May 4, 2012

Boston University Connected Me to Honduras

Post By:
Pammi Bhullar
MBA, 2013

Over winter break 2011, I volunteered in Villa Soleada, Honduras through a student-driven club and international nonprofit organization called Students Helping Honduras (SHH).  I first discovered this little treasure while attending the Millennium Campus Conference where I heard SHH’s founder, Shin Fujiyama speak about the impact SHH is having in Honduras.  An impact that amounts to almost ten fully constructed schools (990 more on the way), one children’s home, a microfinance business for Honduran women, and an abundance of jobs created in every village SHH serves.  Shin’s kind spirit and relentless determination was evident when I heard him speak at the conference, and blindingly evident when I spoke with him about his vision and struggle building SHH during a long bus ride in Honduras.  He’s an individual with a mind and heart like a freight train.  I took note of his fortuitous appetite for social impact, and hope to achieve this same dedication in my lifetime.

As a student, the insight, hard work, and camaraderie I built were priceless additions to my education.  In addition, I went to Honduras to help build a school in a village, and came back more aware of operational challenges that mission-driven organizations face.  These “moments of truth” are depicted in the following top four reflections from my volunteer trip in Honduras.  If you’re interested in hearing more about the trip, visit my travel blog:

1. Kids have it so good in the U.S.
You don't need to travel too far to acknowledge that most children in the U.S. are living in a bubble from the rest of the world in terms of our relatively high standard of living. The Honduran children that I met were thankful for whatever food they were given, and did not fuss about much. Children were running around barefoot in muddy waters and selling beaded bracelets, not for their own piggy bank but to help their family bring food to the table. This is a whole different responsibility that children acquire at a young age in many developing countries.

One extraordinary (although ornery) 12 year-old child I met escaped a gang (which is crazy enough), but then he walked from El Progresso, Honduras almost to the border of Guatemala. That's around 40 miles! He was found by a member of SHH on the street and was brought to the newly built children's home in Villa Soleada. It's survival stories like this that make you question yourself.... and say, "Could I do that?"

2. Job creation is critical to community development.
In Honduras, one of the best aspects of SHH was that it created jobs.  For example, SHH created jobs for women to cook and clean laundry for volunteers, for construction workers to guide the building process, for bus drivers to haul volunteers around, etc. In fact, when the founder of the SHH asked the community of Villa Soleada what they needed, he got an overwhelming response, "Jobs!" And their request was answered!

3. Sometimes it's difficult to get people to work for what they want.
After reading the background story of how SHH got started in Honduras and how the town of Villa Soleada was first created I discovered that a huge challenge in trying to help communities like this is that the people in the community want a better standard of living but are not always willing to chip in manual labor. Noticing some indolence in Villa Soleada, SHH made it mandatory for all community members to contribute manual labor to the creation of the town. I admired this requirement yet was astounded that it was even necessary to declare.

4. Friends make any time a good time.
In Honduras volunteers spent a lot of time commuting on a bus and working at the construction site.  As a result, we spent a lot of time out in the sun and getting drenched in the rain.  It felt good knowing I was there to help the community, but what really made this a fantastic experience was sharing it with the new friends that I met. (I know. I know. How much more cheesy can she get?) Honestly, I became friends with some quirky and fun people from across the U.S. and Honduras. (*ahem You wonderful people know who you are.) They were so full of life and knowledge that I couldn't help but want to keep talking and joking with them. 

In conclusion, no matter what amazing things you do in your life. It's always more amazing when you have friends to share it with. (Alright put your tissues away.)

As a piece of advice to aspiring college and graduate students, this international volunteering experience was an extremely valuable complement to my education.  I was able to see first-hand the inside operations of an international nonprofit organization, was immersed in the Honduran culture, and developed friendships that I’ve continue to strengthen. 
Students Helping Honduras hosts volunteer trips during winter, spring, and summer breaks.  It also hosts longer-term internship opportunities during the summer. For more information, visit or e-mail me at

Pammi Bhullar is currently an MBA student studying Public and Nonprofit Management.  She is gearing up for her internship this summer with Education Pioneers.  As an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh, Pammi earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.  She majored in Marketing, earned aCertificate in West European Studies, and minored in Theatre Arts;while also obtaining her Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certificate.   She most recently worked as a Supervisor in the Institutional Division of The Vanguard Group. 

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