Note: This is the latest in the series of ARA Foundation spotlights on the philanthropic efforts of those within the rental industry, volunteer endeavors that will be further highlighted during October when the ARA Foundation celebrates ARA Makes a Difference in Your Community Month. If you have a story about how you give your time and talents to help others, please send an email to Jenni Venema, ARA Foundation director of development, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include details on how you, your company and your employees volunteer in your community. Pictures also are welcome.
First there were the long bus rides into the mountains of Honduras on rough, dangerous roads — more the size of walking paths than roads that can handle a large bus with 20 people on board — doctors, nurses and volunteers carrying medicine and portable medical equipment. As they moved up the mountainous terrain, they noticed that part of the road had been washed away due to a nearby waterfall. The driver made a hairpin turn to avoid part of the washed-out road and parked in the only space available — a small patch of dirt that held three of the vehicles’ rear tires, with one hanging off the cliff.
Then, once they were nearly to the Nicaraguan border, the team was escorted by military officers to ensure that rebel forces did not rob or kidnap any members of the team.
Willie Strange, owner of Eagle Rentals in Seguin, Texas, never thought she was the adventuresome type, but her second trip to Honduras this past June as part of a medical mission team sponsored by her local Episcopal church demonstrated otherwise.
To Strange, it was all worth it because of the work the team was sent to do: offer desperately needed dental and medical care to the men, women and children who live in these remote Honduran villages.
Strange became involved with this team of dedicated volunteers through her involvement with Habitat for Humanity. Strange knew a local businesswoman who was helping organize these medical and dental mission trips to Honduras. “I told her that I would go if she would serve on our Habitat board,” she says.
At that time, Strange was not exactly sure what she was getting into. Without speaking any Spanish and never having been out of the country, she went to Honduras for 10 days. It was a trip that changed her life.
So, when the church organized another team to go in June, she immediately signed up. “I still didn’t speak any Spanish, but I didn’t need to. A hug and a smile says more than any words. The moms, kids and I would laugh and smile. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t speak the same language,” she says.
Strange did try to communicate in the Hondurans’ native tongue. She even took her iPhone, wrote in words and phrases, and tried to pronounce the translated words, but as one elderly Honduran gentleman said through a translator, “Spanish will never come out of her mouth.”
“I ended up showing them the translated words that displayed on my iPhone,” Strange says with a laugh.
Even though she did not master Spanish, she offered valuable help, organizing the throngs of people who came to the clinics that were set up in the village schools or in almost-“M*A*S*H”- type portable medical facilities. “We were seeing 700 people a day, several of whom were in their 90s, with one person 104 years old. Some people walked 4½ miles to get medical treatment. If we couldn’t fit them in on the day they arrived, they slept there overnight until we could see them the next day,” Strange says.
The best part, Strange says, was returning to two of the villages she visited a year ago. “They remembered us and came over and hugged us. They were talking in one language and me in another, but it didn’t matter. We were so glad to see each other,” she says.
“All of that is amazing to me,” Strange adds. “They are so thankful. It was so neat.”