Helene, Honduras

Our Caribbean Mission field

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Location

Helene (called Santa Elena by the predominantly Spanish-speaking Honduran government) is a small English-speaking island, about four miles long and one mile wide, located 30 miles off the northern coast of mainland Honduras. It is separated from its nearest neighbor, Roatan, the largest of the Bay Islands, by only a narrow canal, but twelve miles of ocean, dense jungles, and mangrove swamps isolate Helene from the rest of civilization. Map of location.

History

The aboriginal inhabitants of the Bay Islands were the Paya Indians. The black islanders are descendants of African slaves brought over by the Spanish & English in the 17th & 18th centuries. The white Islanders came from England in the 18th century via Cayman and St. Kitts, a few claim to be descendants from the pirates. Columbus visited the Islands in 1502, they were a pirate base during the 17th century, and in 1850 the British colonized them. In 1861, limited sovereignty was ceded to Honduras.

Today

Helene has seven communities scattered along the shores, connected only by walking paths. The total population is just over 900. Most of the men make a living by fishing. The friendly residents are mainly English-speaking, segregated from mainland Honduras due to their different race, heritage, and language. Life in Helene has been extremely harsh for many years. Electricity is only available via diesel powered generators (for those few families who can afford them). Mission Encounters operates the only clean drinking water on the island of Helene. There are other water sources, but none that have been filtered. Transportation is only by foot or boat.

The Missions Encounters mission site is located about mid-island, central to all the communities. Its main building houses medical and dental clinics, the kitchen, rooms for the staff and short term mission teams, as well as a large open-air meeting place. There is also a school, with seven classrooms.