In December 2007, Scott Fried, award-winning public speaker, HIV/AIDS educator and author, was traveling on a cruise ship that docked in Roatan, Honduras. Roatan is a small island in the Caribbean, 40 miles off the coast of Honduras. During his six hour visit, Scott saw first-hand the stunning physical beauty of the lush island. He also couldn’t miss the stark poverty and difficult lives of its residents. Roatan suffers from poor healthcare, lack of clean water, a shortage of housing, high unemployment and little to no community services. Also, one in seven people are living with AIDS.
In the spring of 2008, Scott visited his friend, Vince Cronje, in Minneapolis where he explained he wanted to return to Honduras to do HIV/AIDS volunteer outreach. Vince, a carpenter, said he was interested in using his construction skills to help. Scott next contacted an organization devoted to fighting the AIDS epidemic on Roatan. They offered to find such a project. By June of that year, Scott and Vince traveled to Roatan with nine friends to offer their skills and support. Scott used the opportunity to lecture all over the island. The others built a house for a woman with AIDS and her 4 year-old daughter.
Since this first trip, a core group of committed volunteers – known as Construction Volunteers – have returned each year to rebuild homes and provide hope for residents of Roatan.
While working with local families, Construction Volunteers experienced first-hand the problems caused by the steep, unstable, slopes in the area. For this reason, in 2012, the group built 101 steps for safe community access in one particularly dense neighborhood. The steps have since been outfitted with street lights, allowing the residents to more easily navigate the hill. The group was especially excited by the number of locals who worked alongside them to help complete this ambitious project. Each day more locals arrived and it turned into a great community event – complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the project’s end! In 2013, the volunteer group returned. With input and more help from residents, they built more steps, retaining walls, foot bridges and improved drainage.
Construction Volunteers would like to continue conducting community projects in Roatan. In addition to donations to support the cost of basic supplies, they rely on help from eager residents who live in the area in which they volunteer. The volunteers pay their own transportation costs, accommodations and food. All donations are strictly used for building materials, hiring local labor and community education.