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Students may still travel to Honduras despite political turmoil

Friday, October 9, 2009

For the first time in Gehlen Catholic School's history, two student teams, instead of just one, will travel to Honduras this spring to help connect communities to fresh water supplies.

At least that is coordinator Richard Seivert's hope.

Honduras has been pummeled by political unrest since June when the country's president, Manuel Zelaya, was deposed after he tried to hold a vote about re-writing the nation's constitution, according to international news reports.

Despite this, Mission Honduras of Le Mars and Gehlen Mission Honduras have not slowed their ministry.

"We haven't pulled out an inch," Seivert said. "We may be delayed but we're going to stay."

Plans for the spring Gehlen Mission Honduras student trips -- two this year because of so much interest -- are still moving forward.

"They days are not locked in," Seivert said. "Nothing is in stone yet."

But the tentative plan is for each group to work with a small community to complete a water project that would bring fresh, running water to its village.

The money for the water projects is already available, thanks to a grant from Rotary, an international service organization, Seivert said.

He's also kept up contact with more than 40 students, from Gehlen and other schools, who want to travel with the Mission Honduras student team.

"Every time I communicate with the students I communicate with the parents, too," Seivert said. "I explained the political situation and the possible danger."

Zelaya was accused by opponents of trying to change his term limit, although Zelaya denies it. He has about three months left of his term as president.

The election is usually held in November, Seivert said.

Interim leader Roberto Micheletti has said Zelaya cannot return to power.

In the meantime, Seivert said, the people of Honduras suffer.

With the international community pressuring for the reinstatement of Zelaya, World Bank suspended aid to Honduras.

In the capital, supermarkets are closed and supplies are low.

"There's no school or health services," Seivert said. "Jobs and transportation are down, and there are strikes."

The people, he said, just want their life to be back to normal.

Seivert's hope is that the crisis will be resolved with the November election in Honduras.

Until then, plans are tentative as he and other organizers watch and wait.

All plans, he said, are tentative.

"We will not put your sons or daughters in any kind of danger," he added.

The Gehlen Catholic School student trip is just one of several outreaches to the people of Honduras.

Through Mission Honduras, Briar Cliff University, of Sioux City, has sent a student team every year for the past five years.

This year's trip, slated for November, has been postponed due to the political situation.

"Their trip would have coincided with the 10 days before the election," Seivert explained. "Hopefully they'll get to go sometime in February."

Mission Honduras' two rural health clinics are among the only ones still open in the nation, Seivert said.

Although money to keep those clinics open, which was coming from Italy via World Bank, was cut off, Mission Honduras has raised enough to keep the clinics open for at least the next month.

Mission Honduras is also keeping its connection with the people living on Montaņa de la Flor, a remote group with little contact to the outside world.

"We're building a relationship with South Dakota State University -- their dietary research students are going to study every family on the mountain," Seivert said.

The professor leading the students from the Brookings university, he said, has served in the U.S. military in Honduras. She already has soft approval for a full medical brigade from the military stationed there to assist the people on Montaņa de la Flor.

"We'd do this with the idea that, if it worked well, they'd be able to give a more consistent health attention to the people on the mountain," Seivert said.

This, too, is on hold due to the political tensions in Honduras. Members of the military medical group have been restricted to their base since June.

Local efforts for Kids Against Hunger, an organization that allows groups to pack dried meals for people suffering from malnutrition around the world, continue as well.

"If people are not able to go to Honduras, the most immediate way they can help is Kids Against Hunger," Seivert said. "The important thing is to keep up the programs."

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I pray that an end to the political unrest is near so this wonderful ministry will not be jeopardized. Thank you for your Christian example.

-- Posted by working_class_dog on Fri, Oct 9, 2009, at 11:47 AM

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