By Ernestine Williams
When fire raged through Bonacca Key, off the Honduran island of Guanaja, 61-year-old Cirilo was among those who struggled to bring the blaze under control, searching for pumps and other equipment to extinguish the flames when buckets of water were not enough. At one point, Cirilo helped transport someone to get medical attention for injuries he sustained in the fire, unaware of what he would find upon his return.
“When I got home, well, there was no home to go to,” Cirilo said. “All I could do was just look around and thank God that I was safe, and the rest of the people were safe. We tried to do our best.”
Cirilo’s house, and everything inside, was gone. His was among the 90 homes destroyed in the fire, while more than 100 others were damaged. The blaze ignited before sunrise on Oct. 5, reportedly from a burning candle in one of the homes on the densely populated island of 5,700. No one died, but four people were injured in the fire, which destroyed nearly half the island.
Known for its crystal-clear water and proximity to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, Guanaja is a tourist destination and fishing community in the Bay Islands, 43 miles off Honduras’ north coast. Cirilo is one of the many island residents who make their living as fishermen, using small fishing boats and gear provided by Food For The Poor.
“What I have left is what I have in here,” Cirilo said, sitting in his FFTP boat, his fishing gear another casualty of the fire. The immense level of destruction and loss might have discouraged some, but not Cirilo. Instead of plunging into despair, he summoned his faith and turned his attention to helping others. All that he had left was his fishing boat, and he generously used it to transport donated mattresses and emergency relief packages to families taking refuge in shelters.
“We cannot just sit there and fold our hands,” said Cirilo, explaining his motivation to help his friends and neighbors. With his house now in ruins, Cirilo plans to move in with his son. It’s a devastating loss and a tremendous setback, but Cirilo relies on his faith to propel him forward.
“I’m still healthy … I can still move around,” Cirilo said. “I hope to still go on a little further. Where there’s life, there’s hope. So that’s what I’m thinking about. Just forget about what happened. Ask God to give us strength and open the road so that we will proceed on to find a better future. That’s all I’m asking.”