I was 14 and blinded. When my family and I landed in Roatan, Honduras, I was looking for romance, relaxation, and a tan. I was not looking for a life changing, mindset altering, adventure. Little did I know, I was about to be exposed to the most moving scenes in my life that would start me on a 3 year path in charity work.
After our first day at the Henry Morgan, a quaint resort in West Bay Roatan, I learned my expectations were too high. I burnt rather than tanned. It turned out that a 14 year old girl with braces and acne would not steal the hearts of many men. Luckily, I did manage to relax on the gorgeous white sand beaches.
One day, we decided to rent a taxi to show us the island for a day. After his car rumbled up, we hopped in and saw the sites of Roatan. He took us to beautiful secluded beaches no one knew about. He drove us to the West End town, where we indulged in delicious Mama Roatan smoothies and shopping. But he also took us to the impoverished places and told us about the horrors this beautiful island faces.
We saw the Roatan Children’s Home, the island orphanage, and learned about the many cases of abuse, poverty, and disease that take parents from these children far too soon. We drove through towns with houses made out of cardboard and materials not meant for building. We visited the Guarifuna village, where the island’s highest illiteracy rates reside. It was eye opening and shocking. How could a place so beautiful suffer so much? What stood out to me were the smiles on the faces of every single islander. No matter how bad they had it, they always had a smile and an optimistic disposition.
I was stunned, shocked, and inspired. I knew I had to make a difference somehow. This was the trip that inspired me to start my own charity that focused on Central America. I titled it Little Known Help Zone, and I vowed to make a difference. Without Roatan, I would not have been able to make the Christmases of 22 orphans in La Ceiba, Honduras. I would not have been able to deliver life saving medications to animals in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. I would not have been able to send school supplies to the orphans of Roatan. Without that trip, I would have been just another girl lost in the shuffle of boys and twitter. Now, I face every day with an optimistic disposition and a mindset searching for new ways to help people.
I have traveled many places and have learned many things, but this revelation was by far the most important. When traveling, it is most important to keep your eyes open. Look for ways you can help, and the warmth you enjoy on the beach will transfer to warm your heart.
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