“Having mirrors is something we take for granted,” said Shannon Maitland. “They are everywhere you go, so not seeing them anywhere in Monte Verde (Honduras) was something I noticed right away. So much in our society is focused on appearance. We do a lot of ‘judging a book by its cover.’ Without mirrors and ‘selfies’ the focus really becomes looking within and getting to know people for who they are.”
“I honestly didn’t miss being without my cell phone (for ten days),” added Jordan Augustine. “I thought it was great. We all did, really.”
Jordan Augustine and Shannon Maitland were among eight Althoff Catholic students who traveled to the remote village of Monte Verde in Honduras for their senior service project. In addition to serving alongside their fellow Crusaders, Jordan and Shannon had the unique opportunity to serve with family members. Jordan was joined by his older sister, Jessica, a registered nurse, and Shannon was accompanied by her mom, Dede (Althoff Catholic Class of 1981).
Going to Honduras was something Shannon described as a dream that she’s had for seven years. “My friend’s older sister went on the trip in 2009 and I’ve known since then that I wanted to go, too.”
“In talking with friends who have been, it is remarkable to see how much progress has been made in the village over the last ten years. Our kids have helped the people of Monte Verde with a variety of construction projects, including building a pastoral center,” said Dede Maitland.
Sister Mary Kennedy, a 1974 graduate of Althoff Catholic, has been ministering to the people of Honduras for more than 30 years. Each year our students have had the invaluable opportunity to be inspired by her work. “Sister Mary is amazing—she’s like their Mother Teresa,” said Jordan Augustine. “She gets things done and you can tell she loves the people she serves – she wants the best for them. We brought a lot of donations with us. It was interesting to see how Sr. Mary didn’t want to just give people what we brought. She had a process in place that allowed them to purchase the items in a way that gave them a great sense of pride and accomplishment.”
Co-ops are an important part of life in the village. Althoff Catholic students and their chaperones had the opportunity to work hands-on in the bakery, sewing and coffee co-ops. They helped bake cookies and even picked coffee. Jordan and Shannon both noticed even the simplest tasks involved a process and required a lot of effort on the part of the community.
At first, the children in the village were astounded by Jordan’s height and Shannon’s blonde hair. “They were a little apprehensive at first,” said Shannon, “but it didn’t take long for us to become friends. The kids were amazing! At first it was difficult to communicate. A little boy named Melvin and I became fast friends. He helped me with my Spanish. They were overjoyed by the simplest things and opportunities, like painting pictures and rocks. They could do it all day and not get bored. Making necklaces out of beads was such a big deal to them.”
“I have loved (American) football for as long as I can remember,” said Jordan. “The kids have a similar passion for ‘futbol.’ They will take anything round and play for hours. It was a lot of fun playing with them. I brought a football with me and tossed it around with a little guy named Hector.” Shannon was also amazed seeing the kids play ball. “I have always taken being able to play club and school soccer for granted. The kids we met play every chance they get, barefoot on a dirt field with a makeshift ball,” said Shannon. “From now on, every time I lace up my cleats and take the field I will think of my friends in Honduras.”
“The adults and the kids have a great sense of determination,” said Jordan. “They overcome what we would consider great obstacles to perform even the simplest tasks. One of the men walked eight hours one-way just to attend a church meeting. Getting to know the people of Monte Verde changed my perspective without a doubt. My struggles are so insignificant compared to theirs. They almost seem like blessings now.”
In the evenings our students entertained themselves the “old-fashioned” way. They talked face-to-face and played card games, like “spoons” with one another. “We laughed so hard,” said Shannon. “I felt like we really got to know each other on another level. We all liked being without our cell phones, televisions and computers. The whole experience changed my perspective and broadened my horizons. I feel like being in Honduras has made me a better person. I want to spend time getting to know more people, even those I wouldn’t normally connect with. This experience taught me that you really can’t judge a book by its cover and that’s something I’ll carry with me throughout the rest of my life.”
Both Shannon and Jordan agreed that they would go back to Honduras in a heartbeat and would encourage their fellow Crusaders to take the opportunity to go. “I have always wanted to do something like this,” said Jordan’s sister, Jessica. “I never had the chance when I was in high school. Althoff Catholic made this opportunity so easy. I am glad Jordan chose to go and that I could go with him. This experience brought us closer together as siblings.”
Shannon’s mom, Dede, agreed that it was a great experience. “To be honest, my initial decision to go (to Honduras) was based on not wanting Shannon to be there without a parent. For so many reasons, I am so glad I went. It was great to witness Shannon and her friends immerse themselves so fully in this service experience. I plan to go back next year as a chaperone.”
Jordan Augustine is a member of Saint Peter and Paul parish in Waterloo and is a graduate of Waterloo Junior High School. At Althoff Catholic, Jordan plays football and is involved in National Honor Society, FCA, Rotary, Soup Bus, Engineering Club and Crusader Cru. Jordan has signed with McKendree University to play football. He is undecided on a major.
Shannon Maitland is a member of Cathedral parish and a graduate of Cathedral Grade School. At Althoff Catholic, she plays soccer and is involved in Student Council, National Honor Society, Rotary, Crusader Cru, A.C.E. (Althoff Catholic Enrichment), and Student Ambassadors. Shannon signed with “Ole Miss” (University of Mississippi) to play soccer. She plans to major in biology.