Monday, May 11, 2009

Students Helping Honduras

CNN helped to introduce us to a charity that helps to fight poverty in Honduras. Students Helping Honduras has chapters at several college campuses to raise money for development projects in the country.

Co-Founder Shin Fujiyama was profiled for CNN's story. Our snippet of the printed story begins with a trip to Honduras that served as inspiration to Fujiyama. The video of CNN's story follows our snippet.

Today, his organization, Students Helping Honduras, brings education and community projects to children and families in need through student service trips and fundraisers.

"Seeing the country and being able to make a difference really opened my eyes to a lot of things," he says. "I saw such a great need. I wanted to keep helping."

He started by telling his friends about his experience and collecting spare change at his two campus jobs, but Fujiyama found that organizing other students didn't happen so easily.

"When I had my very first meeting, I got all dressed up. And only two people showed up," he says. "I knew I had to keep fighting."

Students Helping Honduras is working with community members of Siete de Abril to build a new village. Many of the families lost their belongings to Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

"A lot of them are single mothers. They don't own the land. They all live in cardboard houses. They don't have access to clean water [or] health care, and they didn't have a school," Shin Fujiyama says.

Fujiyama's group helped villagers purchase a new plot of land to rebuild. Its members have helped build 44 homes in the village that has been newly named Villa Soleada ("Sunshine Village"). The organization also is raising funds to build a water tower, an eco-friendly sanitation system and a library and to help provide electricity.

For Fujiyama, who deferred medical school to dedicate himself to his mission in Honduras, the lifestyle is a far cry from private practice, but he says he loves what he is doing.

"I feel like we're making a huge impact. Some people might think that you have to be somebody famous or a millionaire or a doctor to do something," he says. "But we're just everyday students -- people in their 20s. We can do so much. We've got so many things going for us. ... It's just about leveraging what we have. And we have done a great job at that."

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