By Tech. Sgt. Matthew McGovern, Joint Task Force-Bravo June 21, 2011
SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras -- More than 120 Joint Task Force-Bravo personnel hiked two miles up steep terrain June 11, to deliver food to people living in an isolated village near Comayagua, Honduras.
JTF-Bravo Army, Air force, Navy and Marine hikers carried 160 bags of food in backpacks, as part of a bi-monthly Chapel Hike to help the needy.
"This was by far the largest group that we've ever taken in the history of chapel hikes and it's the largest amount of money raised and families we catered to," said Chaplain (Maj) Daniel Thompson, JTF-Bravo Command Chaplain.
All ranks of JTF-Bravo members chipped in nearly $1,700 for the food. A portion of the money was also used to buy two piñatas for the children and basic school supplies including pencils, pens and paper for 120 students.
"I'm told that they are not permitted to go to school unless they have their school supplies," Chaplain Thompson said. If the kids can't go to school that means the parents can't go to work so it is critical that we can help them."
The parents of the isolated mountain village called El Paraiso, meaning the paradise, mainly work on coffee plantations and don't always make enough to thrive.
"Sometimes we complain about what we have and then we see how they live; then we appreciate how much we have," said Maria Santos, chaplain secretary.
Ms. Santos normally coordinates the hikes but it wasn't until recently that she started to participate in the entire process.
"When I actually went on the last two chapel hikes, words can't explain how you feel about giving; it's beautiful," Ms. Santos said. "They don't have much but they're happy and they really appreciate what we give them. They seem to appreciate everything, unlike us."
Separated by a language barrier, some volunteers communicated with smiles and waves as they handed out food at the village chapel.
"I don't speak the language so its difficult to verbally communicate but at the same time the language of love and compassion is universal," said Chaplain Thompson. "The expression of love and compassion and their reception spoke volumes to me; from a simple embrace to tears of humility."