Bay for the Crab Races. Miss Valerie (Familias Saludades) hosts races Sundays at 6 p.m. sharp. Proceeds go toward her work with children and families affected by AIDS. Miss Steel Pan Alley Deborah will be there.
Today we traveled to West Bay for the crab races! There were hundreds of hermit crabs with numbers on their shells that we were able to choose from. We could buy either 3 crabs for $10 or 8 for $20. We were then given numbers of our chosen crabs and waited in anticipation for the races to begin! All the crabs were put in a big bucket and circular trench was dug in the sand around the bucket of crabs. The race starts when the bucket of crabs is dumped into the center of the circle. The first crab to reach the trench fully is the winner! Sadly, we did not have any winning crabs 🙁
This was actually a fundraiser for Miss Valerie’s clinic (Familias Saludables) which runs HIV testing for pregnant women, assigns trained home visitors for mothers living with HIV/AIDS, provides education to the public, provides palliative training services and when available provide infant formula, medications, and supplies to support families struggling with HIV. All her staff at the clinic are volunteers and all services provided are free of charge.
With the money raised from the crab races, Miss Valerie is able to buy more infant formula for these families.
SwimWest rented a truck to help with delivering the supplies to the Roatan schools. We used our tote bags to carry a lot of the extra supplies.
Charmont Bilingual Academy
The first school that we visited was at Charmont Bilingual Academy in Coxen Hole. The children were so happy to see us and were giving of their time to show us around and what they were learning. The school used to be an abandoned chicken coop and their playground outside a trash storage area. The director, Ms. Valerie, talked about the challenges of the students, what she is able to give to them as a security inside the walls of the school, food and a chance for a better future. The picture shows the older students in the school who shared with us their goals for their future education and careers.
Familias Saludables is a non-profit organization devoted to fighting the AIDS epidemic on Roatan and the Bay Islands. Its major focus is to reduce the incidence of mother-to-child transmission of HIV both at birth and via breast milk.
Jenny and I visiting the free clinic where baby formula and other medical supplies are given to the families. Familias Saludables is a non-profit organization devoted to fighting the AIDS epidemic on Roatan and the Bay Islands. Its major focus is to reduce the incidence of mother-to-child transmission of HIV both at birth and via breast milk. Familias Saludables runs testing clinics for pregnant women, assigns trained home visitors for mothers living with HIV/AIDS, provides education to the public, provides palliative training services and, when available, provides infant formula, medications, and supplies to support families struggling to cope with this disease. All staff are volunteers and all services are free of charge. Miss Valerie, a social worker from Canada, is an angel. She has devoted her life to this work. She is relentless, loving, fierce, gentle, courageous and selfless. Meeting her will forever impact your perspective, your awareness, and your heart. To get an idea about who we will be helping, check out Miss Sheila’s story on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF4Tj6MLdTo
Froylan Turcois School, First Bight
Our group brought all of our supplies up the school. A couple of other swim schools brought gifts to hand out to all of the children. Karen brought her two children; they were given orange strings to help the children engage in playtime with each other. Abby and Ted taught the children how to do cat’s cradle and some other string games. It was cool to see the children engaged with each other, without even knowing the same language. The smiles from all of the children were amazing and the energy was high. A teaching moment from all involved.
The school used to be an abandoned chicken coop and their playground outside a trash storage area. The director, Ms. Valerie, talked about the challenges of the students, what she is able to give to them as security inside the walls of the school, food and a chance for a better future. The picture shows the older students in the school who shared with us their goals for their future education and careers.
The classrooms were small, hot but ready to engage the children and teach. The teachers are so committed and work hard to give these children a future in whatever their minds can take them. We brought clothing, first aid supplies, soccer balls, and arts and crafts for the students.
Crawfish School, Crawfish Rock
Crawfish School we were giving out supplies to the students and also to their parents. We would take them into the classroom and give them 5 pieces of clothing that they would like, and we knew would fit them. This was an incredible day of giving to this community. Karen’s children, Abby and Ted were able to see how much is needed in these communities and how much giving clothes and supplies to this community can make an impact.
There are about 3-4 classrooms in Crawfish School. The student’s ages range from preschool to 5th grade and typically have multiple grade levels together in one room. The classrooms were small, cramped, dim, stuffy, and hot. But that doesn’t affect how much the kids love being there one bit! Some of the students and some of the kids from our group played basketball together. To disperse the supplies, we separated the girl’s items and the boys’ items in two different classrooms. Before the students were allowed to enter the room, we worked hard and fast to separate the clothes into different piles organized by size and style- from infant to pre-teen. The students lined up outside the room and waited patiently and politely for the ok for them to enter. We would let 2-3 students in the room at a time. Each student happily left with at least 3 new items to call their own.
I was in the Boys room. The energy in the room was amazing! So much excitement! As the students approached us, we picked out clothing from the organized piles and hoped they fit. We held shirts up to their shoulders and shorts up to their waists in order to find the correct size. One of my favorite memories of this school is the determination of our group making sure each student not only got 3 items, but that the items fit, and that the child would enjoy wearing it. Seeing the huge smiles coming from the kids’ faces once you’ve found them the perfect outfit is incredible!
We had the pleasure of meeting this happy little girl again! It is so incredible and satisfying to be able to see how much she, and all of the kids, have grown, and continue to learn and be happy!
Disionisio de Herrera, Oak Ridge
When we arrived at this school, we were welcomed with drummers and dancers. They had practiced all week for our arrival. It was incredible to see the children perform and their traditional costumes.
The younger children danced as the drummers played and the spirit was high in the air with all of the fun and joyfulness. These young dancers were incredible. You could tell they loved to perform and show off their culture.
We brought up a truckload of supplies to this school and for the children. We gave out clothes, art supplies, books, computers, and soccer balls. I loved this school and watching the joyfulness of the children.
Lots of smiles from the young children who welcomed our group. Burritos were offered to us as we walked up to the school with the boxes of supplies. Sadly, I did not try one.
Teddy and Abby engaged with the children with the string games. This was our last day of traveling to the schools and the children on the mission trip were good at the string games and engaging the Roatan children in the games. It was interesting to watch the shyness they had at the first school on Tuesday to this last day on Thursday and how they learned how to engage the children and we’re confident it walking up to a young student and bring them smiles. Magical moments were happening everywhere.
Instituto Departmental Honduras, Jonesville
This school was for students aged 15-18 and offered more specialized skills like culinary and technology for the students. Many of these students have graduated from Froylan Turcois School (the elementary/middle school we visited earlier in the week). This was a new school that we haven’t donated to before, so we only did a quick stop to present the computers that we had purchased with donation money. The principal and student president both gave us kind speeches– definitely a school that will be worked with again!
Half Moon Bay, West End – Free Swim Lessons on the beach!
We borrowed tables from local businesses and the church and paid the local BBQ guy on the beach to cook for us (we will be taking his business today as we give away
free hot dogs) Then we organize Lessons, fun games on the beach, gave away over 10 boxes of clothing to the locals that came to the beach for the free lessons or who just came by to see what was going on.
It was a gorgeous sunny day, perfect for spending it teaching lessons on the beach in the ocean to the local community.
The event began with games on the beach. An obstacle course had the kids doing push-ups, jumping jacks, and sit-ups. Everyone cheered as each participant was rewarded with a medal at the finish line. Meanwhile, donated swimsuits and leotards where being dispersed along the beach. And then the swimming lessons began in full swing. The instructors would give a pair of goggles to any swimmer who completed a swim lesson. Hot dogs and juice boxes were provided to everyone and anyone who was hungry.
I had such a blast with every swimmer I swam with. The first swimmer I taught was named Nancy, and she was about 2 years old and very shy. She was so sweet to allow me, a stranger who unfortunately does not speak the same language as her, to take her into the water while her Mom stayed on the beach. We kicked our feet, put our ears in, and blew bubbles!
My next swimmer was a little boy, age 3, named Alexander. Alexander and I sang songs while we kicked, practiced back floats, blew bubbles, and put our faces in. He did an awesome job was able to relax a bit after we sang “the windows on the bus go, up and down” about 10 times 🙂
Older swimmers came to me here and there. Everyone was always ready to work! And caught on quite quickly. I loved having Abby help me teach; she would demonstrate a skill and then try it themselves. After they had a decent handle on floating and rolling over without being able to touch the bottom, I would introduce freestyle and elementary backstroke.
I taught the little boy on the right for the majority of our time teaching lessons at our beach party on Friday. He was from Coxen Hole which was true of the majority of the children that we worked with that day. Most of the swimmers didn’t speak English, so we communicated through body language (and the little Spanish that I know!). It is a really rewarding experience to see how much desire these children have to learn to swim. I feel so honored to have been able to work with them even if only for a small amount of time. After each swimmer completed a lesson with us, they received goggles to keep as their own
As we taught lessons, other volunteers were handing out food and supplies to anyone that was on the beach that was interested. My favorite part of the trip was teaching swimming on the beach and watching a child feel confident in the water.
Teaching swimming on the beach was a blast. Since I had a language barrier, I asked my daughter, Abby to help me teach. She would demonstrate a skill and the little boy would follow. This is the first time I have ever taught with Abby as a helper, and it was the most special moment we had on the entire trip. She felt needed and important and as a team, we were making a difference in this little boys life.
Ted (Karen’s son) did a wonderful job helping hand out free hot dogs and kool-aid to the community. He joined us in the water for a photo at the end