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Going the Distance This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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     "Howmany days would it take to walk to your house?" asked a man sitting next tome in El Porvenir, Honduras. I had never considered the idea of actually walkingfrom Central America to the desert of Tucson, Arizona. I was intrigued by theblunt nature of his question. The poverty was profound in this village. InSpanish, El Porvenir means "the future," which is about the most ironicname for a town so ravaged by Hurricane Mitch in October 1998.

Many towns,particularly those in remote areas like El Porvenir, were destroyed by Mitch.Three years later, victims still need help to rebuild their lives. The missionstatement of M.E.D.I.C.O. (Medical, Eye and Dental International CareOrganization) is "To provide free medical, dental, optometric andeducational services to people in developing countries who have little or noaccess to basic health care." M.E.D.I.C.O. makes many trips to Hondurasevery year. Last January, I went on one of their week-long trips to volunteer asa translator.

Even prior to the hurricane, Honduras was a third-worldnation. Its economy has never been stable, with large pockets of poverty andsubsistence farming. These farmers seem forgotten by time and the outside world.According to a Honduran health report, in 1994 the percentage of households thatfell below the poverty line was 75.6%. The biggest percentage of the populationis children under the age of 15 (42.8%). In rural areas, only 16% of dwellingsare considered adequate. More than 81% of families have no access to drinkablewater, disposal services, electricity, or schools. The main cause of death isdisease. Approximately 70% of young men and women under the age of 20 are eitherunemployed or underemployed. Finally, there is a high infant and maternalmortality rate. Even before 1998, Honduras was a country in dire need.

ElPorvenir had no electricity and only a few running taps of water for the wholetown. There was extreme concern about water contamination. There was aschoolhouse where volunteers slept; there was no teacher because the governmentwould not pay for one. Most of the people in El Porvenir are illiterate, and theabsence of a teacher almost guarantees this will continue.

The nearestmedical clinic is a two-hour walk over mountainous roads; most had never beenseen by a medical professional. Medically, physically, and emotionally, ElPorvenir needed our support.

In preparation for my trip, I collectedalmost 1,300 pairs of running shoes to give away. The name of my shoe drive was"Go The Distance," and I went the distance and achieved my goal. Icollected the running shoes from high-school cross-country teams in southernArizona, as well as from businesses all over Tucson. I thought the people inHonduras needed the shoes more than anyone at home. Hookworm is very prevalent inEl Porvenir, and is spread by contact of the bare foot with the ground. Thedonated shoes will help stop this cycle.

In Honduras, I gained aperspective on my own life. If people in El Porvenir are able to be happy withwhat little they have, then the possibility of happiness exists for anyone! Whatthe Hondurans gave and taught me is greater than anything I was able to givethem. M.E.D.I.C.O. helped those in El Porvenir have better health and live a morewholesome life with the medicine and shoes we gave them.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the March 2002 Teen Ink Community Service Contest.




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