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Archive for Saturday, January 7, 2006

Peace Corps volunteers give shoes, aid to needy villagers in Honduras

January 7, 2006

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— David and Danyel Anderson delighted Honduran children in 2005 by giving them a variety of Dollar Store toys from Springfield.

But the barefoot youths did not ask the Peace Corps volunteers to bring more balls and bracelets when they return to the tiny village of Campamento Dos. They asked whether the Americans could bring some footwear.

After David Anderson mentioned the request in a recent mass e-mail to Springfield-area residents, 300 pairs of shoes were donated by churches and employers such as Jordan Valley Community Health Center and Smith-Glynn-Callaway Urgent Care Laboratory.

"We had to actually go to the communities and start measuring feet because we had such a variety," David Anderson said during a Christmas break in Springfield.

The Peace Corps volunteers lived in Honduras for a year and will spend another year there to complete their service. They are among 7,810 volunteers helping 71 countries with issues such as AIDS education, information technology and environmental preservation.

They were initially scheduled to go to Nepal in October 2004, but the Peace Corps redirected them after an American facility there was bombed.

Scot Roskelley, Chicago-based Peace Corps public affairs specialist, said the Andersons are two of 17 active Peace Corps volunteers in the Springfield region.

There are 231 Peace Corps volunteers serving in Honduras, which has one of the organization's larger programs, he said.

After arriving in January 2005, the Andersons spent three months with a family learning Spanish. They were sent to the Santa Rita de Copan area near the Guatemala border.

David Anderson, 27, a Willard Middle School eighth-grade teacher and girls basketball coach, now helps build water systems for villages.

The Springfield man said he helped cut paths through the jungle with a machete to locate a water source near a mountain, where the water was cleaner.

Water was then directed through pipes to a concrete tank. Villagers were instructed on how to chlorinate the water, Anderson said.

Danyel Anderson, 28, is a Smith-Glynn-Callaway medical technologist who works with health clinics to ensure children receive vaccinations. She also translates for medical brigades and helps provide AIDS education.

"It's a unique job because there's not one thing I do every day. People will approach me and say, 'Can you help out with this?"' she said.

The couple also encourage rural villagers to make crafts that tourists can buy and provide their families with more money.

The Peace Corps provided the Andersons with a cinder-block house that David Anderson said was nicer than some villagers' mud homes.

"One thing that did take getting used to was having no more microwaves or TVs. You don't have a dishwasher or washing machine. You're washing your clothes by hand," he said.

Some challenges were unexpected. The Andersons traveled to the north coast of Honduras to meet other Peace Corps volunteers for a Halloween party but instead got stuck at a hotel for a few days when Hurricane Beta hit and flooded streets.

"Where we live in the west, our biggest problem is mudslides. The roads will be closed for two or three days" when they occur, Danyel Anderson said.

The Andersons already have started to give shoes to Hondurans. Smith-Glynn-Callaway volunteered to collect money to help with shipping, Danyel Anderson said.

In addition to the shoes, Missouri State University offered a microscope and Smith-Glynn-Callaway gave slides so Danyel Anderson could show rural Hondurans what is in the water and why clean water is important.

Roskelley considered the donations the couple garnered impressive. Widespread support for Peace Corps volunteers usually comes from small towns, he said.

"For a community as large as Springfield to do that is admirable," Roskelley said.

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