NASHUA — Four New Hampshire residents are about to embark on a mission trip designed to inspire leadership and promote volunteerism.
Alderman Tom Lopez, Ward 4, founded the Nashua Honduras Outreach Team, which is leaving for its seventh trip to Honduras in the past five years.
Working with the mayor and other government officials in San Francisco De La Paz in Olancho, the group will be helping residents in Honduras find their voice and empowering them to become young leaders, according to Lopez.
The goal of Nashua’s cultural exchange project is to find emerging leaders willing to leave their comfort zone and travel 2,100 miles away to the north-central part of Central America to make connections and examine social justice in a global context.
“It is really a full week of work, but we are ready,” said Lopez, whose team will leave April 17 and return April 24.
Participating in this year’s mission trip will be Lopez, artist and musician Jyl Dittbenner, hip hop instructor Daniel “DRok” Swain and project organizer Samantha Cassista.
The group will use their artistic talents to create three murals for the community in Honduras, while also organizing a dance festival.
“There are a lot of kids in Honduras and we will be working in the schools to engage them in positive leadership,” said Lopez, who has visited the country more than a dozen times.
Aside from the three major mural projects with Arte Positivo, he said the crew will be working on a dance program geared to pull kids away from activities such as drugs and gangs. Through that initiative, they will be supporting an emerging dance team, Los Microchip, said Lopez.
The Nashua Honduras Outreach Team will be staying at Project Eden, which promotes sustainable living by teaching communities how to grow community gardens and promotes other farming initiatives such as tree nurseries and greenhouses.
“We are basically staying in a farming-oriented tree nursing area. We will be surrounded by fresh growing food,” Lopez said.
While there, Cassista will be working to help residents build fair trade coffee partnerships aimed to refine quality-made products and help make them marketable. The team will also be working to promote renewable energy resources and cleaning an existing school playground and courtyard to make it more friendly and usable for the area’s children, said Lopez.
“When I am down there I feel very rewarded and very fulfilled,” said Cassista, who is returning for her second time. “I decided to return because it was so meaningful to be there. It really was so very inspiring to be with such humble, kind and caring people as we try to support them and they try to support us.”
Cassista said the mission trip is not only soul-satisfying, but gives her a great perspective on life.
In 2014, Lopez was the sole representative from the Nashua Honduras Outreach Team to make the first trip to Honduras where he used his artistic talent to paint three murals in the villages.
After returning to New Hampshire, Lopez helped Luis Romero, an artist from Honduras, establish an artist pen-pal program with Positive Street Art, a separate Nashua group that promotes public art in the city.