FAIL (the browser should render some flash content, not this).


IN THE NEWS
News reports pertaining to the mission of Children of the Light and Bill K.

A SEXUAL MARKETPLACE IN FLORIDA'S BACK YARD YOUNG VICTIMS TRADED FOR CASH, TRINKETS
Series: Special report: Preying on Children

Sun Sentinel - Fort Lauderdale
May 17, 1998
ENDLESS TRIAL ON PAPER AND 21 MONTHS IN HELL
Series: SPECIAL REPORT: PREYING ON CHILDREN

Sun Sentinel - Fort Lauderdale
May 17,1998

SHELTERS GATHER KIDS OFF THE STREETS
Series: SPECIAL REPORT: PREYING ON CHILDREN

[BROWARD METRO Edition]

May 17,1998
CHILD ABUSE: A HARSH LOOK WORLDWIDE
Sun Sentinel - Fort Lauderdale
Jun 15, 1998
USF LEND HELPING HAND AT HONDURAS ORPHANAGE
Sun Sentinel - Fort Lauderdale
March 30, 2006
The Ohio National Guard
Ohio Guardsmen Wire Orphanage

A SEXUAL MARKETPLACE IN FLORIDA'S BACK YARD YOUNG VICTIMS TRADED FOR CASH, TRINKETS Series: Special report: Preying on Children
Sun Sentinel - Fort Lauderdale
May 17, 1998

Flash his picture in the Barrio Lomas del Carmen, a cluster of clapboard shacks clinging precariously to the hills outside Honduras' second-largest city, and children's eyes light up.
"Marvin, Marvin Hersh," says one boy, bare-chested, dirty and scratching his close-cropped hair. He can't be older than 10. He giggles at the grandfatherly face of the Boca Raton man staring from the photo.
"It's Mario," says another, shoeless, using the nickname Hersh went by in Honduras.
In this barrio where humans share dirt roads with chickens and pigs, the Florida Atlantic University professor is remembered for making the Orellana family a little less poor.
He gave the parents and three children toys, money, clothes and cheap electronic gadgets. In exchange, Hersh took the family's 10-year-old son, Jesus, on road trips and coaxed him into sex, the youth told investigators.
Jesus, now 16, says he was the target of Hersh's advances for two years, accompanying Hersh on 12 trips, he says.
"To me, he looked like a millionaire," says Jesus, looking out onto the streets of San Pedro Sula, the sprawling industrial city just east of the barrio. "He'd give me 300 or 400 lempiras {$23 to $30) every time he came looking for me at my mom's house. I'd give the money to my mom so we could eat for a week."
Hersh, 58, is in the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami, and had been scheduled to go on trial this on charges he traveled to Honduras for sex with young boys. But late last week, his lawyer was suspended by the Florida Bar for ethical misconduct in unrelated cases, possibly delaying the trial.
Hersh maintains his innocence, and his attorney argues that Hersh was nothing more than a benefactor.
The case, however, offers a sobering glimpse into the world of traveling pedophiles.

Shift in destinations South Florida's back yard _ poor countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean _ is

emerging as the new child-sex hot spot.
Southeast Asia once was the preferred destination. Places such as Thailand and the Philippines beckoned with anything-goes reputations and welcomed brazenly arranged package tours focused on sex, often including minors.
Increasingly, however, world pressure to end child exploitation has led those countries to crack down on child sex _ shifting the business elsewhere.
"We are getting more reports of cases of sexual abuse of local children by foreigners than ever before," says Bruce Harris, executive director of Covenant House's Latin America programs. The New York-based charity provides health services and shelter to street children in three Central American countries and Mexico.
Those close to the illicit industry also have noted the shift. Asia Files, a newsletter that once guided sex travelers throughout Southeast Asia, now covers Latin America and has changed its name to The Erotic Traveler.
In nations such as Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, sexual predators now come with wallets full of lempiras or pesos, oft-devalued local currencies. They distribute them as easily as Monopoly dollars, ensuring the children's trust and parents' silence.
"Children are just not safe in Latin America," says Agnes Fournier de Saint Maur, who monitors crimes against children for Interpol, the world police organization. "And for one of those countries to recognize that they have a problem, it takes a lot of work."
For the exploiters, Latin America is a matter of convenience.
Florida a jump-off spot
South Florida is an unwitting crossroads in the child-sex trade: about 750 direct flights leave each week from Miami International Airport for points throughout Latin America.
From Miami, flights to Honduras or Costa Rica are shorter than those to New York. In some seasons, they are only slightly more expensive: $300 to $400.
"Because of its location, South Florida is becoming a hub for these activities," says a federal prosecutor familiar with the Hersh case, who will speak only on the condition of anonymity.
"It's a jump-off spot for many people on their way to Latin America, including those whose intentions are to have sex with children."
Some are hard-core pedophiles who go to foreign lands where child exploitation laws are weak and enforcement is virtually nonexistent. Others are simply men who leave their inhibitions at home.
"On this trip, I've had sex with a 14-year-old girl in Mexico and a 15-year-old in Colombia," says a 65-year-old retired Orlando schoolteacher. He talks about his trip, on the condition of anonymity, in a ramshackle casino in downtown Tegucigalpa.
For three months this winter, the divorced grandfather traveled Latin America, visiting brothels. He sees nothing wrong with having sex with teens.
"I'm helping them financially," he says. "If they don't have sex with me, they may not have enough food. If someone has a problem with me doing this, let UNICEF feed them. I've never paid more than $20 to these young women, and that allows them to eat for a week."
Sex is also what Daniel Rounds, 43, was looking for in August 1996, Honduras authorities say. Only he was caught.

Twenty-one months later, the once-robust man is nothing more than a ghostly shape haunting La Ceiba Prison.
"I can't believe this is happening to me," Rounds said recently. "I've been ill and beaten. I've been raped {by other inmates) and ripped off by lawyers. I've never been in trouble before. What did I do to deserve this?"
Honduran police say he tried to have sex with two teen-age boys.
When officers raided his hotel room one steamy morning, Rounds said, they found him, wearing nothing but a towel, and two naked boys, ages 10 and 13. Rounds admitted there was gay pornographic literature in the room.
Although he denied touching the boys, Rounds was jailed. His trial is ongoing.
American, European faces International investigators say the face of a traveling pedophile is usually American or European. Of 160 foreign pedophiles arrested on child sex-abuse charges in Southeast Asia between 1992 and 1994, for example, the largest portion _ 25 percent _ was Americans, a study by the group End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism found. Others were from Germany (18 percent), Australia (14 percent) and England (12 percent).
Interpol also compiled a list of at least 200 pedophiles, habitual offenders who are likely to travel overseas to seek sex with children. Most of them also are from the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and Europe.
Bustling with impoverished children, Honduras provides opportunities. In this country of more than 5.7 million, 2.8 million are children, according to the CIA's World Factbook.
More than half of them work, says Ernulpho Ochoa, the director of the Honduran children's rights organization COIPRODEN.
In the countryside, roads are lined with children hauling tree stumps or baskets sometimes twice their size. The busy streets are swollen with children selling candy, single cigarettes or other wares. Park a car, and a dozen of them approach.
"Hey, mister, me watch car," one says. For 50 cents, he says, he will protect the car from thieves. Ochoa estimated these little workers earn, at best, $4.50 a day _ enough to buy about 4 pounds of rice.
More than 2,000 Honduran children _ a conservative estimate, Ochoa says _ are homeless. Some left their homes because of family rifts, others because there wasn't enough food. They often steal, or take charity from strangers to survive. Others forgo food to stay high _ sniffing jar after jar of industrial-strength glue.
The average adult worker's pay hovers around $700 a year, and Hondurans' attention is focused on putting food on the table, not the plight of children.
A is means to an end
Carlos Colon, all of 4 feet tall and 11 years old, knows well the life. Until recently, he hung out on the narrow, darkened streets of La Ceiba.
Seven months ago, he packed some worn-out T-shirts, grabbed his 9-year-old brother, Noe, and hitchhiked to La Ceiba from his home 100 miles away. There, they met Sergio Pena, 12, and made their home on the streets.
"My Pa was beating us," Carlos says. "My Ma couldn't feed us. We have three other brothers and a little sister at home. So we just took off."
At night, they slept on a sidewalk next to a deli. The store's security officer _ a former street child himself _ took pity on them and guarded their sleep along with the store.

Carlos says he sometimes followed strangers, locals and foreigners, to their homes or hotel rooms "to take showers."

When asked whether he was the target of sexual abuse, he seems not to know what it means and doesn't answer.
One thing is clear: $10 is a fortune to a street child. Sex with an adult? It's just an inconvenience that provides access to food and a better place to sleep.
"Sex with gringos is seen as a way to get ahead," says Bill Kwiatkowski, a former Bradenton resident who runs Casa de Los Nios, a shelter for 31 street children in La Ceiba.
By mid-March, Kwiatkowski had taken in Carlos and the other two boys. They are now doing well, he says.
His informal surveys of the home's children, Kwiatkowski says, indicate that 60 percent have had sex with adults.
"Men give these children a little money, food, let them watch television at their hotel, give them a place to stay for a couple of nights," Kwiatkowski says. "Some kids may never get all this without selling themselves."
Interpol's Fournier de Saint Maur says Latin American governmental policies virtually guarantee the status quo.
"Latin America is still far from offering the level of enforcement now found in Southeast Asia," she says. "Nor do those countries offer children an institutional protection of good quality."
Even if the political will to crack down existed, there would be resistance from those who cash in on the sex trade.
At La Ceiba's Hotel Parthenon Beach, for instance, a customer doesn't even have to leave the hotel for a prostitute; they are beating the pavement under its windows, loudly shooting the breeze with the hotel security guards while trying to grab guests' attention.
Hersh, the FAU professor, is accused of taking young boys there for sex. The hotel also is where Rounds was arrested.
But manager Alvaro Hernandes says none of it is true.
"What? Kids here with grown-ups?" he says. "It never happened. We have strict security."
Meeting places vary
The areas around popular American-style eateries, such as the local Pizza Hut or Burger King, often are the scenes for first contacts between gringos and children. Children know they are guaranteed an occasional handout there, and small talk with foreign men.
Airports also are popular. Jesus Orellana met Hersh at the international airport in San Pedro Sula in 1992.
"I was selling chiclets {gum) at the airport and a friend came to me to say that a man wanted to take me on a trip," Jesus says. "The man was Marvin {Hersh). I told him I would go, but I would have to ask my mother first."
As the teen-ager recounts the story, he seems embarrassed; his father, Jorge, 60, is standing near. Sometimes, Jesus tugs at his San Francisco 49ers cap. He bought it in West Palm Beach, where he testified before a grand jury investigating Hersh.
Hersh didn't want to wait for the boy to talk to his mother, but gave Jesus a few lempiras and said he would come back. Two months later, Hersh returned.
"He gave me 300 lempiras {$23)," Jesus says. "So I took him to my mother, and my mother said I could go with him."
Possible witness

They went to the Hotel Parthenon Beach, Jesus says. He wouldn't say what happened in the rooms, but he is likely to be

asked again _ he is listed as a possible witness against Hersh.
During the next two years, Jesus says, Hersh gave the family clothes, cheap watches, a Walkman and Nike Airs.
That earned Hersh hours, sometimes days, with Jesus, including out-of-town trips and stays in fancy hotels.
At one time, Jesus says, Hersh offered to take him back to the United States, but Jesus' mother refused. Then Hersh stopped coming around.
It's hard to tell what Jesus' parents thought Hersh's intentions were, but they were taken by his generosity.
"I thought {Hersh) was just a friend of my son's," says Jorge Orellana, an unemployed handyman who now makes a little money watching a friend's house. "I thought he felt bad for our poverty. But now, I know. My son has not been the same since. If I see {Hersh), I shoot him."
The harsh reality, Kwiatkowski, says, is that for some families, a child gone with strangers for a few days means that there is one less mouth to feed.
Also, he says, children coerced into sex with foreigners usually come from broken homes, or homes where the children don't feel particularly loved. "They are taking advantage of people just because they are wealthy," Kwiatkowski says. That's not right."
Three blocks from his shelter, at 1 a.m., a young girl works the streets. Betty, the only name she gives, is flirting with drunk passers-by. She says she is 15, but looks 10. An elderly American walks up to her. There is a brief conversation, but it is cut short. A reporter asks to interview the man, who then runs away.
Betty is ticked off.
"How am I going to get my 100 lempiras {$7.50) now?" she says. "My mom is ill. I've got to feed her."
Honduras
-- Country size: about the same as Louisiana.
-- Weather: subtropical; coastal areas are exposed to hurricanes.
-- Population: 5.7 million; about half are children.
-- Life expectancy: 68.42 years
-- Gross national product: $1,980 per capita; one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.
-- Politics: Republican democracy, but armed forces are considered the true political power.
SOURCES: Central Intelligence Agency fact book; Sun-Sentinel research

ENDLESS TRIAL ON PAPER AND 21 MONTHS IN HELL Series: SPECIAL REPORT: PREYING ON CHILDREN
Sun Sentinel - Fort Lauderdale
May 17, 1998

His hands shaking, nervous tics invading his face, Daniel Rounds says he's a scapegoat for every gringo who came here to have sex with children.
Rounds, a Philadelphia elementary-school teacher, has been held in La Ceiba Prison for 21 months - mostly in a dank 10-by-12 cell with 69 hard-core criminals, plus a menagerie of rodents and insects.
In August 1996, Honduran police burst into Rounds' room in a La Ceiba hotel and found him with two boys, ages 10 and 13, and pornographic literature strewn about.
Yes, Rounds says, the boys were naked, and he wore only a towel - but there was nothing sexual going on.
"I paid them to get me groceries and bring them to me," says Rounds, 43.
Minutes later, he changes the story somewhat: he had taken pity on the street children who had come to his room "to take a shower."
"The whole thing looked bad," Rounds says, looking out to the prison yard where several husky inmates are eyeing his visitors. "I was drunk all the time. I don't remember that much."
Authorities, however, charged him with rape, lewdness and corruption of minors. The outcome of his case is pending, although the rape charge has been reduced to attempted rape.
His case is rare here, maybe unique: Rounds is the only foreigner jailed in Honduras on allegations of sex with minors, say local judges and attorneys. Another American led police to Rounds. Bill Kwiatkowski, director of a local shelter for street children, tipped police after some children asked for help.
"They described that two of their friends accompanied a gringo to his room and they were afraid for them," Kwiatkowski says. "Usually, the police don't respond very quickly to this stuff, if at all."
Once portly, Rounds now is 100 pounds lighter than when he entered prison. The 200 prisoners here buy what they eat, although the cost is twice what it is outside. Rounds' family and his lover in Philadelphia wire him money. To pass the time, he paints portraits of inmates, more than 200 so far, which he hopes to exhibit once he is released. But freedom is elusive. Rounds speaks no Spanish and cannot communicate with the six local attorneys he has hired and fired, spending $20,000 of his savings.
"They're ripping me off," he says. "They take my money, then I never see them again."
In Honduras, trials are conducted mostly on paper. Attorneys present written arguments, and the constant exchange of paperwork can last for years.
Rounds' family sometimes seeks advice from a Philadelphia lawyer, but he can't do much more than stay in touch with the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa.
"There was no physical evidence that Dan should even be charged with attempted rape," says that attorney, Richard Atkins, who is with the International Legal Defense Council. The group represented Billy Hayes, whose years in and escape from a Turkish prison were chronicled in the movie Midnight Express.
Rounds hopes to return home, to his job of 12 years as a music therapist for emotionally disturbed children. A 20-year employee of the Philadelphia public schools, he is on an indefinite unpaid leave.
To get his job back, Rounds faces several hurdles: he must pass a Pennsylvania State Police background check and avoid prosecution in the United States for the crimes he is accused of in Honduras. Kwiatkowski, meanwhile, says he has mixed feelings about his role in Rounds' arrest, especially after learning that Rounds was severely beaten by other inmates in mid-April.
"I don't feel remorse about him being in jail," Kwiatkowski says. "But I don't like what's happened to him since he's been in there."

SHELTERS GATHER KIDS OFF THE STREETS Series: SPECIAL REPORT: PREYING ON CHILDREN

[BROWARD METRO Edition]

It's 10 on a rainy winter night and former Floridian Bill Kwiatkowski is about to become the legal guardian of children Nos. 29, 30 and 31.
With his wife of two years, Mary, a native of Honduras, they have cornered three street urchins near the city's infamous Parque Central. It's a well-known cruising place for gay men in search of young prostitutes.
The boys, 11, 12 and 9, are wet, cold and hungry. Kwiatkowski stuffs his huge hand into a bag and pulls out bean and cheese tortillas. Each of the children takes one - the only meal of the day they haven't had to scavenge.
"We got 28 kids staying with us already," said Kwiatkowski, 51. "But there's more room."
Four years ago, he quit his job as electrical superintendent at Sarasota Memorial Hospital and moved to Honduras. With his own money, and donations from family members, hospital staff and a church in his hometown of Bradenton, he fed and cared for street children in La Ceiba.
He opened Casa de los Nios, an orphanage for street boys, a year and a half ago, and convinced the organization Feed the Children to finance the $7,000-a-month, 18-employee program.
The program is one of a dozen-plus groups throughout Honduras that focus on street children. By some low estimates, there are 2,000 to 3,000 of them in the country of 5.6 million.
The country is among the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, and usually provides few social programs - even to children. Their care is left to private organizations, often run by foreigners.
Among them, the New York-based Covenant House runs Casa Alianza. Based in Costa Rica, the program serves a total of 4,400 children a year in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico.
Fred Fonseca, an official with Casa Alianza in Tegucigalpa, said the largest number of street children in Honduras are boys; homeless girls are quickly picked up by pimps and put to work in brothels.
Casa Alianza's shelter in downtown Tegucigalpa is one of the country's largest, with beds for up to 50 children. The agency also has group homes and a drug rehabilitation center in the city.
Not everyone, however, supports people such as Fonseca or Kwiatkowski. Some have accused Casa Alianza of harboring delinquents; others have started rumors that Kwiatkowski is a pedophile.
Still, Kwiatkowski keeps searching the streets.
"These kids just need somebody to pay attention to them," he said, surveying the dorms one night. "Until they got here, most never even knew what a hug felt like."

SHELTERS GATHER KIDS OFF THE STREETS Series: SPECIAL REPORT: PREYING ON CHILDREN
Sun Sentinel - Fort Lauderdale
May 17, 1998

It's 10 on a rainy winter night and former Floridian Bill Kwiatkowski is about to become the legal guardian of children Nos. 29, 30 and 31.
With his wife of two years, Mary, a native of Honduras, they have cornered three street urchins near the city's infamous Parque Central. It's a well-known cruising place for gay men in search of young prostitutes.
The boys, 11, 12 and 9, are wet, cold and hungry. Kwiatkowski stuffs his huge hand into a bag and pulls out bean and cheese tortillas. Each of the children takes one - the only meal of the day they haven't had to scavenge.
"We got 28 kids staying with us already," said Kwiatkowski, 51. "But there's more room."
Four years ago, he quit his job as electrical superintendent at Sarasota Memorial Hospital and moved to Honduras. With his own money, and donations from family members, hospital staff and a church in his hometown of Bradenton, he fed and cared for street children in La Ceiba.
He opened Casa de los Nios, an orphanage for street boys, a year and a half ago, and convinced the organization Feed the Children to finance the $7,000-a-month, 18-employee program.
The program is one of a dozen-plus groups throughout Honduras that focus on street children. By some low estimates, there are 2,000 to 3,000 of them in the country of 5.6 million.
The country is among the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, and usually provides few social programs - even to children. Their care is left to private organizations, often run by foreigners.
Among them, the New York-based Covenant House runs Casa Alianza. Based in Costa Rica, the program serves a total of 4,400 children a year in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico.
Fred Fonseca, an official with Casa Alianza in Tegucigalpa, said the largest number of street children in Honduras are boys; homeless girls are quickly picked up by pimps and put to work in brothels.
Casa Alianza's shelter in downtown Tegucigalpa is one of the country's largest, with beds for up to 50 children. The agency also has group homes and a drug rehabilitation center in the city. Not everyone, however, supports people such as Fonseca or Kwiatkowski. Some have accused Casa Alianza of harboring delinquents; others have started rumors that Kwiatkowski is a pedophile.
Still, Kwiatkowski keeps searching the streets.
"These kids just need somebody to pay attention to them," he said, surveying the dorms one night. "Until they got here, most never even knew what a hug felt like."

CHILD ABUSE: A HARSH LOOK WORLDWIDE
Sun Sentinel - Fort Lauderdale
Jun 15, 1998

On the 50th anniversary of the U.N. Convention of the Rights of the Child, the lot of many of the world's children is far from happy. That is the message of Kate Blewett and Brian Woods, who traveled 70,000 miles and visited 21 countries to track down abuses of the young in Russia and Ghana, Greece and Togo, Central America and the United Arab Emirates. HBO's Innocents Lost is a harsh sequel to their 1996 investigation, The Dying Rooms, which exposed the mistreatment of baby girls in Chinese orphanages.
Painful pictures and interviews make their case. The program, encoring today and Friday on HBO, opens with scenes of camel races in the United Arab Emirates, where, we are told, boys as young as 3 are the jockeys. It looks like a dangerous sport, and the diminutive riders tell of falling a lot. Signed up in Bangladesh in exchange for a few dollars to their parents ("The smaller the child, the better," a trainer says), the boys are kept until they outgrow their use and then are either shipped back home or left to fend for themselves, unskilled strangers in a foreign land.
In a penal colony in the Urals and in a mental institution in Greece, the filmmakers find children languishing without education or treatment. In Ghana, young girls become slaves of resident priests: "I'm here forever," one says. In Costa Rica, North American tourists tell of the Yankee dollar buying the sexual favors of girls as young as 12 and 13; in Honduras, street children comfort themselves by sniffing glue; in Guatemala, police squads are implicated in beating, raping and killing homeless teen-agers. Not all these conditions come as revelations, but everywhere a sensitive camera captures the loneliness of defenseless children.
Moved by sympathy and indignation, the filmmakers slip now and then from reporting to exhorting; at moments they seem bent on exhibiting their own concern by way of contrast with the world's indifference. That may be understandable, but it also invites mistrust of their judgment when, for example, they suggest that the plight of homeless boys in New York and London is equivalent to the horrors they have just reported from Central America.
More revealing than their remonstrances is their recognition of the causes at work: The poverty that induces desperate parents in Togo to sell their children into servitude; the political pressure in Russia to crack down on crime with little attention to educating the young criminals; the stigma that attaches to the retarded in Greece, and the religious beliefs that sustain the exploitation of young girls in Ghana.

These differing situations call for separate analysis. But even if in their zeal Blewett and Woods go global and turn from reporting to inveighing, much credit is still due for their exertions, their dedication and their insistence that attention be paid.

Story/photos by SPC Benjamin Cossel
196th MPAD

LA CEIBA, Honduras – Choking back tears, Ohio Army National Guardsman Sgt. Natasha Swarts cleared her throat, “So many bad things have happened to these kids in their lives. To be able to do just one thing that can help so many … I’ve got goose bumps all over.”

Soldiers from the Ohio National Guard’s 186th Engineering Detachment are working to finish electrical wiring and fixtures at a school that will serve the 24 boys housed at the Niños de la Luz (Children of the Light) Orphanage in La Ceiba, Honduras.

In addition to serving the boys at the orphanage, the school, with a maximum capacity of 180 students, will open to the public.

Serendipity Strikes

Swarts first encountered Niños de la Luz director, Bill Kwiatkowski by accident.
“We were at Expatriates having dinner and Bill was there,” said the Lancaster, Ohio resident. “We began talking and he told us about the orphanage. I knew immediately I wanted to at least get out there and see the kids.”

Kwiatkowski told the Soldiers how his facility was mainly built by the charity of others – a missionary group from Canada built the playground and missionaries with the Mission of Hope from Michigan built the two main buildings that house the children along with a joint kitchen and dining facility.

Kwiatkowski’s story touched the Soldiers with Swarts at dinner, all of them walked away wanting to do something with the little bit of time they had.

Swarts and the Soldiers of the 186th Eng. Det. are currently serving their annual two-week training as part of New Horizons 2006 – Honduras. The chance encounter happened during Swart’s first full day in country.

It would be almost a week and a half later before Swarts would finally make it to the compound.

Getting There

On the morning of April 6, New Horizons Chaplain (Capt.) John Shipman met up with Warrant Officer Bruce Landeg of the 186th Eng. Det. to make the trip to the orphanage.

Shipman had heard of the orphanage through his assistant, Senior Airman Michael Meade.

“Mike’s been heavily involved with the orphanage since he got here,” said Shipman, “And I wanted to support his efforts.”

Landeg met Shipman during a Sunday service where the orphanage came up in conversation.

Lancaster, Ohio resident Sgt. Natasha Swarts with the Ohio Army National Guard's 186th Engineering Detachment passes out candy April 11, to children of the Niños de la Luz orphanage in La Ceiba, Honduras.

Spc. Tommy Gimlich from Columbus, Ohio with the 186th Engineering Detachment, Ohio Army National Guard, tries to thread electrical as he and other Soldiers of the unit work to finish the wiring at the Niños de la Luz school house.

Army Sgt. Natasha Swarts with the Ohio Army National Guard's 186th Engineering Detachment speaks with Niños de la Luz director and founder Bill Kwiatkowski. Swarts and other Soldiers of the detachment are working at the orphanage to fix wiring and fixture problems with the school house on the compound.

Spc. Kenneth Thompson from Columbus, Ohio with the Ohio National Guard's 186th Engineering Detachment wires fixtures at the Niños de la Luz orphanage April 11, in La Ceiba, Honduras.

Landing had been with Swarts the evening they encountered Kwiatkowski and he too wanted to get to the facility to offer whatever he could. The opportunity finally presented itself and the three made their way to the compound.

Kwiatkowski met them at the compound where he walked them around, showing each of the buildings and stopping at the kitchen for lunch. All of the children of the orphanage were seated eating their meal of chicken and rice, potato salad and vegetables. Kwiatkowski walked around introducing the children to each of the guests.

“These kids have had a very hard life. Some have been sexually abused, others were involved with gangs or drugs. But we don’t discriminate – we take all kids, refusing to ever give up hope.”

Finishing up lunch, the tour of the facility continued. Pointing to the school house, Kwiatkowski noted that while much of the work was done, much work was still needed.
“Building a school house has always been a part of our projected plan,” said Kwiatkowski.

Kwiatkowski then explained that, in his opinion, teachers of Honduras where not nearly as dedicated as their American counter-parts.

“A lot of the teachers just collect a pay-check and never even show up. It’s not like American teachers where they’re passionate about teaching. My kids were regularly going to school and then just coming right back home because there was no teacher to give the class. So we decided to build our own school, try and get teachers from the state to staff it, and open it up to the kids in this area.”

Much to Kwiatkowski’s surprise, a group from Wisconsin. showed up at his door step one day saying they wanted to build a school house.

“Unfortunately, they ran out of money before the project could be completed,” said Kwiatkowski. “So, we’re now fixing things as we can. We’re still about $16,000 … short of what we need.”

One of the items left incomplete was some of the wiring and all of the fixtures in the building. When Kwiatkowski explained to Shipman and Landeg what was left, an idea struck Landeg.

“You know,” said Landeg to Kwiatkowski, “we have a sergeant with us who is a master electrician (Swarts) back in her civilian job. If we could get her and some other folks out here to wire up this building, would that help?”

“That would be a blessing,” responded Kwiatkowski.

Soldiers to the Rescue

The focus of New Horizons is training for the engineers and medical personal that fill out the staff, a side benefit being the permanent structures and medical relief the U.S. service members leave behind. Prior to the operations commencement, projects sites are established and currently, five locations are under construction. Working at the orphanage was never apart of the original plan.

Before the electricians of the 186th could get to work, the project needed approval from Task Force commander, Air Force Maj. Toney Riley.

According to Landeg, Riley didn’t have a problem with the Soldiers of the 186th working at the orphanage but transportation and security were a concern.

“Bill (Kwiatkowski) agreed to pick up and drop -off as many personnel as we could provide and Major Riley agreed that with the compound being gated and so close to the base, extra force protection wasn’t needed.”

Pulling up his bright red pick-up truck to the base gate at 8 a.m. on April 11, Kwiatkowski carried the four Soldiers of the 186th Eng. Det. out to the orphanage to begin work. A week and half of waiting was finally over for Swarts.

“I glad to finally get out here. There’s a lot to do and I know with the expertise we have we’ll be able to do a lot of good work in the little bit of time that we have left,” said Swarts.

Columbus, Ohio resident Spc. Kenneth Thompson with the 186th Eng. Det. agreed.
“There’s a lot of hard work to be done but this has been the best experience out of anything I’ve done here so far.” said Thompson.

With only four days left in their rotation, the four Soldiers are working feverishly to get as much done as possible but for Swarts, safety won’t be compromised for speed.

“We’re making sure that everything is properly grounded and marked …just taking the extra time to make sure everything is as safe as possible,” said Swarts who has more than eight years experience as a journeyman (Master) electrician with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

It is the hope of Swarts that rotations replacing hers will continue the work started and the orphanage will be the legacy of the 186th Eng. Det. in Honduras.

But no matter what future rotations do, for the Soldiers of the 186th running wires, attaching fans and securing service entry points – the work they’ve done will stay with them forever.

“To know that every time one of these kids turns on a light in their classroom … that’s something we did,” said Thompson. “They may never know who we are, but every time the lights come on, that’s our work. This is something I’ll never forget, to be able to work on something that people will appreciate, that just makes you feel good.”

USF LEND HELPING HAND AT HONDURAS ORPHANAGE
Sun Sentinel - Fort Lauderdale
March 30, 2006

When there is a community in need of assistance, students from USF Sarasota-Manatee are eager to volunteer their help, even if that community is in a different country.

In Honduras, the government does not provide help to families stricken by poverty, and they do not allow adoption. Many parents are forced to turn their children onto the streets, some as young as six years old.

Eight members of the school Student Government Association and Circle K International traveled to La Ceiba, Honduras, March 13-19, to provide helping hands at the Village of Hope orphanage.

Rebecca Jetter, the president of the Student Government Association and Circle K International at USF, organized the trip. Other students making the journey included Thomas Irwin, Darren Gvambell, Kristy Williams, Jamie Miller, Morgan Lane, Danielle LoPresto, and Junior Brutus.

Bill Kwiatkowski founded the orphanage. Kwiatkowski first began assisting the needy in Honduras by donating used hospital equipment to the medical facility there while employed as the electrical supervisor for Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

In 1994, Kwiatkowski moved to Honduras and began Children of the Light, a nonprofit organization designed to provide a clean and safe place for children where they may receive food and guidance. The hospital now provides free medical care to the children because of his previous donations.

"There are only two rules the children must follow,"
Jetter said. "They have to want to be there -- the government or their parents can't force them -- and they have to want to go to school."

There are currently 27 boys living at the facility, which is not yet finished.

The USF volunteers helped complete a fence surrounding the orphanage. They also helped dig a water line and contributed to the ongoing development of a school, which teaches grades one through six.

Untitled Document