Terrible poverty, poor housing conditions and an undercurrent of violence were the “dark side” experienced on a recent visit to Honduras by Fr. Colm O’Doherty from Derry.
Fr. O’Doherty who now ministers in Castlederg was in one of the world’s most dangerous and poorest places with Trócaire to witness its work as this year’s Lenten campaign is focusing on the Central American country.
“My immediate impression of Honduras was of a beautiful country but it is not hard to come face to face with the dark side of that land,” Fr. O’Doherty said. “Growing up on the streets of Derry during the Troubles I was used to seeing guns on the street and I had forgotten just how frightening that was. In Honduras there are weapons everywhere you go, in the hands of the police – who appear to be more like a militia than a service for the people – and in the hands of the thousands of private security men who are on every street corner, outside banks, at petrol stations, at shops.”
Honduras is blighted by dire poverty, state corruption and ruthless wealthy landowners who cause misery for many thousands of people. Many of the armed gangs witnessed by Fr. O’Doherty are used to force small farmers off their plots of land and turn them into huge plantations that benefit the wealthy few. Government officials, often paid-off by the landowners, turn a blind eye.
However, Fr. Colm, visiting communities saw at first-hand how Trócaire, working with its partners in Honduras and funded by money donated by people here at home, is making a difference.
“All the projects we visited had the same story to tell – poverty, injustice, fear. Yet in all of them we found strength, cooperation and hope for the future as the people work together with the help of some individuals to be a community for each other,” he said. “That word ‘community’ is the key to better days ahead and the people themselves know that and guard that ideal so much.”
Fr. O’Doherty also visited Trócaire-funded projects helping to improve health and education services in the Central American country.
“Housing is also a major problem for people, especially those who live in the countryside where the housing that many live in is really terrible,” he said. “Trócaire is helping communities to improve their housing by giving them grants to build better and more durable homes. We visited one such project and the greeting we received from the whole community was so moving. They are so proud of what they are achieving and as they are a co-operative they have already been able to pay back the original grant from Trócaire, which has then been regenerated to help other similar community projects.”
“Honduras needs help. These beautiful people deserve a better life and I feel we as a nation must keep doing what we do best and that is to reach out and help those in need wherever they are in the world. This Lent we can make such a difference. We really can change lives,” Fr. Colm concluded.
To find out more about this year’s Lenten campaign or to make a donation call 0800 912 1200 or log on to www.trocaire.org/lent.