Helping Hands: Summit teens learn life lessons in Honduras

Kathryn Turner
Summit Daily News
Special to the Daily Summit students digging a pipeline in El Cedral, Honduras for a new school's septic system during their recent trip with local nonprofit Summit in Honduras.

Soon-to-be Summit High School senior Sam Piehl couldn’t put his shovel down for more than 5 seconds during his recent trip to Honduras, where he was busy digging ditches for a soon-to-be school’s septic system.

If he did, the village children would come running over and try to take it. Not to keep, but because they wanted to dig and help their visitors. One local boy named Eddie, about 5, particularly stuck in Piehl’s mind.

“He would follow us around everywhere and just smile,” Piehl said. “He couldn’t even lift up one of the shovels, but he would try.”

Piehl was one of six teens who went on the recent week-long Summit in Honduras trip. For the organization – a humanitarian medical and educational outreach to very remote, poor villages in the country – this is the second year it has hosted SHS students. Organization founder Maggie Ducayet said last year’s youth trip was just so amazing, and so life-changing for the students (two switched their life directions, and decided to pursue medical careers and volunteerism afterward, Ducayet said), that it has become a priority.

“I honestly believe that this generation coming up can change the world, but how can they change the world if they don’t know what it is?” Ducayet said. “(The students) get down and they’re overwhelmed with the poverty, and see these people who are incredibly happy … (the locals) have so little, and have such incredible joy.”

On this year’s trip – which departed the day after school got out – the students helped in the initial building of a new school (which right now is just a shell, Ducayet said), gave out school supplies, and overall just bonded with the locals. The soccer games were one of Piehl’s favorite parts of the trip.

“When we finished working every day in this little village, we got to play soccer with the kids,” he said. “They totally destroyed us.”

Overall, the trip was eye-opening for Piehl, who said he went because he has never strayed far from Breckenridge, and he wanted to experience, and assist in, another part of the world. The culture, the language, their sayings, and even their shops are different, he said.

“It’s amazing to see people with giant pot bellies because they don’t have enough to eat,” Piehl said.

This year’s trip was the second for student Emily Hrycaj. Last year, she was able to spend a lot of time practicing her Spanish, and was shown that the kids there are happy with less than what Americans have.

“This year, I learned more life lessons,” she said. “Like how fortunate I am to live in a place where people dream about moving to in order to make a better life for themselves.”

A couple of the men they met had traveled to the United States to make money for their families, Hrycaj said. Another man, a youth pastor, kept saying it was his biggest dream in the world to travel to the U.S.

This was also the second trip for SHS Spanish and French teacher Susan Mocatta. Since last year’s trip, Hrycaj has “blossomed,” and taken on different leadership roles at school, she said.

“I think the biggest thing they get out of it is they start to learn how powerful as leaders they really are,” Mocatta said. “They’re able to use their Spanish, and they’re able to touch the lives of others.”

Villagers made lunch for their visitors – despite the fact that they don’t have much, Ducayet said – wrote thank-you notes, gave them Honduran flag keychains, and “serenaded us with songs and showered us with gifts giving us endless thanks for coming to help,” Hrycaj said. “Just being in Honduras, was reason enough to smile the whole week.”

The whole experience was full of bonding moments that the students will never forget, Ducayet said, something that helps make the SHS trip so important.

“It’s a priority now,” she said. “It was so incredibly good last year, and so incredibly good this year.”

There will be a benefit for the Summit In Honduras projects from 7-11 p.m., June 23 at the Copper Mountain Conference Center. The Walker Williams Band will provide live entertainment, and light food will be provided. There will also be a silent auction. Proceeds will go to the organization’s medical and educational projects in Honduras.

Tickets are $22 in advance, $27 at the door and $200 for a table for 10.

To purchase tickets, go to or call Janet at (609) 937-7673, or Mary Grace at (940) 642-7345.

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