By Scott Halasz
XENIA — Being in a poor, third-world country for more than two weeks isn’t exactly the No. 1 way a college student likes to spend the end of the school year.
But for Xenia resident Rachel McClellan, there was no better place to be than Honduras. The junior-t0-be at Ohio State University was in the Central American country as part of a study abroad program offered through the World Gospel Mission. An agri-science education major, the 2014 Xenia High School graduate had a chance to teach and learn at the same time.
“I have a strong passion for agriculture,” she said. “Knowing there are people across the world, that they don’t have access to agriculture and they rely on getting food from other places or they don’t have enough food to sustain their families. I wanted to see what it truly is like to live that kind of live. I just wanted to see and learn about what it really takes to go into these communities and really help them.”
Setting up base in Choluteca, which is a city and one of 18 Honduran administrative divisions, and visiting various municipalities, the students made lunches for school kids, visited the vocational high school, laid concrete slabs for sidewalks, and created a foundation for a weight room for students. The students also helped a family build its first indoor bathroom.
“They always had to go to the woods,” McClellan said.
The students, who came from OSU and Utah State University, also visited a community that is an island only during high tide, and also toured a sugar cane farm and public and private hospitals. If it happened in the country, McClellan experienced it.
“We got to see the community and their lifestyle,” she said.
The group also made its way to the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa where students were quickly reminded that they were still in a war-torn area.
“In some parts of the country there are still some dangerous parts,” McClellan said. “We were told that we may hear gun shots … be we were safe in the (world mission) compound. We had to have part of our trip cancelled because we would have been in a state that had a high travel warning. We couldn’t be in a dangerous area.”
Seeing that and the earlier experience in Choluteca made McClellan appreciate life in the United States more.
“It was the first time I had even been out of the country,” she said. “It definitely put a whole new perspective on my lifestyle here. I had a better understanding of what it truly meant to live in poverty. It was humbling to see people with next to nothing open up their homes to us and be so generous.”
McClellan also discovered some basic, every day “luxuries” in the US are non-existent in Honduras. Cold drinks were not always available. The water was unsafe to drink and the Honduran culture is to wear long pants unless it’s extremely hot, around 105 degrees or higher. And toilet paper had to be thrown in the trash and not flushed.
“That was one of the biggest adjustments,” McClellan said.
For the 16 days spent there, McClellan received three credits toward graduation. But that was chump change compared to the real gift she received.
“I fell in love with the country,” she said. “I would love to go back and work down there again. It’s a wonderful country. Wonderful people. They’re so loving and kind.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.