Hearts Changed Forever
Each of us has a place to lay our weary heads at night. We might not have the most expensive home or living arrangements; perhaps our house, maybe apartment, is modest. Maybe it is too small.
It is, however, shelter from the storm. It keeps us warm in the cold winter, and it offers shade from the hot summer sun.
Many of us are blessed far more than what we realize, and Heather Helmick, and several other local individuals who are a part of her Hearts Forever Changed organization, receive this reminder on a yearly basis through a trip to help the poorest and hungriest of Honduras. An upcoming trip, July 9-18, will be the third trip Helmick has led under the organization’s name; it will be for the eighth trip for her personally.
Each trip lasts 10-14 days, and according to Heather, is for “literally anyone who wants to be the hands and feet of Jesus and serve others.”
“It’s an amazing trip. It changes your life,” Helmick said.
“We do many things,” she explained.
Healing and Hunger
One of the ways Hearts Forever Changed serves is by helping those at a local hospital.
“If the people get the flu, or the fever – kids die of fever. There is no Tylenol and no ibuprofen. The fever rages out of control.”
Furthermore, the people of Honduras also have to worry about diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as breakbone disease or Chikungunya.
“There are lots of women with babies,” Helmick noted. “You walk in the maternity ward, and there are six beds lining each wall. The windows are open. It is so very hot.”
Helmick said the group will literally see women on the tables giving birth; she recollected an instance during last year’s trip when a woman who had just had a c-section was too weak to hold her baby.
“She asked us if we could help her lift the baby to her,” Helmick said.
Besides the simplest of support such as this, Hearts Forever Changed also strives to provide clothing to these new mothers, such as extra undergarments. If it weren’t for the charity of Helmick’s group, some of these women would not have clean undergarments, even after giving birth.
Last year, Hearts Forever Changed was able to uniquely provide clothing for new babies as well.
New Martinsville resident Jamie Benson, who went on last year’s trip with her husband David, explained that the group had extra t-shirts from a 5K they had held to raise money for the trip.
Benson explained that along with undergarments and other clothing, the Hearts Forever Changed group had donated the t-shirts to the hospital.
After making rounds in the hospital, the group came back to the maternity ward. “These little mommas had wrapped their babies in those t-shirts. They didn’t have blankets,” Benson explained.
“When my first grandson was born Christmas Eve, he had five blankets,” she said.
Benson was inspired to take action: “I put out online that I needed yarn.”
She now has 75 blankets to deliver in Honduras, to babies who might not have had a single blanket otherwise.
And while some of us might complain about hospital food, for the people of Honduras, a simple sandwich can mean so much.
“If a patient doesn’t have family to bring food, they go without,” Helmick explained, adding that the group will deliver sandwiches on their trip.
Children at orphanages also receive a “nice, fun meal” from Hearts Forever Changed.
“They love that. It gives them a different meal,” Helmick said, adding that the group plays with the kids and also provides them with shoes, clothes, and toys.
The Saddest Place
Helmick’s group will also visit the local dump, which has been described by many members of her group as “the saddest place.”
Here, people will fight with animals for food, while also trying to make a living. They will forage for cardboard, either for their homes or to sell.
At least for the day Hearts Forever Changed is there, they will get a “real” meal, of bologna and cheese sandwiches, and water.
Some individuals use the opportunity to clean themselves with the water, rather than drink it.
Benson recollected a moment that sticks with her.
“There was a great big pile of garbage. There was a little boy, four or five. He was wearing too big of clothes, long sleeves and long pants; it was 90 degrees out. He had a half-drank bottle of orange pop he had found in the dump. He had two bowls. He was sitting all by himself, eating food and drinking pop out of the dump.”
Hearts Forever Changed also helps with “street feeds,” with an organization called Breaking Chains Ministry.
The groups go to the “bad parts of town” to give folks a meal that night. “Otherwise they would be eating out of trashcans,” Helmick explained.
Perhaps what Hearts Forever Changed is best known for is the houses they build for families; last year they were able to build six houses.
“Most people’s outdoor buildings or garages are bigger than this,” Helmick noted. “It is literally a square, a wooden square. We cut out a door, cut out a window, and put on a tin roof.”
Yet the new home is a “mansion,” for its family, according to Helmick.
She recalls one family who received a new home. “There was a momma there with I don’t know how many kids. They were sleeping in a cardboard box with a tarp over it. When we left them, they had an actual house, with a floor and roof and boards.”
“It’s life changing for these families,” Helmick noted.
“It’s literally a 16×16 building with a tin roof,” Benson also remarked on the homes.
“The people think they have died and gone to heaven though” they cry, and they sob,” she added.
What is life changing for the people for Honduras would still be an inconvenience for the rest of us. Helmick noted that the new home is not separated into rooms; there are no bedrooms, no kitchen, no plumbing, and no toilet.
However, to the home’s new occupants, it is the world, especially to a child who has never had a warm bed.
Helmick explained: “We had built a house for this one family, and there were three kids and their parents. We had put in bunk beds and a full bed in the house. We were getting ready to pray, but one kid was missing. His mom was yelling out for him, asking where he was. Turns out he went and washed himself off in a bucket of water. He came to our prayer circle with a little towel around him. He said he wanted to go to bed in his new bed, but he didn’t want to get it dirty.”
“This trip is the saddest but best week of our lives,” Helmick said.
“It literally reminds us that we don’t have a clue.”
“It’s overwhelming, very overwhelming,” Benson said. “I think I get more out of it then what I give them though.”