Let’s Get to Work! – with Tus Manos son Mis Manos
Tus Manos son Mis Manos is a charitable group which originated from the ESCOGE program led by the Salesian Youth Movement of Tegucigalpa. It is an initiative which was set in motion 10 years ago in order to provide aid to communities in the Ojojona County in Honduras. Initially, the group saw 300-400 families pass through. In this brigade, which takes place in December each year, volunteer professionals offer medical and dental services along with medical and food supplies. A snack is also given to those who visit, since some may walk distances requiring 5 hours to arrive at the location where the activities are held. Starting in the year 2012, ophthalmology services were added to the brigade. The youth work in collaboration with the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, whose aid consists of case evaluation and distribution of the tickets with which people from the communities are seen by the group. In recent years, Tus Manos son Mis Manos has seen 700-750 Honduran families pass by the center each year.
This is the fourth time I am participating alongside my family: my children, since they were small, my wife and I. It is a very nice experience and very gratifying. The smile on people’s faces, the need, this fills my spirit about what December is about. We are reminded about why our Lord came and to share some about that. Now my children ask to come to Ojojona every December. -Darío Montes, volunteer from Tegucigalpa
Donations are collected each year during a month prior to the trip; activities like food sales and car washes are held in order to fundraise. The group is divided into committees, each in charge of a different aspect in the brigade: provisions, clothes, shoes, children, medications and so forth. The donations committee contacts businesses that have donated in the past to invite them to participate again.
An open invitation is expressed within the Salesian community during a month prior, inviting members to give donations of any kind but especially in cash, since it is possible for the group to find local providers to work with that will give special pricing on the provisions.
The 120 Lempiras (approximately $6 US) that one can spend per person on a meal at any of the fast food establishments can feed a family of 4 or 5 for two weeks, since with this figure you can purchase 10 pounds of corn, 3 pounds of beans, 3 pounds of rice, 1 or 2 packets of tomato sauce, 2 to 4 small bags of coffee, a pound of shortening and a small bag of salt. -Isabel Banegas, Tus Manos son Mis Manos
The group additionally requests the donation of time, since volunteers are necessary to carry out all of the activities. Technology, especially the use of social networks, has been an invaluable tool for this effort, since it provides an easy and affordable means of communication among volunteers. The Facebook page is available to the public and it has reached a variety of audiences, by sharing invitations, photos and videos to communicate the group’s objective to its followers. This year there young people present who traveled from La Ceiba to collaborate; the members of the Salesian Youth Movement of La Ceiba would like to take the experience in order to strengthen the group in their own town.
I had the opportunity to work for a few hours alongside these young men and women. I immersed myself in the activities as a photographer and a reporter, but also collaborated directly in the packaging of products in sacks and helping to move them from the trucks to the storage. I was able to experiment first-hand the “human chains” these young people employ in order to complete the task at hand in an organized and efficient manner. The experience has filled me with pride, as I have been able to observe the dedication with which all volunteers participate in order to help their neighbor using their hands.
I have been involved for 6 years since I became a member of the Salisian Youth Movement. The area I have worked in the most is as an usher. Today I am working in guarding the exit gate. This experience is what makes my Christmas, what makes my December. Aside from Christmas Eve mass, it’s the best experience. It is gratifying to help and to get a smile to boot. The best part is that everything is done in a family environment; you’re surrounded by people you love and you receive as much love as you give. -Fred Patrick Caunter, volunteer from Tegucigalpa