“Would you like to come up the mountain and visit a school with me?”
This is the question that changed the life of Bob and Diane Wamhoff, and that would begin a transformation of a small Honduran community.
Diane Wamhoff had joined her church on a mission trip to El Progresso, Honduras in 2002. At the time, she was there to visit an orphanage when she was approached by a nun named Sister Theresita with an invitation to visit a school in her mountain community. Diane accepted, and was joined by a Honduran woman named Judith who was also involved in the mission work in El Progresso.
The trip up the mountain was treacherous. The road, if you could call it that, was washed away in many places, with severe drops on either side. Diane remained in the SUV taking her up the mountain, while Judith and a few others walked. The trip was rough, but what she saw when she reached her destination, the small village of Brisas Del Norte De San Francisco, was heartbreaking.
“The school was nothing more than a run-down, two-room building which was intended to house first through sixth graders,” said Diane as she recounts her first experience on the mountain. “I saw the kids, and they had no smiles on their faces. They were all skin and bones. Sister Theresita told us these children had no food, and were eating grass and dandelions. She then pulled 11 kids to the side and told me if they didn’t eat, they would die within six months.”
She went on to point out a little boy who was living in a coop with pigs and cows. He had terrible parasites and was in need of hospitalization.
“Sister Theresita told me that if they could build a kitchen, the government would provide a grant for beans and rice because they recognized the kids couldn’t learn or study if they were so hungry. They were all falling asleep in class,” said Diane.
That provided some shimmer of hope, but the school didn’t have the money to build the kitchen. Diane asked her church group, and they could not provide the funds either.
At that moment, guided by God and Angel Timmy, Diane made a decision. She said “I will do it. I will build the kitchen” and personally provided the funds to make it happen.
“I was so excited,” said Diane. “I came home and told Bob what I was doing. He was shocked! But he could see the enthusiasm and was very supportive.”
The kitchen was built … but the government promise to provide food went unfulfilled.
Diane was eager to return to Honduras to see the kitchen, and see the children eating. Yet she was filled with disappointment when she arrived. The kitchen was being used for storage. There was no equipment. There was no food. The children were still starving.
“I wasn’t going to let those children die. I will never forget the looks on their faces when I got there. I could see fear, and the lost, sunken eyes. I’ve never felt so certain and so driven about anything,” said Diane, who proceeded to immediately go into town and buy everything to operate the kitchen and feed the children.
On that day in 2003, Just Because We Care was born.
Yet Diane knew that she and Bob couldn’t do it alone. They would need the help and support of the community in Honduras, as well as the financial support of the community in the United States to feed the children.
Judith, who journeyed up the mountain with Diane that very first day, and her family became an important part of Just Because. Judith is a nurse and a lawyer by trade, and her husband, Esau, is a doctor who is rumored to have delivered tens of thousands of babies in El Progresso and the surrounding areas. They were as moved by what they saw as Diane. As Judith says “these are my people,” and she wanted to do everything she could to serve them.
Judith, Esau, their two sons and daughters-in-law agreed to run the charity on the ground, day-to-day. Diane returned to the United States to begin raising money.