Storytelling theater benefits Summit in Honduras goals
September 23, 2010
Summit in Honduras began about five years ago in Summit County, in an effort to help impoverished families and children in rural Honduras.
StoryVoices started in California, with four award-winning actors’ desire to inspire adults in the United States.
Saturday, the two groups partner to raise funds to build a school in Honduras – while inspiring the audience at Breckenridge Theatre.
The four women of StoryVoices will present “Shades of Green,” an hour exploration about people’s connection to the Earth and its place in space. The show features vignettes, or stories, about such things as wildlife encounters, ecology, outdoor adventure and what water (and a lack of) means. The production begins with an original, opening song, then segues from one story to another with transitional songs or quotes. Overall, it honors the delicate web of life in “steamy jungles and ancient forests, verdant wetlands and snowy mountains,” said Kathleen Schnobrich, who originally saw the group in California before inviting them to Summit.
Two pieces feature all four women. One revolves around a fable they wrote, called “The Greedy King,” based on Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong’s bird massacre (because he believed sparrows ate seeds, which disrupted agriculture production; later, he discovered sparrows ate insects more than seeds, but it was too late. The lack of birds caused a rise in locust populations, which contributed to the Great Chinese Famine). The second vignette revolves around trees, and the Chipko movement, which occurred in 1730 in India to save trees in the Himalaya.
“We wanted to explore not environmental issues but our connection to Earth and what that means,” said Jan Ahders, director of StoryVoices.
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The stories range from Monty Python’s funny song about the universe to poignant tales.
“Our mission is to set adults on fire,” she said. “One of the things we try to do as we take adults on this journey is to give them things that will make them laugh, make their heart open and make them think.”
“Shades of Green,” which premiered a couple of weeks ago, is the company’s seventh production. In 2008, StoryVoices performed “Open Ticket” in Summit County to raise funds for a school in Nuevas Delicias, Honduras.
“It was so successful that the villagers and Summit County volunteers completed the school in the winter of 2009,” Schnobrich said.
While supplies for building a school in Honduras usually range in cost from $10,000 to $15,000, this time it will cost about $20,000 to $22,000, said Maggie Ducayet, executive director of the nonprofit Summit in Honduras.
The village the organization is raising funds for sits on top of a mountain near the Guatemalan border. Even when the roads are good (and not washed out), burros are still needed to carry supplies for the last half mile. The village only has 14 houses, but multiple generations live in them, resulting in approximately 60 children who have never had the opportunity to receive an education. Summit in Honduras just completed a water project, with help of a Rotary grant, bringing water to the village that otherwise had none. When residents asked for a school, Ducayet said they would only do it if the government guaranteed teachers.
Previously, the nonprofit had purchased radios for kids to listen to educational programming, but the government didn’t follow through and deliver the programs. So this time, Ducayet made sure she got a signature and stamp from the government, which she has learned means a solid promise.
Then, on the following trip, last June, a 76-year-old man endured a three-hour walk down the mountain to “sign” his pledge to donate land for the school. As he placed his fingerprint in a stamp pad, he said he was illiterate and that he didn’t want any child in his town to grow up without knowing how to read or write, Ducayet said.
Summit in Honduras will hire an engineer and master mason to oversee the project and also will buy supplies, but the villagers are the ones who actually build the school.
“They really take ownership and incredible pride,” she said.
Saturday, she hopes to raise $3,000 to $5,000 as seed money to start the school.
“One of the wonderful things about living in Summit County is people here are incredibly generous,” she said. “I’m always humbled by people’s generosity.”
And, it’s coming at a time when Summit in Honduras is getting it dialed in: It has taken a few years to establish itself as a trustworthy organization. Now, the Honduras government, hospitals and other nonprofits partner with Summit in Honduras, which has raised money to buy medical and school supplies, as well as build a clinic and school.
“Honduras is overlooked as far as aid,” Ducayet said. “After Haiti, it’s the second or third poorest country in our hemisphere.”
Summit in Honduras works with villagers to make what they do sustainable.
“When we walk away, we want them to be self-sufficient, and we’re seeing that happening,” she said.
But that doesn’t mean the organization is stopping its good deeds any time soon.
“We come back from every trip with ideas,” she said, explaining that volunteers help one village, then realize another, maybe 10 miles down the road, needs assistance. “It’s a lifetime commitment. Hopefully it will get passed on …”
Normally, 10-15 people travel to Honduras. Up to 25 have gone, but Ducayet found that such a large number tends to overwhelm townspeople and prevent personal interaction, so she prefers more frequent trips with smaller groups.
“Great friendships have been established,” she said. “We’re away for three to four months, and it’s like seeing your best friend.”
A seven- to 10-day trip costs $1,000, with airfare, food and hotel, and Summit in Honduras can help raise money for an individual’s ticket.
“The trips are life-changing,” she said. “You come back with a different perspective, with a little more compassion, a little more humbled and in awe of the life we have.
“Our work continues on. Small things make a huge difference if they’re done with love.”