Amy Jacksic with local children in Honduras. | Provided

A Riverside woman recently spent a week at an orphanage in Honduras where she and some other volunteers dug a trench between two buildings that had a flooding issue. 

Amy Jacksic, who managed the Riverside Farmer’s Market, was a Spanish major at Colgate University, so when she heard that her college friend and fellow Spanish major Glen Turf was organizing a work trip to Honduras, she not only jumped at the chance to go, but also she invited her younger sister, Emily Meyerowitz of New Jersey, who was also a Spanish major at Colgate, to come along.

Turf is the chief officer for Global Initiatives, Equity and Belonging at Miami Country Day School, and the other participants on the trip were from the Miami area.

The orphanage, called Hogares Nuevo Paraiso, is in a rural area and mostly lacks Wi-Fi. Jacksic and the rest of the group stayed on the orphanage grounds in housing away from the children. She had her own room with her sister, Turf and one other volunteer. But conditions were spartan. There was no air conditioning and Jacksic described the plumbing as basic.

Jacksic, however, said she was very impressed by the school and the orphanage, adding that the children are well cared for.

“They are loved, they are heard,” Jacksic said.

Once at the orphanage, Jacksic and the others got to work building a trench. Jacksic and the rest of the group worked without any heavy equipment. They used shovels to dig a 2½-foot deep trench and had to break up roots with a pickaxe. Then they made cement, lugging 40-pound bags of cement and mixing the cement with sand, rocks and water. Then they stirred the dense mixture for 15 minutes. After that they poured it into five-gallon buckets and carried the cement to where it needed to be and dumped it into the trench. It was grueling work. The hot weather and high humidity made it even tougher.

“It was like the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Jacksic said. “Mixing cement by hand and then carrying it is not for the faint of heart.”

At times, Jacksic also visited the nearby, highly ranked school, which serves children in the area, as well as kids who live in the orphanage. She would walk the children to school in the morning, typically with stray dogs that followed them. The kids named one of them Kobe.

“I loved walking the kids to school each morning and hear about their upcoming day from them,” Jacksic said.

During her time in Honduras, Jacksic and the rest of the group were accompanied by an armed guard. That’s because violence and kidnappings are common in the poverty- stricken Central American country. Travel to Honduras is currently under a Level 3 advisory by the State Department, which suggests Americans to reconsider travel to the country.

Why did she and her sister want to go?

“We love children and we love using our Spanish,” Jacksic said.

They also wanted to honor their father Richard, who died in 2020 before he could do volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity after he retired.

Jacksic brought with her 100 pounds of donations: clothing, toiletries, shoes, DVD’s that were donated by her and 11 residents of Riverside. Former Riverside Village President Joe Ballerine donated one large rolling suitcase.

Jacksic’s cousin, Michele Krantz of North Carolina, donated a four-figure amount that covered much of the cost of the supplies for the trench.

Jacksic’s Spanish is still good enough that she could easily talk to the children and staff.

“I never had an issue communicating,” Jacksic said.

Once, at dinner, two little girls from the orphanage were seated between Jacksic and her sister. The sisters were so taken with the girls that they decided to sponsor them. Jacksic will sponsor an eight-year-old girl and her sister will sponsor the other one. 

“Our sponsorship will help pay for their schooling, healthcare needs, school uniforms, room and board etc. and we will send gifts for their birthdays and holidays,” Jacksic said.

And she and her sister plan to go back to the orphanage and visit the girls once a year.

“This was a great experience, I’ll definitely be going back, 100 percent,” Jacksic said. “Emily and I will both be going back.”

Correction 10-31, 5:54 p.m. This article misspelled the last name of Amy Jacksic’s cousin. It is Krantz. It also misstated what her monetary donation covered. It was for supplies. We apologize for the errors.