Students Helping Honduras makes an educational impact

The University of Kentucky and the University of Mary Washington teamed up in December 2016 to begin building El Centro Basico Patria middle school.

Student organizations enrich the lives of their members with a sense of community and purpose, but one organization on campus reaches out to improve the lives of not just its members but also children in need.

The UK chapter of Students Helping Honduras is one of many that work towards a goal of helping Honduran children gain access to education while alleviating poverty and empowering youth. Chapters at universities across the country fundraise money and travel to Honduras to build 1,000 schools.

The fall semester is the time to find new members. Senior marketing student and President of Students Helping Honduras Abbey Koenigsberg works alongside the rest of the organization to recruit new members, so come spring, they can host bake sales, canning and other events to raise the required $25,000 to build one school. It was during one of these recruitment sessions that Koenigsberg discovered the organization the very first week of her freshman year.

“I was walking around the JC field during Campus Ruckus and one of their members grabbed my attention,” Koenigsberg said. “Jacob (Dietz) was so welcoming and friendly. I knew right there that this was the club for me.”

Students Helping Honduras was founded by Shin Fujiyama at Towson University when he was 20 years old. He travelled to Honduras on a service trip in 2004 and began fundraising money for charities and orphanages there once he returned home. He and his sister founded the organization in 2007, and he has since built a village in Honduras, started a children’s home, led thousands of volunteers to build schools and has been named a CNN Hero. The members here at UK have followed in his footsteps most recently with the building of a middle school called El Centro Basico Patria.

Koenigsberg travelled to Honduras for the very first time in December 2016. UK’s chapter partnered with the University of Mary Washington to help start the building process of a middle school because the village only had one school at the time for elementary school students, leaving older children without a place to learn. After the eight-day trip, the group returned home to finish fundraising during the Spring 2017 semester. Members Jess Schilling and Jacob Dietz hosted a gala in Cincinnati which raised over $26,000 for the project.

The school was completed last year, and Students Helping Honduras returned to Honduras this past December for the inauguration of the Patria middle school.

“It was definitely a heartfelt moment for all of us. It was awesome to see the school finally finished. The happiness on the children’s faces and their family’s faces was priceless,” Koenigsberg said. “It was very rewarding and motivating to see how our hard work helped make a difference in this village.”

Trips to Honduras are planned for spring, summer and winter breaks, but the winter break trip usually has the largest group. They head to Honduras for eight days following Christmas and put their fundraising dollars to work.

“Being a part of Students Helping Honduras has made a lifelong impact on me. I will always cherish the memories and experiences I had with other members that I can call my best friends,” Koenigsberg said. “I have learned to volunteer responsibly, how to manage my time effectively, and have really grown as a person and found more of who I am with this club. We are all family and would love to keep growing!”

Interested in joining? Email: [email protected].