By Brooke Curley
PIMA – Eight teenagers, 19 suitcases, three weeks, and the adventure of a lifetime; those were the numbers that added up to an educational and humanitarian trip to Roatan by current and recently graduated Pima High School students this past summer.
Roatan is one of Honduras’ Carribean Bay Islands. Nestled in the huge Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, Roatan has a wide reputation of beautiful beaches, amazing marine life, and perfect coral reefs. This unbelievable location is where Pima High School Spanish teacher, Stephanie Hoopes, took her Spanish Two class for three weeks. Working with a local family in the area that owns a house in Roatan, Hoopes took her students away to a place where they could immerse themselves in the language and culture, all the while gaining a wider perspective.
During the time they spent in Roatan, the teens refurbished a school, passed out roughly 2,000 pairs of Toms shoes, sponsored 16 local children, and rebuilt a needy family’s deck. Before leaving for Roatan, the teenagers, teachers, and chaperones collected 19 suitcases full of school supplies, clothes, and backpacks for the Roatan children. Stuffing each backpack to its full limit, the group brought 950 pounds of supplies to Roatan. The group also visited an island named Saint Helene, where there was no electricity. While at Saint Helene, the group passed out many baseball caps.
One of the teens, Andrew Taylor, of Pima, told Gila Valley Central that he appreciated the trip because it expanded his views of the world, and helped him realize his blessings.
“My favorite parts of the trip was how eye-opening it was,” Taylor said. “It helped me realize how fortunate we are here in America. But what I loved most was even though these people had very little, they were some of the happiest people I’ve ever met.”
Drake Hughes, who also went with the group, said his favorite part of the trip was visiting the island of Saint Helene and interacting with the local children who lived there.
“My favorite part was going to Saint Helene and playing with all the kids and seeing all the people (who were) so grateful for the simplest things like hats and notebooks,” Hughes said.
Ashlyn Colvin, of Safford, is an instructor at Extreme Martial Arts. Hoopes worked with Colvin’s family to orchestrate the trip, and Colvin accompanied the class to Roatan. Colvin told Gila Valley Central that the entire trip was amazing, but what she most enjoyed was the change she saw in the high school students when they were exposed to the world beyond the Gila Valley.
“We travel a lot, so we see that stuff, but these kids, a lot of them have not been out of the country (and) they’ve never seen stuff like that, so they don’t see how other people live,” Colvin said. “Seeing their reaction to the people down there, and seeing their compassion for them and being willing to jump in and help was probably the coolest thing for us. Just to see how the kids reacted and how they interacted with the little kids, it was the sweetest. All the kids wanted to do was play and the high schoolers would just jump in and do anything they could to help them. And it was just cool to see how that when they got down there, how their thoughts about things changed.”
Many of the students have already expressed their desire to return to Roatan next year. The group of students, teachers, and the Colvin family teamed up with the group Roatan Because We Care, working together to gather supplies and benefactors.
For information on Roatan Because We Care visit www.facebook.com/RoatanBecauseWeCare/
Contributed Video and Photos/Courtesy Ashlyn Colvin