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Group has new plan to help Honduras
Honduras-aid group headquartered at University of Mary Washington aims to build on its ambitious goals with upcoming walkathon

 A founder of Students Helping Honduras, Cosmo Fujiyama (center) talks with some of the female residents of Copprome during a visit last year to the orphanage in El Progreso, Honduras.
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Date published: 4/4/2008

By RUSTY DENNEN

It been quite a run for Students Helping Honduras, the homegrown, third-world relief agency founded at the University of Mary Washington.

In just over two years the nonprofit has raised half a million dollars and sent hundreds of students and other volunteers from the Fredericksburg area to help some of the Western Hemisphere's poorest people.

Since February 2006, Students Helping Honduras has:

Come to the aid of Siete de Abril, (Seventh of April) a squatter village near El Progreso in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, which devastated Honduras in 1998;

Built a school, bathroom, repaired roofs and purchased land to eventually move the villagers into permanent homes nearby;

Supported Copprome, an orphanage once on the verge of financial collapse, that is now debt-free, with a new dormitory and education center;

Still, there's more work to be done: The organization hopes to add additional money with its third-annual Walkathon for Hope, coming up April 19 at UMW.

Student Justin Simeone, who chairs the Students Helping Honduras board, said yesterday that the focus this year is funding an endowment for college scholarships and a women's academy at Copprome.

"Letting them [leave] when they turn 18, with no academic or emotion support" continues a cycle of poverty and early pregnancy, Simeone said. Without higher education and a safe place to stay, "They're exposed to a whole realm of problems--gangs, robbery, and that tends to push them out of college," he said.

More than half the population of Honduras is below the poverty line, and the employment rate is only 29 percent, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Simeone said that while UMW has been deeply involved with projects, the organization wants to get more people in the community interested in helping.

To that end, on April 12 there's a kids' day at Ball Circle from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by a silent auction from 7 to 10 p.m. in the faculty-staff dining room at Seacobeck Hall.

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
Email: rdennen@freelancestar.com


Students Helping Honduras has connected not only with students at the University of Mary Washington, but also with faculty.

Shawn Humphrey, assistant professor of economics, and his Doing Development class have been working on solutions to a serious problem for poor villagers--indoor air pollution.

Residents of Siete de Abril cook on crude wood stoves inside shacks with poor ventilation. As a result, some have chronic breathing problems.

Students recently traveled there to survey villagers' cooking methods.

Now, Humphrey says, they are working with a Honduran agency that makes improved stoves, which will be purchased for families who want them. Another Honduran agency will monitor indoor air pollution in the village before and after the stoves are installed.

The University of California's Berkeley Air Monitoring Group is providing the training and equipment.

"I think this will be a significant contribution," Humphrey said yesterday. The World Health Organization estimates that indoor air pollution kills about 1.6 million annually.

Humphrey's students are also raising seed money to create a micro-lending institution to provide entrepreneurial loans to villagers and graduates of Copprome orphanage.

WHO: Students Helping HondurasWHAT: Walkathon to benefit girls' education and academy at Copprome orphanage in El Progreso, HondurasWHEN: Saturday, April 19. Registration begins at 11 a.m., walk starts at 1 p.m. WHERE: University of Mary Washington's Fredericksburg campusWHO: Students Helping Honduras

WHAT: Walkathon to benefit girls' education and academy at Copprome orphanage in El Progreso, Honduras WHEN: Saturday, April 19. Registration begins at 11 a.m., walk starts at 1 p.m. WHERE: University of Mary Washington's Fredericksburg campus