Tikkun Olam in Honduras

Gay HIV/AIDS activist Scott Fried lead a group of Jewish Penn State Hillel students in tikkun olam trip to Honduras

Scott Fried and Penn State Hillel students in Honduras (photo: Facebook)

Eight students from Penn State Hillel traveled to Roatan, Honduras, for a weeklong service learning experience. The trip, billed as an alternative winter break program, was intended to introduce students to a community largely affected by HIV/AIDS, said Hannah Giterman, Hillel community engagement associate.

“The trip is dedicated to the community of Roatan, Honduras and those living with HIV/AIDS. Penn State Hillel’s mission is to enrich the lives [of] our students so that they may enrich the world,” said Giterman in an email. “Through this trip, we are inspiring all Jewish students to explore the values of tikkun olam and social justice. We hope to empower the students to create change through education, advocacy and service.”

Giterman said that participating students spent their days “rebuilding” Roatan.

“They’re rebuilding a community, not just physically, but emotionally.”

Apart from reconstructing a home that had crashed over the side of a ravine, students joined Familias Saludables, a support group for Roatan residents infected with HIV. Students heard from locals about living with HIV and struggling with discrimination in Honduras.

Robby Ost, who like other participating students blogged about the experience, wrote, “[W]e heard from other locals living with HIV, sharing their struggles with health, discrimination and the effects of HIV infection in their everyday lives. Their stories brought tears to the eyes of many in our group and resonated with certain members in particular, fostering personal reflection and empathy. This proved to be one of the most meaningful experiences of the trip, and the emotions and stories expressed by Elsie, her son Fernando, and the other women have left an indelible mark on us.”

Accompanying the Penn State students were two staff members: Leah Chakoff, director of engagement at Penn State Hillel, and Scott Fried, an award-winning motivational speaker and HIV/AIDS activist who has repeatedly traveled to Roatan to support its community.

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Scott Fried with a local girl (Photo: Facebook)