Leaving Her Heart in Honduras: Colette Eustace '15 Brings Hope and Help to Children
On her first trip to Honduras in January with Students Helping Honduras, Colette Eustace and students from other universities dug the foundation and put up walls for three classrooms in a new elementary school. After her group left, other students came and plastered the walls.
"They already had classrooms for kindergarten and grades one and two. We built new classrooms so these children could move up," says Colette with pride. "And there's still the roof to do."
When completed, the building will be the 12th such school in a country desperate for resources to educate its children, many of whom are orphaned and living in poverty.
Joining Students Helping Honduras has been a life-changing experience for Colette. An economics and sociology major with a minor in international studies, Colette has now taken three trips to Honduras with the international organization and is president of its Stony Brook chapter.
"When I first came to Stony Brook, I didn't have any idea what I wanted to do," says Colette, who is from West Babylon. "But as I took sociology classes and started to open up my mind, I began to think very differently about the world and the things that I took for granted."
Colette discovered the club by accident. She originally had been interested in another club, but when no one showed up she wandered into the office to ask if the meeting had been canceled. It turned out that the quad director was the advisor for Students Helping Honduras, which was meeting in another room. Colette, who'd been looking for an opportunity to travel and get involved in a volunteer effort, decided to attend and knew immediately that this was what she'd been looking for.
"It was the greatest thing," says Colette. "I cried my entire way home."
he organization, which centers its activities on fundraising and site trips to Villa Soleada ("Village of Sunshine") in Honduras, has built a children's home and a home for volunteers in addition to the schools. It has also introduced fuel-efficient stoves, sustainable water systems and training for women to develop their own businesses.
Colette's most recent trip in July was for a leadership summit to train chapter presidents how to hold successful fundraisers and run their groups. Twenty-eight students from various universities attended. Last year the Stony Brook chapter raised $5,000 and brought in donations of toys and school supplies, which Colette carried to Honduras herself. This year the group hopes to raise $25,000.
Colette was recently named a JFEW (Jewish Foundation for Education of Women) Scholar in International Relations and Global Affairs, which enabled her to add a second major in economics that will prepare her for a career in international economic development. As part of the scholarship, Colette will attend monthly seminars and participate next summer in a New York City internship focusing on global affairs.
"Being a part of Students Helping Honduras has been remarkable," she says. "I've met people from all over the country, made really great friends. Before I went, I had an idea of what I wanted to do with my life, but this has helped me develop a better plan of how to do it." Her goal: to work in economic development and microfinancing so she can help Hondurans start up small businesses.
"Just seeing these children a few times, I feel so close to them," says Colette. "I miss them and I think about them every day. And they motivate me to keep working hard. I'm thinking of joining the Peace Corps or perhaps starting a similar organization in another area of Honduras. But I definitely want to keep going back to Honduras. I am going again, many more times, forever."
Stony Brook's chapter of Students Helping Honduras meets on Tuesdays at 7:00 pm, beginning September 10 in room 236 of the Stony Brook Union. -Toby Speed