Each spring, Tom Newcomb, president of Corporate Dining Inc., an Ohio-based foodservice consulting firm, takes part in a trip that brings 30 to 35 high school students to Honduras to help build homes for an orphanage. Newcomb told FSD about how these trips have impacted his outlook on what is really important in life.
“Ten years ago, my daughters’ high school started taking service trips to central Honduras, where their school had connected with this organization called Sociedad Amigos de los Niños [which, according to its website, provides shelter and safety for Honduras’ vulnerable children]. My eldest daughter first went as a junior. Since then, all of my family has gone, most of them twice. I’m headed back on my fifth trip this spring break.
This particular service trip is based around construction. We build houses for the organization’s orphanage, Nuevo Paraíso. The kids at the orphanage are set up in about 10 or 12 houses. Each house at the orphanage houses about 10 kids, from infants to 15- or 16-year-old girls and 12- or 13-year-old boys. The houses are in pretty rough shape. Each year they tear one down, and we build a new one. It’s construction work from the day we get there to the day we leave. It’s a 10-day trip. We put the kids into work groups and we build foundations, paint buildings, mix cement, build systems—whatever is available to do. We do as much as we can in that 10-day period. We take about 30 to 35 students and 10 adults.
One year our group funded a new hogar or house for the children. It was a several-year process. Over time, our students dug the foundation holes and poured the foundation for the entire house. A year later they watched the first children move in. It was a moment that made all of our hearts feel we had done the right thing.
I got off the bus on my third visit and a fourth-grader, Darci, came up to me and asked [in Spanish] if my two daughters, Corey and Hannah, were with me that year. That, a year later, he had remembered their names, told me how important the high school students’ presence is in the lives of the children.
It’s a great experience for our students. I tell all the parents to take a good look at the kids when the go because they are a little bit different when they get back. They are more grown-up, and they’ve seen a little bit more of the world. When they return they have a different view of life and the value of material things. To watch how hard our kids work and how connected they get to the kids at the orphanage is incredible.
I think from a personal standpoint, I get really connected to the kids at the orphanage, especially the young ones. Those are kids that we can help. They didn’t ask for their situation. I walk away with more than I left behind. It’s nice because someone puts a shovel in my hand and then for 10 days no one asks me for anything. There are no cell phones or email, and most of the time there is no power. It’s a great sense of peace. You just really walk away saying, ‘I really helped here.’”