Richard Hile


As Interviewed by Harrison Kuczaj, March 24, 2012

Richard Hile: In His Own Words

Iím Richard Hile, Iím 62 yrs. old.

I first became involved about 5 years ago when I decided to join a mission trip with the Tarrytown Methodist Church to the state of Olochio and Rancho Laprecia, which is a ranch, owned by Honduran outreach in that region.

Well, you can see tangibly that there are effects on the people that you are providing goods and services for in that region. My work is primarily involved in construction and most of thatís involved in building furniture for small schools, kindergartens that are located in the valley, and so you actually get to see the tangible results once you finish the construction of chairs. We might build, say, 50 chairs for kindergartens, and we take them out into the remote areas and there will be a little school in about 25 feet by 20 feet in a rectangular shaped bldg, and the walls are Ĺ way up are concrete or mud, and then the next 5 feet up is open air or screened in area, so you actually get to deliver the furniture to these remote areas. And you see the children as they come out of the areas where they live, and you immediately have that opportunity to see the gratification from their perspective.

You fly into Honduras and then you drive about 4 hrs. The first day to Hudicapa, spend the night, and then drive another 4 hrs of which once you leave Hudicapa, you leave the really more industrialized to the extent there is any industry in the more developed areas of Honduras and you get back in to the mountains. And after you drive for about 2 hours, you top a mountain and you start coming into a valley thatís at the base of the mountain. And thatís where the ranch is located, and the work is performed in that area.

Itís a very poor area; most of itís agrarian. Thereís an agricultural basis, and then some cattle, and finally you see some types of industry. Most of itís wood related because there are a pretty good timber in the area and lot of sawmills in that area. So to the extent that there is any manufacturing in the area, most of it is wood and wood related products.

Can you name anything you think attributes to the poverty of this country?

Well, first and foremost would be the lack of education, and thatís really what drew our church, and I think the Honduran outreach, initially was the fact that there was no developed educational system in that part of the country. And so about 15 to 16 yrs ago, they decided to go in and initially did some non related educational programs, but as they became involved it became one of the bigger projects was to try to develop a skilled education system throughout that particular valley. So the first step was to start developing kindergartens. There was not a single kindergarten in that state when they started, and now there are 45 kindergartens, and thereís middle school, and ultimately, they hope to have a high school in next 3 or 4 years.

The second thing is thereís just a lack of any kind of manufacturing or industrialization so the job market is pretty limited. You see most individuals work in manual labor. They are ranch hands or farmers, and there are chickens. And now theyíve started developing tilapia farms in that region where they have very large lakes that they grow the tilapia and process sell those.

The ranch itself is about a 400 maybe 500-acre ranch that is located pretty much in the middle of the valley. It has two dormitories that were constructed about 10 to 15 years ago for the first one and the second about 5 years after that. The dormitories each consist of 4 rooms that are basically like a typical dorm, well not like a typical one here, they each have 8 beds, common shower and restroom facilities and thatís basically it. They have a common dining hall where everybody eats their meals, and then they have one new dorm thatís just been constructed. In fact this last trip we spent most of our time building making furniture, you have to basically build everything you are going to use whether is beds, whether itís hutches or some type of wooden structure for holding the clothes so everythingís pretty much constructed right there on the ranch.

The greatest benefit of all is you have an opportunity to visit with and work around some of the most appreciative individuals youíll ever see. While theyíre not very well educated, theyíre happy folks. Their children are usually very happy, and like I said, they appreciate even the smallest things because they have so little.

Probably the average wage of a Honduran in that area would surprise me if it were over $250 dollars a year. They live in small 2 to 3 room homes, they have no plumbing to speak of, and they usually have an outdoor kitchen where they have their fireplace where a lot of their sustenance is, beans, rice, and then tortillas. Thatís pretty much what they live on and some chicken and some beef but very occasional.

This will be my fifth year, and when I originally went I expected I would go for one year. But as you go, you become acquainted with individuals on the ranch. Thereís a fairly dedicated staff there, and there are people I have worked with together on different projects all along, and so you become acquainted with them, you enjoy working with them, and itís something you look forward to returning on a yearly basis because you do know that you are making a difference, and you can see tangibly and visibly the diff being made throughout the region as more schools are developed.

Two years ago they built a library for the first time and so we started stocking that. We built shelves and tables and chairs, and so for the first time the kids have a library where they can get reading material. And weíre trying to increase the amount of books in that area, and so itís something that you really become to enjoy and itís an opportunity, thereís about 28 people that go on the trip and I would say probably 15 or 18 of those go every year, so itís a recurrent type of process and you enjoy working with them.

It's a very rudimentary type of education. As I would view it, their kinder is very similar to what they have in the states. What you donít see is the developed education through the high school. The highest grade you see in that state is probably the 6th or 7th grade. So really you would have kindergarten through the fourth grade, and really the 5th and 7th grades were the equivalent of high school.

The primary difference between us is education. There are not many well-educated people there, except a few on the ranch with college degrees. There are very few opportunities for them because there is no manufacturing, and the only jobs are from working in saw mills and other very low-income things.

Some of the major changes weíve seen in Honduras over time is really the addition of electricity. Weíve started seeing the addition of power lines and in some places refrigeration. I think thatís one of the signs that our work is really making a difference.