Hondurans in caravan driven by adversity, Gorham woman says

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With a caravan of Central American immigrants bound for the U.S. border, Margery Hodgkin of Gorham, interviewed last week at Baxter Memorial Library, shared her memories as a missionary to impoverished Hondurans. “These people are fleeing,” Hodgkin said. “They need help.”

Maine United Church of Christ volunteers helped replace this Honduran home with one constructed with cement blocks. A family, including grandparents, dwelled here.

GORHAM — With thousands of migrants in a caravan pushing across Mexico in hopes of reaching the U.S. border, a Gorham woman last week told of grim conditions that people from Honduras have left behind.

As  a translator, Margery Hodgkin has traveled to Honduras on 10 church missions and has witnessed results of deprivation, unemployment and crime. “These people are fleeing,” Hodgkin said. “They can’t get work.”

Hodgkin has visited multiple rural communities in Honduras. As she spoke to the American Journal at Baxter Memorial Library, she leafed through a folder jam-packed with her notes and other printed material, maps and photographs.

She showed photos of dirt-floor adobe homes, women cooking on wood stoves and women in remote villages and toting water in five-gallon buckets balanced on their heads. “They don’t have fancy homes, or fancy anything,” Hodgkin said.

More than half of the 9 million people in Honduras live in poverty, according to the CIA World Factbook. “Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and has one of the world’s highest murder rates,” it says.

Hodgkin, who was last in Honduras two years ago, said the problem with gangs is growing worse. Ministers have been threatened with being shot if they don’t hand over their church’s offerings, she said.

Hodgkin, a member of the First Parish Congregational Church in Gorham, first visited Honduras in 1996. She was accompanied by two other Gorham women and Maine staff of the United Church of Christ.

“I was the translator,” she said. She learned Spanish during a two-year in Bolivia with the Peace Corps in the 1960s.

Besides translator duties in Honduras, she has held a flashlight for a physician attending a patient in a dim, makeshift clinic and lugged buckets of cement in building projects.

As an example of the denomination’s work, she provided a photo of one home she helped replace in 2016 for a young family living under the same roof with grandparents in Vueltosa, El Playon. “We built many houses in this rural community in the province of Santa Barbara, Honduras, over a 10-year period,” Hodgkin said.

She labored on projects alongside Hondurans from churches aligned with the UCC. “The principle was to work with the Hondurans and to follow their leadership, not to impose our ways upon them,” Hodgkin said.

Hodgkin has a copy of a missionary’s letter reporting more than a million left homeless in a hurricane that battered Honduras in 1998. “Their houses were washed away,” she said.

Hondurans are “wonderful people” and “they cling to their faith,” she said. Very few are criminals or involved with drugs.

Computers provided Hondurans by the denomination enable Hodgkin to stay in touch with friends there. “It’s a joy of my life,” she said about working with Hondurans.

They need help, she said. “How can we let people starve?”

Robert Lowell can be reached at 780-9089 or rlowell@keepmecurrent.com