Reaching out for Guanaja

Greetings to you all! I am Mindi Bennett DeLancey, and I am your OTHER full-time missionary with Teach Them To Fish Microindustries. (I also happen to be John DeLancey’s wife!)  I have been on the island now since June of 2020, and am so excited about the growth and diversity I have seen in our mission, our communities, and especially in our microindustries over the last year and a half!

Praise God, Roatan seems to be out of the worst part of the pandemic, and many islanders and ex-pats are already fully vaccinated. Tourism is slowly starting to return, and we are excited to have 4-5 cruise ships arriving weekly. This doesn’t compare to pre-pandemic numbers, but it is a nice beginning of economic improvement for many here on the island.

Unfortunately, the reason for today’s blog post is not quite as uplifting as the improvements on Roatan. I am writing to let you know of a tragedy that occurred recently on our sister island, Guanaja. Utila, Roatan, and Guanaja make up the three Bay Islands of Honduras. Guanaja is arguably the most poverty-stricken of the three islands. Last week, a terrible fire broke out and completely destroyed over 100 homes and damaged hundreds more homes and businesses. There are hundreds of people without homes or any belongings. The good news is there are many ongoing humanitarian efforts focused on getting immediate needs met; food, shelter, clothing, medicine, etc.  We are asking for your prayers for all those affected. Additionally, we are working to find out how our missions can contribute the best way possible.

In our last blog post, we introduced you to Rolando and his family as well as Tropical Wood Works, our outdoor furniture-making microindustry. After prayerful consideration, we are asking our supporters to consider donating towards efforts to build simple wooden tables and chairs for the families who have lost everything. The rebuilding effort is going to monumental, but once homes are rebuilt, families are still going to be left without any furniture, and we feel this is something with which we can help.

We would like to set an initial goal of building 10 table and chair sets that will be ready to be shipped to Guanaja and donated to a family in need. Because the cost of wood has become so high here, we are asking for donations toward this endeavor. We can build a chair for $35 and a solid wood table for $75. This means for just over $200, we can purchase the wood, materials, and labor for a whole set for a family four who has lost everything. This continues also to help support Rolando and his family! Would you consider a table, chair, or even a whole set for a family that truly needs it?

We know that everyone has struggled over the last year and a half, and many people are “donated out”, and we understand that completely. If, however, you would like to contribute toward helping a family in Guanaja, they would be incredibly grateful for your help.  Rest assured that your tax-deductible donations will go directly toward the table and chair-building effort, and will result in families in Guanaja receiving, free-of-charge, beautiful and necessary furniture to aid in the rebuilding of their homes and lives. As always, we covet your prayers for all the people of the Bay Islands, and our continuing efforts to help the people of Roatan become self-sustaining. God bless you all! 

an amazing family

It’s been a great summer of growth and organization! The island is finally coming back to life. The ships and tourists are coming and our micro family is breathing a little easier. The greatest growth in our micros is Tropical Wood Works lead by Mindi and managed by Rolando. It is about Rolando and his amazing family that I want brag. Rolando is a 58-year-old master carpenter, our shop manager, our friend, and now, our family. He has a lovely wife Paula(who cooks the best pastelitos and coconut bread on the island) and four beautiful children, Andrea, Mariel, Icar, and Saray.

I met Rolando three years ago when I first came to the island. He is a quiet, unassuming, bilingual man that I instantly liked. Over the years he has built and added onto our shop, made repairs to any number of broken things, translated for us, drove the van, collected bottles for recycling, and the list goes on. He has always done everything asked of him with a quiet pleasantness and small, ever-present smile.

I could not be happier that he now heads the outdoor furniture portion of Tropical Wood Works. Once he started building Adirondack chairs, things really starting moving. People began to see what he could do with a miter saw and suddenly, all kinds of custom requests started coming in. Nearly all of his work has been for island people but we believe we have figured out a way to break down the chairs so they can be taken back to the cruise ship with visiting tourists.

I just wanted to give a shout-out to this lovely man and his amazing family. They have blessed our lives in more ways than I can count. God is good!

We’ve got two going to university!

Hello, friends! As Honduras, along with the rest of the world, begins to slowly open up again and we start to remember what it is like to have a life outside of a global pandemic, we have some very promising and exciting things to share with you! There has been a small uptick in tourism now that flights are regularly scheduled into and out of Roatan, and we are seeing activity in the larger resorts and restaurants. This has eased some of the sheer desperation of many islanders and has provided some jobs again. There are rumors that one cruise line is coming next month. What a blessing!

In addition to opening a retail store for our microindustries, we are very happy to announce a new program to further the education of some of our participants. Full tuition is awarded to attend a local university in an approved major(one that supports the microindustry in which they are working). To qualify, you have to be participating in one of the microindustries we manage for at least a year. To continue to be in the program, you have to maintain an average of 3.0 (B average) and continue to work in the microindusry during degree completion. These are four-year degrees that can truly change the course of the participant’s lives and that of their families and community

Currently, Carmen, the manager for Roatan Glass Art, is taking courses toward a degree in business administration. In addition to keeping RGA running, she has a beautiful seven-year-old daughter named Nahomy. She has been with us for two years and continues to be a strong, unifying presence. She was the right person to have in charge through this very difficult year.

Jessy, the bookkeeper for RGA, Roatan Glass Recycling, and Microindustry Missions Market, is our second participant in this new program. Her degree will be in computer technology. She is the mother of two adorable boys, a twelve-year-old named Jafete and a five-year-old named Isaac. She has been with us from the beginning. Not only is she a reliable bookkeeper but she makes truly beautiful earrings and necklaces with Roatan Glass Art.

We are looking for sponsors to help support these women so they can continue their education for the next four years. We are also establishing a fund to support other hardworking Hondurans to get their degrees as well. The total for four courses being offered to participants cost an average of $125 a month. That amount includes tuition, annual registration, and books. Please help these ladies and others reach their goals of self-sufficiency and higher education.

We continue to Grow…

We are growing! We have already moved to a larger store than we had originally planned – all the way up to 130 sq ft! Woo hoo! Actually, it is exactly the right amount of space to showcase the different microindustries with whom we are currently working. The largest area will be for Roatan Glass Art with their fused creations but we will also have a quill art from one lady, seashell mobiles from another, and lathed woodwork from a third.

In the process of preparing the shell of a store for operation, we discovered the sexton at Emmanuel Episcopal, Rolando, has mad skills as a carpenter (pictured below). This man can build anything. He was the one responsible for building the glass shop itself. In the course of only a few days, he has built rounded shelves and cabinets, painted, and installed them. Guess what? Another microindustry is spinning up. We’ll keep you up to date on his development.

We are also developing a glass recycling program as a pilot at Emmanuel Episcopal. We will initially make scented candles from collected bottles. Next we will get a kiln to firepolish cut bottles for glassware, flatten bottles for cheese trays, and cast crushed glass for wall hangings. Ultimately, we will blow the glass into plates, bowls, glasses, and more. Recycling glass is very much needed on the island now since they are moving about from plastic products. Very exciting stuff.

The Page Turns…

We are happy to report that the government of Honduras didn’t close the borders or reinstitute the lockdown. As the island slowly recovers, the need for providing meals to so many has, thanks be to God, lessened. There is still need but it has been significantly reduced. Because of this, we are, indeed, moving the soup kitchen and its responsibilities over to Emmanuel Episcopal as they complete building a room to act as a community kitchen. We thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts for the donations that helped us prepare over 16,800 meals for those that truly needed it. Now we can return to our original mission – self sustenance.

We are very excited about opening a store in the Macaw Market to sell the products being produced by the microindustries here. Most of the original inventory will be provided by Roatan Glass Art. As you may know, it was started over two years ago and is still hanging in there despite two hurricanes, the pandemic, and the loss of tourism. These are very special ladies that continue to work hard to support their families. Our store, in the pictures below, is a whopping 80 square feet! Yep, most likely your bathroom is larger than this store but it is a place to start. It is in a ‘mall’ of sorts made entirely out of shipping containers. We are one of 28 stores that will market to the locals until tourism returns.

We are also very excited to send two of the ladies that have worked with us for a long time in Roatan Glass Art to the local university. Our manager, Carmen, is going for a degree in business administration and Jessy, our accountant, is going for a degree in computer science. We will be looking for sponsors for these and other members in our microindustries soon. Amazingly, it is only $100 a month for each lady to pursue their educational dream. I am hoping there will be some out there that will help.

We will be changing the website a bit to break out the programs we are supporting. We will describe these programs in detail so you will know where your money is going and what it is doing. Right now we are looking at two fused glass microindustry missions, a wood lathe microindustry, a soap making microindustry, an acrylic painting microindustry, a wind chime microindustry, and a glass recycling microindustry. We are also looking into a tuition program to send members of these groups to specialized education to better their chances at success.

As we begin our new journey in developing the glass recycling shop, soap making, and other crafts and our continued journey in current missions, we hope you will join us in these life-changing projects. We invite you all to come see the difference your prayers and support have made. These are loving, hard working people that only need a little help to make their lives and that of their church and communities better. Join us in the love that Christ shows to all of His children.

Reflecting on the year…

It has certainly been a wild ride this year but things are a little better here. Since we are no longer locked down (at the moment – more on that), islanders are finding ways to make ends meet until tourism returns. There are still a lot of families in need but it is not quite as desperate. If the trend continues, we will scale back on the meals we are serving and move the soup kitchen to another building on the church grounds. We can then refocus our efforts on growing microindustries.

We are very excited to have a new microindustry, Precious Little Things, join us. Stephanie is an islander that makes wind chimes and gift cards from driftwood and shells she finds on the iron shore on the south side of the island. She needed no tools or instruction on how to do what she does but is working with us on marketing and running a retail business. We are very happy for her to join us.

The recycling shop will soon be spinning up as well. All through the pandemic, we have been collecting and cleaning bottles in preparation for the day that we could actually get back to recycling. We will first be cutting the bottles to make glassware, wind chimes, chandeliers, and scented candles. Next, we will blow the recycled glass into plates, bowls, and vases. Finally, we will combine crushed, recycled glass with concrete as an aggregate for pavers and roads. Very exciting stuff.

We are hoping the recovery trend to continue but as of today, the country of Honduras is considering closing the borders once again. The new strain of COVID in the UK has many in the Health Department concerned. They are already restricting travelers coming from the UK and South Africa. They are floating the idea of closing the borders again in January. We were thinking that we could transfer the soup kitchen to the church at the end of the December but if they close the borders, we will be right back having a dire need to feed people. Please pray with us that they do not close them. Thank you for your continued support.

thanksgiving… truly

Thanksgiving is just behind us but the gratitude for the support being shown for us remains. First, I’d like to thank the United Thank Offering (UTO), the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras, the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, and Trinity Episcopal Church of Hattiesburg for getting me here. With a combined effort of all of these, I was able to move here and get established as an ‘on the ground’ missionary to develop microindustries so that people here could support themselves. What that became was a life-saving mission to feed starving people in the wake of a pandemic and two hurricanes. This was truly a ‘God thing’.

Second, I like to thank those that continue to step up when we run low on money in the soup kitchen. We had a few large donations and many smaller. We had several that were made in celebration of the life of one the of soup kitchen founders, Doug Geddes. We had a large donation made because of the number of children we are feeding. Other donations were made by lovers of Roatan and the Honduran people and still others friends supporting friends doing God’s work. I love you all.

Third, I’d like to thank the whole team down here.  Emmanuel Episcopal with Father Nelson, Revda Kara, and Father Bob are our hosts on the island.  It is on that property that we built the recycling-shop-turned-soup-kitchen.  They have supported the microindustry mission from the beginning and now this soup kitchen.  I am also thankful for the community volunteers that come to cook, work, and serve as well as the expats that do the same.  I am also very thankful for the addition of two more missionaries, Mindi and Natalia.  The fact that we have actually grown during all this is nothing short of a miracle.

Last, I thank God every single day for this life. I feel like I am where He wants me to be doing what He wants me to do. I have so much love and purpose in my life that it humbles me. I never dared dream that life could be so good. God bless and thank you all.

Like we didn’t already have enough problems…

As I am writing this, we are in the middle of our second hurricane in as many weeks. This one is twice the size of the last one. We were already in pretty poor shape but this is catastrophic. Homes and bridges on the mainland are being washed away, food supplies are being wiped out, and people are dying.

We won’t be able to safely cook and distribute the food this week and we are running very short on funds. Food prices are rising because the infrastructure of the mainland is compromised and the weather is hindering ships delivering scarely available supplies to the islands. Our vegetable supplies were 30% more expensive last week than they were the week before the first hurricane. No idea how much higher prices will be after this week. We may have to switch to canned meats and vegetables.

There have already been a few lovely people donating to help us out in the last few days but we are nearly out of funds to feed people that may not even have a dry floor on which to sleep for weeks to come. People already battling COVID-19 and the devastation of the last hurricane are going to be getting sick from the foul, standing water, lack of decent food, and insufficient medical care. Our brothers and sisters are in a desperate and life threatening situation. Please help however you can. God bless you all.

A New Missionary and a New Hurricane? Coincidence? I Think not…

We are growing! Teach Them To Fish is proud to announce an addition to our ministry of one Natalia Walsh. Natalia has hit the ground running. She is already in the kitchen helping to cook, out on the line serving, and meeting with the local priests and pastors about program opportunities. She has been teaching and ministering on mainland Honduras in the Copan region for the last five years. Welcome Ms. Natalia!

And yes, we have hurricane Eta heading this way. Although not particularly a worry for structural damage here from wind, it will dump a tremendous amount of rain on islands and the country if it follows the predicted path and timeline. Mudslides are almost guaranteed with that kind of rain causing a multitude of problems when there is only one main road.

We have now served over 12,000 meals… Praise God! We are most certainly not going to be able to serve this week but we have steadily fed between 600 and 700 a week from your generous donations. We are hoping that we will be able to serve again next week. Statistically, it appears that 400 of the 600 being fed are children of less than 10 years old. Please keep us in your prayers and consider donating to help them. This storm is going to further strain the scarce resources we have on the island.

You’ll Have to Forgive me…

I am sorry I could not write this entry any sooner but my heart simply could not take it. We have lost one of our very own in a tragic and senseless way. Doug Geddes was one of my best friends on the island. He was central to my everyday life. He helped to start and sustain the soup kitchen. He was in my bible study group and church group. He was a dive buddy every Thursday and took the most beautiful pictures of the dives we made together. We all could relive those dives from his pictures. We talked about future projects and fishing trips. And now he is gone. It took 11 days from being healthy to leaving this Earth. If you even suspect that you have the virus, get a test, if not for your own sake, get it for those you love.

As the outpouring of love comes to his wife, Susan, and his kids, I am astounded at how many have said, ‘He was my best friend’. I have always thought that phrase engendered some kind of exclusivity. I thought if he was my best friend that I was his. It turns out he was THE best friend to many. He was just that kind of a man. He made you feel loved, significant, and somehow proud that a man like that could be your best friend. What a rare quality it is for a human to possess. I can only hope that I can learn some of how to do that before it is my time.

The soup kitchen that he helped create is doing a little better, financially, after our last appeal for donations but more is needed if we want to continue to serve. Doug was also our largest fundraiser and safety officer. We are still feeding between 600 and 700 people a week as the situation here becomes even more dire. Two other people in our group have tested positive and have been quarantined. Everyone else has tested negative so we have continued cooking and serving with even tighter safety measures.

It now makes me quite angry when someone minimizes the effects of this deadly virus. It has claimed one of mine and I will never be the same. If this sounds like I am taking this personally, I am. Please wear a mask and keep your distance. Do this for the health of other people, the ones that can’t overcome it.

Please keep Susan, Doug’s family, and all of his friends in your prayers. We are all devasted by his loss.