Sunday, August 7th, was International Friendship Day. We wanted to share the story of two couples, who developed a strong friendship all because of a PWW trip to Honduras. Here is their story as told by the the Johnsons & the Sabens.
As avid Rotarians in Yarmouth MA, we (Jim and Tammy) wanted to do a humanitarian trip. After searching various water projects, and speaking with Ann Williams, a past Rotary District 7950 Governor and dedicated Rotarian, we knew that Pure Water for the World (PWW) was the organization we wanted to invest time and money into. We picked PWW for many reasons the least not being that PWW was founded by Rotarians, still supported by Rotarians, and has created a sustainable project in Honduras. Jim made a call to Barry Poppel the coordinator of a trip to Honduras and discovered there was an upcoming trip in April, 2013 to install water filters in a community outside of Trojes that consisted mainly of Rotarians from various East Coast clubs, including 10 from a club in Wesley Chapel Florida that we named “The Wesley Chapel Ten.” The trip was full, however Barry decided he could squeeze in two more and next thing you know we were collecting hygiene products from our local businesses and Rotary clubs to assemble into kits we would distribute to the villagers.
We flew to Houston, where we met some of our party, who were from Vermont. The next leg of our trip was a flight to Honduras where we would meet the rest of the 20 person work team, including the Wesley Chapel 10 led by Eric Johnson of Safety Harbor, Florida at the Tegucigalpa Airport. After two days of travel, we arrived in Trojes and the next morning broke up into teams and went out into the mountains to install water filters in remote homes. Overheated and exhausted after the hours of traveling in the truck beds on dusty dirt paths deep into and out of the mountains along the border of Nicaragua, the gang met for drinks on the rooftop of our hotel to talk about the day’s adventures. We never ended up on work site with Eric, but the bonding began on that rooftop overlooking dirt roads and the small, quaint village of Trojes. From there the beginnings of a true lifelong friendship happened in reminiscing about our daily encounters with the beautiful people of Honduras, after long days of installing water filtration systems. The heartfelt work of providing them with clean water, something we take for granted, was rewarding particularly when you meet the children whose lives you were likely saving. As we talked, we discovered that Eric was originally from our neck of the woods, just 50 miles away in the town of Pembroke, Mass. So, when the trip was over we pledged to stay in touch.
When we had to be in Florida on business, a few months later, we contacted Eric. He, his fiancé and their beautiful children drove a couple of hours to join us for dinner. The next day we headed to Wesley Chapel to have dinner with the rest of the Wesley Chapel 10. The following day we attend the Wesley Chapel Rotary Meeting where we enjoyed a reunion with our new friends.
When Eric told us he was coming north for a visit we all agreed we must get together. So we drove to Pembroke and met his family for a cookout and fun times.
Since then, we have gotten together every time Eric and Scarleth visit his family in Pembroke. We feel like part of Eric’s family as we’ve been there to dine, boat and visit with them. We have had them come to Cape Cod to go sailing and to catch up on life, Rotary and PWW.
Last year has been a real highlight in our new friendship, with the marriage of both Eric to Scarleth and Jim to Tammy within months of each other.
In November of 2015, we were honored to be invited to attend the very intimate wedding of Eric and Scarleth in Florida. (Barry Poppel and Pablo Rivera, from our Honduras team were there too.) It was wonderful to share the union of their love that they continue to share with others in their outpouring of selflessness. Their loving spirit and our bond as friends is what prompted us to ask Eric to officiate our wedding in April 2016 on Cape Cod. We had already picked a date, but found that Eric was already scheduled to return to Honduras with another group of Rotarians on that date, so we quickly agreed to change our wedding day by a week so that we could be sure to have Eric and Scarleth with us. We didn’t want anyone else to officiate our wedding. We knew it just had to be Eric. Eric agreed and the week before his trip to Honduras they flew to the cape for our wedding. Our wedding was so personal and moving that there was not a dry eye in the house. Everyone in our family and circle of friends quickly fell in love with Eric and Scarleth.
This summer, the Johnson family had a reunion in Pembroke so we arranged to have all of the Johnson family, including Eric’s, parents, his sister & brother and all of their families to the Cape for what we had hoped would be a fun day fishing. When the weather did not cooperate, we returned to our home where we spent the day talking, laughing and loving our time together. We ended the day with a huge lobster dinner. It was so amazing to watch the games of croquet on the back lawn and see Jim teach Scarleth how to eat a lobster, as it was her very first lobster experience. Sadly, the day came to an end and we said goodbye until next time.
Where does our friendship go from here?….We will one day return to Honduras to continue to support the wonderful work of PWW. In the meantime, we all talk often by phone and Facebook/text all the time. We can’t wait for our next visit and the start of another adventure. We are now family and families stick together. We are sure this is a bond for the rest of our lives. Thank you PWW for bringing us together!