This story was written by a member of our Board of Directors, Danny Gunnell, who recently traveled with Mentors International on an expedition to Honduras.
Last month, my life changed. For many years, I have been an avid supporter of Mentors. I love their purpose and vision—it resonates with me. But when my wife and I visited Honduras, the work and its impact became very real and very personal. I stepped out of one world and into a completely different one. I wish you could have joined me on the trip, but instead, I will settle for sharing with you three things that really touched me.
1) First is Otoniel Manley. Mentors’ staff is inspiring. I already knew they are wonderful stewards and sincere in their desire to bless the poor, but when I saw Otoniel in action I realized just how awesome they really are. Otoniel had a client whose crops were infected by a fungus that placed them at risk of a total loss. When Otoniel heard of their plight, he reached out to a man he knew who is an agriculture professor and relayed the desperate straits of his farmer client. The professor knew a simple solution that the farmer was unaware of and volunteered to help. It only took a short phone call, and the professor was able to help the farmer save the crop by sharing his experience. This one success gave Otoniel the idea to recruit over 60 professional volunteers from a variety of fields who now offer free mentoring to Mentors’ clients in need of extra help. I was able to meet several of these volunteers and they are amazing—what wonderful vision Otoniel has in not only providing funds to these clients through Mentors Honduras, but creating networks of knowledge to give them the greatest opportunity to rise up and be successful in their entrepreneurship.
2) Next, the clients are immensely grateful. Imagine the gratitude of a blind person if you could give them sight, or of an innocent prisoner if you set them free. That is the level of gratitude that so many of the loan recipients feel towards Mentors. I believe that this deep, abiding, and sincere gratitude comes because the help they receive is fundamentally life-changing. Mentors really does help them open their eyes to opportunities and free them from the bonds of poverty. This real and deep gratitude from sincere clients was both humbling and inspiring. Over and over a loan recipient would take me by the hand and say something to the effect of “Thank you to Mentors and thank you to God, I am getting ahead.” It made me proud to have been a small part in the process.
3) Finally, I could easily be in their shoes. While visiting a loan recipient, the thought came to my mind that there isn’t any great difference between the loan recipients and myself. Had I been born in their place, with the same limited opportunities and circumstances, I could easily be one of them. This thought returned over and over as we visited the different people—it felt like I was hoping to get a loan to buy a pig, or extra corn seed, or milk to make more cheese. It felt like it was me hoping to feed my kids and afford to send them to school. This perspective motivated me to help someone I viewed as my equal. It is amazing the difference a little money, a little vision, and a little training can make for someone who is willing to work.
I returned to my home with a resolve not only to do more, but to live with less and to bless more lives.