The large fire in Tegucigalpa presents serious challenges to our community

It was a hot and dry afternoon, as usual. The climate in this part of Honduras is stable. Being somewhat elevated, the hot tropical air doesn’t reach Tegucigalpa.

It feels as though it’s spring all year round. Mornings hover around 15 degrees Celsius, sunny days range from 25 to 30 degrees, and nights vary between 15 and 20 degrees.

There are two constants in this climate. The first is the wind, which starts blowing more towards the evening, and the second is almost no rain. We’ve been here for over two months now, and it has only rained once. It’s dry. Really, everything is so dry. That’s why water is all the more important and necessary.

That afternoon, we began to notice black soot and ash around the house. The strong smell of fire first led us to think that a neighbor might be burning something, perhaps preparing a barbecue for an evening party or something similar.

By evening, news of a fire that had flared up around Tigra National Park, also known as the ‘lungs of Tegucigalpa,’ reached us. Then, news, along with new flakes of ash and soot, just kept coming.

source: Heraldo

The national park is only 25 kilometers away from us, that is, from the capital city. The extent of the fire and the power of the flames were such that about 500 people were involved in fighting the fire, which lasted nearly two days.

Current data shows that around 500 hectares of forest were burned, and the cause of the fire is attributed to human factors. Statistics indicate that 90% of all fires are human-caused, mainly due to a lack of awareness, knowledge, or simply ignorance.

So, they are still looking for the culprit and threatening them with 12 years in prison.

source: Heraldo

For our Arc house, the fire posed several challenges.

The least of which was merely sweeping and cleaning around the house, as the black remnants of the fire, brought by the wind, could hardly be cleaned up.

A bigger problem was the smoke, which lingered in the air and also penetrated our house and our rooms. Silva complained about a burning sensation in her lungs and poor air quality, and at breakfast, I noticed Hector had teary eyes.

While cleaning soot and ash

Since he’s always such a ‘macho,’ I jokingly asked him why he was crying and said that we would comfort him. Of course, he seriously resisted this.

The biggest problem posed by the fire will be, not just for us, but for the entire capital city, of course, water.

And again, we’re back to water. Precisely because of the lack of water, we started our charitable campaign, which is still raising money for the Arc community in Tegucigalpa. We often face water shortages, and now they say that the distribution will be even more disrupted.

The most important water sources are right in the national park and its surroundings, which were the epicenter of the fire. These sources supply a large part of the city with drinking water.

There are justified concerns about water contamination and, consequently, even more disrupted and difficult distribution.

In the house, we have also been in ‘conservation mode’ for some time now, if I may use the term from our mobile phones. This means that the electric pump is always turned off, and nothing has flowed from the taps for a long time.

We fill water into barrels and a collector, and then with smaller plastic buckets, we flush, clean, wash, and so forth. I’ve already written about all this here.

While I monitor what’s happening around us in this crazy world—all our foolishness, malice, greed, and contradictiveness—the desire for more and, at the same time, the desire for destruction, exploitation, and disregard for any weakness, I observe our boys and girls.

Such contrasts—I can hardly explain them well to you. They are so genuine, so human. Selfish and generous at the same time, happy and sad, mischievous and friendly, jealous and yet capable of the purest love. All of this, which is otherwise in each of us, comes from them freely, without reservations, and without masks.

And this makes them so very innocent, even sacred. They are close to God.

In the events of the world and among us who consider ourselves ‘normal,’ our boys and girls represent a kind of comfort. I draw from their purity and humanity, from their authenticity, sincerity, loyalty to their own emotions, their ability to stay in touch with them, and the courage to show it to others around them.

I observe, for instance, Lita. I haven’t introduced her to you yet. She has cerebral palsy and is the only one in the community who is wheelchair-bound.

Smiling Lita

She is 64 years old and has lived in the Arc community for 47 years.

Lita was raised in a poor family on the outskirts of Suyapa. Her mother reportedly sent her out to beg for money on the streets.

Imagine that. Lita, such a bright person who was always smiling and actually very intelligent, had to sit in her wheelchair on some busy promenade.

Lita is always at the center of activity. She even dances.

Because she can only exclaim and move one hand, she probably could really earn some money and food for her family from compassionate passersby.

In such circumstances, Nadine Tokar, the founder of the Arc community in Honduras, met her. She wanted to take her in, and her mother agreed to it.

These were the beginnings of Arc in Honduras. Lita is considered one of the co-founders of the community, as she was the first to join Nadine when she was establishing the community.

As far as care and attendance go, she is quite a handful for an assistant. She needs to be lifted out of and placed back into her wheelchair multiple times a day every time she needs to relieve herself when the female assistants wash her in the morning, and when they put her to bed.

As I’ve said, Lita likes to laugh. Everything seems funny to her. When we’re in the living room and dancing to rhythms from the television, she points now at one, now at another, and laughs at them, especially Hector, when he performs amusing dance figures in the middle of the living room.

She likes to be beautiful and well-dressed. The assistants know how she wants to be dressed and what earrings to put in her ears.

Like Chayito, her roommate, Lita likes to paint, although she finds it much more difficult than her friend.

One day, when Silva and I were shown, by her exclamations and gestures, to a side pocket on her wheelchair, we found two drawings. Then, pointing now at Silva, now at me with her hand, we knew she had colored them for us.

We received a gift, which we particularly appreciate, given how much effort she had to put into her work, given how difficult it is for her to move her hand and hold anything between her fingers.

Lita’s gift for us and Silva. It doesn’t matter if it goes a bit over the edge of the coloring book.

I haven’t introduced you to Mina yet, either. Unlike the other boys and girls, she comes from a wealthy family.

Initially, she only attended workshops and returned home every day, but then she was permanently accepted into the house.

She is 64 years old and has lived in Arc’s house since 1985, which means 39 years.

Susana, an assistant from Canada, does Mina’s nails.

Mina is not physically limited, pleasant-looking, elegant, and always somewhat dreamy. Of course, she has an intellectual disability, but compared to the other boys and girls, she is the most capable and understands much more than the others.

She laughs at Mr. Bean when we watch him on television together, has an excellent sense of humor, and sometimes makes very sharp comments that can astonish and amuse the assistant.

Mina pulling weeds in the garden behind the house

She likes to participate, and we can rely on her for house chores. It’s clear that she feels completely at home in Arc’s house.

Of all, Mina likes Don Raul the most. She addresses him in a friendly manner and encourages and supports him when he’s indecisive or resists some task.

We notice that her hearing is quickly deteriorating. When we say something to her, and she doesn’t hear it well, she first, in her own way, loudly exclaims:


You should hear it. Sometimes, I respond in the same way, exclaiming just like her. Then she starts laughing out loud, which I really like about her; she knows how to joke about herself.

Takšen izraz ima, ko vzkline svoj ‘aaaaaaaaaa?’. Lita jo opazuje in kaže nanjo.

That’s the expression she uses when she exclaims, ‘Aaaaaaaaaa? ‘ Lita watches her and points at her.

Although she still has a family, brothers, and sisters, they visit her very rarely, just a few times a year. Nonetheless, Mina feels accepted in the community and has found her place, and I can hardly imagine the community without her.

In the last three articles, you have met all the boys and girls with whom Silva and I live here in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.

We still have some time left until our visas expire, but we are already looking forward. New opportunities are opening up for us in other nearby Arc communities.

The closest one is in Mexico. We’ve re-established contact with Azucena, the coordinator of the Arc communities in Central America. We’re now waiting for a response from Mexico City, and God willing, we’ll be able to head there by the end of April.

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