Kathy Cooley is an energy-packed 51-year old who has been married for 30 years and has 2 sons. Since her now-grown sons started school, Kathy has been very active volunteering her time and talents to those non-profit organizations in the Susquehanna Valley that needed her skills.
She heard about the mission trip to Honduras from her friend, Steve Mentzer. The dates of the trip worked perfectly for her schedule. The dates fell right between one project that she had finished and a new project she was starting. She invited her good friend, Fran Swartwout, to go with her. Fran has a medical background with experience in healthcare and medical administration.
She jumped at the chance to share in the experience of distributing medical supplies.
Also, Fran spoke Spanish and was anxious to hone her language skills. The two friends left Lancaster and met up with their travel mates (there were 12 people on this trip) at the Baltimore airport on Sunday, January 28th, 2007. They flew from Baltimore to Houston, Texas, and then on to Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Kathy had a lot of thoughts on what she would find when the group arrived in Honduras. She expected very primitive conditions and oppressive poverty. Immediately, however, Kathy was impressed with the sense of hope and pride that the residents displayed. She also said that the role of the family and involvement of the children really stood out. “The children took part in all activities, including the church services” Kathy explained.
The three-day mission trip began on Monday with a clothes sorting day. The group was going to visit a different village each day and needed to have all clothes and supplies pre-sorted. On Tuesday, everyone traveled to Pespire the headquarters for the week, and the first of the 3 villages to be visited. Each of the days was spent distributing clothes to the residents and manning clinics in the different towns. In the evening, there was time to socialize with other members of the group on the rooftop garden restaurant at the hotel.
Friday, the group went back to the city of Tegucigalpa and toured a farmer’s market and the city hospital. Kathy remarked that this was an eye-opener for her. The building was old and their supplies were very meager and very outdated. She was making a mental list of all the supplies that were needed, from portable air conditioners to bed sheets to medicine.
Saturday was an open day and most of the group got to know the city and the surrounding area. Sunday, the group traveled back to Lancaster via Houston and Baltimore. While the days were filled with memory-making experiences, Kathy said she always felt that there was time to rest and get to know the people and the country. She would not want anyone to pass up this trip because it sounds too demanding. “There were many retired people on this trip and no-one felt pushed or overwhelmed. The days’ schedules were a good balance,” Kathy replied. Kathy is already talking about the next time she travels to Honduras. When she was first planning her trip, she expected it to be a one-time experience. But, somehow the experience left her wanting to get to know these very gracious people better.