In 2003, Carol Dale, ’94 Occupational Therapy, traveled to Honduras as part of an Olancho Aid Foundation mission team. “It was a tough trip in many ways,” she says. “I’d not experienced the depth of poverty I saw there.” This spring marks Dale’s tenth trip to the country, where she and other volunteers continue to work to support and outfit schools and provide medical supplies, equipment and nutritional supplements for Hondurans in need. An occupational therapist in the Acute Care Department at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., Dale now serves on Olancho’s board of directors and helped the foundation gain nonprofit status in 2009. She is currently fundraising for scholarships that will enable more students to attend Escuelita Nazareth, the only school in the Department of Olancho, Honduras, built to serve special needs children. The tuition for each student is $900 a year.
Read on to learn about how the Olancho Aid Foundation is improving lives in Honduras.
It was a decision Carol Dale and her husband did not take lightly: moving from Northern California with their two children to be closer to extended family in New Hampshire.
“I remember saying to my husband at the time, ‘How are we going to surround our children with ethnic and economic diversity in a state that is 98 percent white?’ It was our choice to move but, at the same time, we had responsibilities as parents,” Dale says.
Once settled in New Hampshire, Dale began volunteering with the Roman Catholic-affiliated Olancho Aid Foundation. Initially providing support for the mission from her home base, she made her first trip to Honduras in 2003 with a 10-member team that included a postal worker, a nurse, a gentlemen who worked for Coca Cola and Dale’s 16-year-old son.
“On our return flight home, before we had landed on U.S. soil, my son turned and said to me: ‘I want to go back, Mom,’” Dale recalls.
Since that time, Dale’s son and daughter have participated in multiple in-country humanitarian missions, and Dale’s husband contributes U.S. support.
In a country where there is no government-mandated education or services for special needs children, the Olancho Aid Foundation built and maintains Escuelita Nazareth, a special needs school. Sixty students now attend Nazareth, double the enrollment ten years ago.
Dale’s background in occupational therapy has been a valuable asset in working with special needs children and their families. An especially poignant moment: witnessing both a six-year-old, severely impacted by cerebral palsy, and his mother benefit from an adaptive stroller.
“The feeling I had watching the mother walk away with her child in a stroller was very, very powerful,” Dale recounts. “For the first time in six years that mother didn’t have to carry her child in her arms. For the first time in six years she was able to have her hands free.”
The Olancho Aid Foundation extends an “open invitation to SJSU students and alums to participate,” Dale says. “We have short- and long-term missions, and we always need teachers, occupational therapists, nurses and physicians. But anyone who wants to go to Honduras and do good is welcome.”