The Rotary Club of the Abingtons recently sponsored our past president Attorney Roger Mattes on a trip to Honduras. He was part of a work force to make life better for some of the poverty-stricken people who live there.
The Republic of Honduras is a Central American country with lovely Caribbean Sea coastlines to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. It is a tropical rain forest and has an abundant array of unique plant and animal life. Years ago, Mayans lived in the area and left important hieroglyphics. Eight million people live there today, most in severe poverty. Their native language is Spanish.
Mattes was part of a three-part work force that had been coming and going to Honduras for months.
The first group of volunteers consisted of medical professionals who specialize in care of the eye. Opthomologists, nurses, recorders, interpreters and others arrived with eye-testing equipment in Honduras many months before Roger got there. Their mission was to evaluate the eyes of the 1,100 students in a school and document who needed glasses.
In addition to the students, several small towns surrounding the school set up temporary exam centers and any adult who wanted to be evaluated could do so at no cost. Eyes of the students and adults were examined and results showed that many would see better if they had glasses. Secretaries took all this information down, noting the contact information of each person, what prescription glasses they needed and giving them a choice of the kind of frames they might like to have.
With all the examinations completed, the first group of people left Honduras and returned to America.
The prescriptions were given to another group of professional eyeglass makers with instructions on the making of the glasses. This group of volunteers made the precise corrective glasses and fitted them into the desired frames, labeling each pair with the correct person so that everyone who needed glasses in that school and those surrounding towns would be able to see life better.
This second group of professional volunteers did not go to Honduras but was an intricate part of the success of the mission.
Mattes was part of the third group of volunteers. Those people arrived in Texas from all over America and traveled together for the long plane trip. Not only were there volunteers on the eye mission, but others left their own jobs and comfortable houses and were going to Honduras to build an elementary school.
On the very day they arrived, they all went to work. Those set for building were shown the poorly laid out area and the rude tools they would need to build the school. They soon began digging and placing cinder blocks for the foundation of the school in the heat of the day, almost 100 degrees.
Mattes’ group of volunteers had with them the prescriptive eyeglasses. A Honduras guide, who was the interpreter, went with the group to the school where the children anxiously awaited their glasses. Mattes saw a small boy, holding his mother’s hand and stumbling toward him. This child had no vision at all. Mattes took out the pair of glasses that had been made for the boy and, for the first time ever, the little boy saw his mother’s face.
It was a startling moment for Mattes to be part of this remarkable scene and to watch this little boy look around in wonder at his world. It was a moment fixed forever in Mattes’ heart.
The next step after fitting each school child with glasses was to go to the surrounding towns. When they arrived in the van, the whole town was there waiting for them, yelling and clapping with happiness. Smiles were big, laughter was plentiful as the recipients fitted themselves with their new glasses and gratefully applauded the volunteers.
As Mattes left Honduras after a week of work, he passed by the area that had been just a small piece of discarded land and noted with pride the work of the volunteer builders. The walls were up, the roof was on and a makeshift school was ready to start.
Best of all, one small blind boy in Honduras could see it.