The President's Post
Sheree and I recently returned from a week in Central America
where we traveled with Rickey and Lisa Casey. We were in Honduras, El
Salvador, and Nicaragua to visit Walton Scholar alumni, meet new students
and their parents, and attend two seminars. In this issue, I want to
share our impressions of Honduras after Hurricane Mitch. In the next
issue I will highlight our travel to El Salvador and Nicaragua.
We visited Honduras last year
and were interested in returning again to see, firsthand, the effects
of the hurricane. We stayed in Tegucigalpa, the capital, and were given
a tour of the city by two of our Walton alumni: Maritza Ortez ('91),
whose husband is Juan ('91), and Cinthia Lopez ('98). The devastation
caused by Mitch is beyond my descriptive abilities.
Tegucigalpa endured three years of rain in four days,
and many neighborhoods are now mud and rubble. Commercial buildings
and businesses remain empty, having been damaged by the floods and then
looted. Many in the area have been without electricity since the hurricane.
Tens of thousands of people are homeless, and the fortunate ones are
living in over-crowded, temporary shelters with no running water or
bathroom facilities. Twelve thousand people are still unaccounted for.
Cars and trucks, twisted around poles and trees like garbage bag ties,
remain as reminders of the water's frantic force.
In spite of the human loss and property destruction,
people are positive and optimistic. A day's work might involve a wheelbarrow
removal of several square feet of mud, laying a few rows of brick or
stone, pouring a fresh slab of gritty cement, or repairing a hundred
feet of electrical wire. These are small steps toward rebuilding, but
progress nonetheless. The country's leaders estimate that it will be
at least 20 years before Honduras is back to what it was before Mitch.
Our campus relief effort has helped a great deal.
Part of the money we raised was taken to Honduras by our students over
the Christmas break. During our visit, I was able to present Honduran
Alumni Association with a check for $8,500. The members will distribute
the money to our current students and alumni with the greatest need.
Still, a shortage of food remains the critical concern, and we cannot
forget the Honduran People and their urgent needs.
I do not know if we can fully comprehend the years
of hardship the people of Honduras are facing. I do not know how all
of us would manage in a similar situation. I do not know if we realize
how truly blessed we are in this country and on this campus. I do know,
however, that the future of Central America is in the excellent hands
of our Walton Scholars. They will return to their countries ready to
contribute in so many positive ways. All of us can feel proud about
the role we are playing in their education.
And that, my friends, is what this campus and its mission are all about.
Rick Niece, Ph.D.