Feature Blog Post: Jeanne in Utila
Quite often I can’t seem to find the words to describe what it is like living on the island of Utila and working with the poorest children and their families. The facts of what their lives are like compared to mine is sometimes indescribable for me.
Thankfully, my roommate and co-founder of Children of Utila with me, is brilliant at putting daily life into words. She sees the realities of this culture compared to our realities growing up as Americans. Therefore, I am re-blogging her most recent post about how our organization was able to help one family.
Can’t Afford to Plug in the Fridge
The rental house comes with a medium-sized refrigerator but the family is too poor to plug it in. The $200 rent takes up most of the couples earnings. They sparingly run lights and a little TV because they have three young children.
How much does it really cost to run the refrigerator?
The cost of electricity in Utila is one of the most shocking adjustments to living on a small Caribbean island in Honduras. I have heard that it is among the most expensive in the world. In Utila, a kilowatt-hour is 46 cents compared to the average rate of residential electricity in the U.S. of 12 cents in April 2012. It would cost this family approximately $27 a month to operate the refrigerator in the house. The poor on the island spend $10-$15 a month in electricity to run fans and a few lights and/or TV.
This family buys only what they eat that day. The closest store is a walk across the swamp bridges to the main street, turn right and walk another 100 feet. A bag of beans, rice, tortillas, soda, milk, cereal, and onion. Back home, they cook what the family of five will consume, and repeat each day. I imagine most poor families exist this way. Before, when I saw a fridge I assumed it was plugged in. Now, I know it isn’t the case for families living with no margin.
How we were able to help one family
With the help of two donors we were able to purchase a small fridge that this family could afford to plug-in. They may have to unplug it at night. The mom said it would be helpful since the children are back in school and she can make lunches and have some breakfast ready early in the morning. The boys were wide-eyed as they saw the brand new appliance in a box for them.
I have a new appreciation for the luxury of appliances and the ability to pay for their use. The benefit of a full-sized fridge is a delight in Utila because they are not common in most rentals. I was two years with a small fridge and now that I have a full-sized one, it receives comments from visiting friends on the island. “Oh, wow, you have a large fridge.” Then I remember how grateful I am to have it.