SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras, –
Over 130 members of Joint Task Force-Bravo, with the support of Joint Task Force-Bravo's Joint Security Forces and Honduran Air Force cadets, hiked nearly eight miles round trip to deliver more than 2,700 pounds of food and supplies to families in need in the mountain village of Soso Mico outside La Paz, Honduras, Aug. 23, 2014.
The effort was part of the 56th Joint Task Force-Bravo Chapel Hike, a venerable tradition during which service members donate their money and time to purchase food and supplies and then tote them on a hike through the mountains to deliver to local, underserviced communities.
"The mission of our chapel hike is to provide humanitarian assistance to the community in Soso Mico in order to bolster and strengthen the relationship between Joint Task Force-Bravo and our surrounding communities," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jeffery Scott. Scott added that the Chapel Hikes also provide the volunteers an opportunity to not only see the area outside Soto Cano but it also "gives them the chance to positively affect the lives of the villagers."
The citizens of Soso Mico face multiple challenges in providing food for their families. Most of the villagers don't have motorized transportation so a journey to the market and back requires a full day of walking the dusty, unimproved roads that leads to their village. The community grows crops on the hillside, usually plantains and coffee, that can be sold or used to barter but they are seasonal and the steep, rocky terrain doesn't allow for a huge growth of crops which results in minor economic gains.
U. S. Army 1st Lt. Ben Bashinski participated in his fifth Chapel Hike but he said that being able to get out in the local communities and provide help never gets old.
"It's a great opportunity for us to get out and do great things in the community. We don't ask for anything in return--it's completely selfless service. They really need this food, and it's the least we could do with our time off."
After delivering the food and supplies, Task Force members spent time talking with the villagers and playing with the children, including providing them with two piñatas full of candy to break open and soccer balls, which were donated by the non-profit organization Kick for Nick Foundation. Many of the kids also filled their hands, pockets and shirts with the candy and snacks they were given by the volunteers.
What U. S. Army Sgt. Joshua Smith will remember the most from his first Chapel Hike is seeing the joy in the eyes of the children every time a piñata spilled its treasures or when someone gave them a piece of candy.
"Participating in the hike showed me how doing something that appeared small to me, like giving a little bit of my time out of my day, could affect the lives of a large family. Very humbling. I don't think people understand how this truly affected this community. These people don't have to worry about their next few meals. I think everyone should at least do one hike while they are stationed here."
Since the chapel hikes originated in 2004, over 8,330 service members have donated more than $167,500 and volunteered their time to deliver nearly 206,000 pounds of food and supplies to several remote villages.