As it has done every other year since 2011, The Highway Community church in Mountain View sent a team to Santa Bárbara, Honduras, in February to work at a day orphanage run by Bay Area organization Footsteps Missions.
“It is very poor there,” said Mountain View resident Daryl Smithgall, director of Footsteps Missions, of the Central American country. “Jobs are scarce and training is hard to find, so we are helping the children with the least opportunity to have the possibility of education that will help them to learn new skills, prepare for jobs, learn how to be people of character and integrity and how to become leaders for the future (through the day orphanage).”
Many of the children are what Smithgall called “economic orphans” who have a mother who can’t afford to take care of them. As a result, Footsteps Missions’ day orphanage provides food, tutoring, “hygiene time,” music lessons and more to support them.
For this year’s service trip, 27 members of The Highway Community worked at the day orphanage in Santa Bárbara, where they hosted a robotics camp and helped open a job-training center for older teens.
“The goal of the robotics camp was to introduce orphanage kids to robotics and provide opportunities to those interested to continue their involvement,” said church member Greg Corsetto, a Mountain View resident.
For four days, 35 kids from the day orphanage built and programmed robots with the assistance of high school volunteers from a local technical school and church members. On the last day, camp participants competed in a “robotic wrestling match,” according to Corsetto.
While some members worked at the robotics camp, others helped with the grand opening of the job-training center.
“The job training center includes a cafe and beauty salon, where teens graduating from the day orphanage program can gain practical skills to better prepare them for jobs in the area,” Corsetto said.
Church members helped paint and decorate the center, trained teens to work at the coffee and pizza shop, prepared goods for the coffee shop and more.
“Honestly, some of our youth are very hard workers and are learning skills that will help them throughout life,” Smithgall said. “We … are confident because of conversations with locals that this will help the children and youth to grow in leadership and work skills.”
Church members not only felt like they made a positive impact on the community, but also that the Hondurans made a lasting impression on them as well.
“People were moved and impacted by hearing the personal stories of the children, as well as the immense love that the children show,” said John Riemenschnitter, pastor at The Highway Community.
For Corsetto, the trip changed his perspective on Hondurans.
“Probably the biggest impact was to see how the Hondurans themselves are improving their lives, even with extremely limited resources and opportunities,” he said. “We can easily be misled that they all just want to abandon their country and come to the (United States) because of poverty, unemployment and crime, but that is not what we saw. The resilience of the people we encountered was great to experience.”
For more information on The Highway Community, visit highway.org.
For more on Footsteps Missions, visit footstepsmissions.org.