A very special guest flew in from Honduras to attend a fundraising banquet held by the Carpenteros and Friends in Hamilton, Ontario, on September 27, 2012. Impressed by the ongoing mission work and fundraising efforts this group has been doing for her country over the past decade, the Honduran First Lady, Her Excellency Rosa Elena Bonilla de Lobo, accepted an invitation to attend this year’s dinner, held at Carmen’s Banquet Center with over 400 guests in attendance.
The Carpenteros and Friends were founded in 2001 after several members of Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Flamborough, Ontario, returned from a mission trip to El Salvador where they assisted in disaster relief projects organized by the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, now known as World Renew, following the devastating earthquakes that year.
Organizer Ken Vanderlaan noted that the group learned a lot from that first trip and decided that they wanted to form a more long-term and supportive relationship with the people they were meeting. World Renew staff member, Henrietta Hunse, suggested that there might be more opportunities for on-going partnership if the group switched their focus from El Salvador to Honduras. The planning group agreed and over the next number of years Calvary CRC and neighbouring churches sent several more work teams, this time to Honduras.
World Renew worked with its partners in Honduras and with the planning group to determine the best projects for the work teams to visit and support. The CRC group also committed to building a relationship with the Honduran people and promised their continued support for the long-term. They named themselves “The Carpenteros” as a combination of the English and Spanish words for “carpenters.”
“We tell our team members that the mission trip really begins when they get home.” Vanderlaan explained. “Our responsibility is not to build a house and then leave. It is to let the Honduran people know that we are their brothers in sisters in Christ, and we will continue to help them. We will rejoice with them in their joys and we will grieve with them in their sorrows, and we will do all we can to show that we care for them. That’s why we hold these fundraising dinners and continue to send teams.”
Banquet organizer Ken Bosveld, one of the original team members, explained that the paths of the Carpenteros and the Honduran First Lady have crossed in several unique ways in the last six months, leading up to her decision to travel to Canada to attend the banquet.
The First Lady is very actively dedicated to improving the lives of the Honduran people through various health initiatives, and this has brought her into the same circles as the Carpenteros teams on more than one occasion. In one instance, she even provided the necessary financial means for an important surgery to be scheduled for a young boy that the Carpenteros were working with in a small village.
You are an example to others and you are helping to change the way of thinking in our country. You—Carpenteros—you are famous in Honduras!
Through an unlikely encounter with the Honduran Ambassador Sofia Rodriguez, the Carpenteros were given the idea to invite First Lady Mrs. Lobo to Canada. To their surprise and delight, she accepted.
After hearing reports from Carpenteros team members and World Renew representatives from Honduras, Lobos was overwhelmed to the point of tears as she expressed thankfulness and admiration for the work and ministry being done in her country and for her people.
“Thank you for loving Honduras,” she said with great emotion. “I am so amazed to see a room full of people who are so dedicated to helping another country. People like you are the ones the world needs,” she added.
“You are an example to others and you are helping to change the way of thinking in our country. You—Carpenteros—you are famous in Honduras!” she exclaimed. She went on to extend an invitation to everyone in the room to the presidential residence.
This year’s dinner raised over $70,000. The Carpenteros have raised over a million dollars to date in support projects in Honduras. This includes many World Renew projects such as micro-finance credit unions, water projects, health programs, latrines, housing, emergency disaster response, and legal assistance.
"Thanks to the ongoing support of the Carpenteros and Friends, four of our five Honduran partners: CRC (Diaconía Nacional), Alfalit, Harvest and MCM have received financial support for more than 35 credit unions, more than 300 projects have been developed by short term mission teams but most importantly relationships have been created with local families and beneficiaries in 10 communities in Honduras,” said World Renew Honduras staff member, Ana Joya. “We praise God for the Carpenteros and Friends' love and commitment to our country and the work of World Renew in Honduras"
In addition to these World Renew projects, funding has been provided for children, a continuing education fund, and a direct-trade coffee partnership with Honduran coffee farmers that has helped many Honduran communities by providing a way for the growers to receive premium payment for their crop.
The Carpenteros are thrilled with the growth they have witnessed over the last decade.
“It's been intriguing to experience the ground swell of support, and observe some really unexpected impacts on lives both in Honduras and here in Canada. Clearly God has much bigger ideas and plans than we could ever imagine,” stated Cal Bosveld, organizer.
“It's been nice to see the interest from people like the Honduran First Lady and the Honduran Ambassador to Canada,” Bosveld continued, “hopefully this will spawn even greater cooperation and partnership opportunities. I think their presence at the fundraising dinner adds credibility to the fundraising and the work being done in Honduras.”
The group already has tentative plans to tie in to some of the First Lady’s charitable work in the future, with the hopes of raising the profile of what they are working to accomplish.
Two more work teams are scheduled to travel to Honduras later this year. To learn more about the work the Carpenteros are doing, visit their website at www.carpenteros.ca.