Monthly news magazine for Roatan,
Utila & Guanaja
January, 2006 Vol.4 No. 1
 
Calendar Style
Bay Islands Voice Updates:
feature story / editorial / local news / business

Words and Photos by Thomas Tomczyk

As long as people lived on the Bay Islands there was crime. The pirates and slave trader John Coxen were, by today's standards, criminals. Utila had some gruesome murders in late XIX century reported by Richard Rose in "Utila: Past and Present."

In Honduras, as in most developing countries enforcement of laws is often more important than the laws themselves. Over the last 12 months it has become more evident that the Honduran central government, Bay Islands local officials, nor police authorities are able to control the rising crime, or to understand its sources. It looks more and more like Bay Islands and especially Roatan are reaching a crossroads of either falling into disorder similar to 1980's Jamaica, or to follow a Mexican model where the state secures isolated tourist enclaves with massive investment of police and funds.
COVER PHOTO: Despite most of the attention given to invasion of wealthy, often foreign owned homes, most crimes happen to the poor in neglected parts of the islands. On August 22, Thomas Brooks, 47, was shot four times in a personal argument that turned violent in Coxen Hole's El Swampo. This volunteer baseball empire of 19 years lost a kidney and suffered nerve damage that paralyzed him from waste down. While his shooter awaits trial in La Ceiba, Brooks spent the last four months recuperating in a shack across the FedEx office. "In 1998 it all got worse. Everybody wanted to be a gangster," said Brooks, who lives off the voluntary help of family and friends.

In January 2002 president Maduro began implementing "Operacion Safe Honduras," that used military personnel to double the number of armed security officers on Honduran streets. The results soon followed. Kidnappings in San Pedro Sula fell from 13 in 2001 to two in 2003, and violent crime has decreased. What the government failed to control is the rise is non-violent crimes and the murder rate itself.
"There is the perception that police are part of the problem, but we are only responsible of focusing addressing the results of the problem, not it's sources," said Amilcar Mejia, 37, 19-year veteran of Honduran Police and vice-commissioner of Roatan Police for the last 17 months. Deputy police chief Mejia believes that the key reasons behind the high crime rates in Honduras and Bay Islands are threefold: Country's long history of almost unrestricted gun ownership, complicated and unrealistic penal code and lack of rehabilitation opportunities in penal institutions.
In Honduras, poor coordination, and communication between the different branches of the policing, judiciary and the public further the difficulty in catching, prosecuting and reeducating the criminal offenders. "This judicial code is great for a developed country, not for poor country with few resources like ours," said Mejia. Roatan and Bay Islands only exemplify the national problem: poverty, unemployment, gang violence and social inequality.
In the last year, Roatan Police has begun to keep a better track of crimes in the Bay Islands. At the police headquarters there is a 10 foot wide chart of all the month's crimes, something that wasn't there a year ago. The understanding why crime is rising on the Bay Islands isn't simple and currently no one has an accurate understanding of crime patterns here: who, where and why is committing them. There are very few statistics, and none are reliable as the population base of Roatan remains a mystery and many serious crimes: rapes, home invasions and armed robberies are not reported.
"Prosperity of this island caused these problems to come," said Mayor Hynds. While that may be true, few people seem to agree on how to begin solving the rising crime problem. While municipal authorities blame prosperity and fiscales, fiscales blame the police, police blames the lack of resources and the public blames police incompetence and corruption.
Barely 16 hours after the brutal killing of Gary Smith, an American retiree on December 11, Mayor Hynds called an emergency meeting at the Roatan municipality. The meeting informing the public of the tragic events, but quickly refocused on damage control of how the murder could negatively impact the perception of Roatan as a tourist destination.
The amount of the reward to capture the murders and censoring internet discussion forums, not the commitment to find strategies to tackle the entire crime problem, became the focus of the discussion. "We need to control the yahoo (roatannet.com) group because they can do a lot of damage," said Romeo Silvestri, president of CANATURH-BI. Roatannet newsgroup, Roatan's biggest 2,000 member discussion forum, was censored following the Smith murder, curtailing freedom of speech.
For three days following the murder, while five armed suspects remained on the run, no messages or explanations regarding the murder were posted on Bay Islands main communication link with the outside world. Bay Islands Voice posted the Smith murder story and related security information on its website 36 hours after the murder and updated it within two hours after the suspects were caught.
The aftermath of the murder displayed a growing conflict between the immediate economic interest of some Roatan businesspeople and security interest and comfort level of the island's 600-800 Expats and tourists. While economics seemed to win most of the time, everyone has a different tolerance for anxiety, and the Smith murder has crossed the line for many people. "I make every dime from US tourists, but security is more important," said Tim Blanton, 11 year Roatan resident and business owner whose Brick Bay house was robbed twice.
"In the last coupe months we had probably 60 some brake-ins. Unless we come-out with a plan of action it is still going to happen," said Phil Weir, Roatan realtor who took on tracking down the number of recent home invasions on the island.
Charles George, owner of Vegas Electric, spoke what many Roatanians and Expats were already thinking: "I've been here for 19 years and yesterday is the first time I told myself 'maybe Roatan isn't the place to be?'"
Voices of dissension were swiftly played down by Mayor Hynds. "You either stay here and make it better, or you can leave," said Mayor Hynds. "I have the commitment from president elect and president of congress to make this place a free port. (…) we could have our own police system, own laws and bylaws," said Mayor Hynds.
No one at the meeting questioned out loud the viability of the "free port crime solution." There are several free port models and even if Roatan, or its portion, is declared a free port, the status is likely to take years to implement. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of tourist will visit the island and hundreds of its foreign residents will continue to live on the Bay Islands.
The difficulty and length of creating a Freeport lays not only with favorable Central government, but is dependent on the complexity of voting this first-of-a kind Honduran territory in, outlining it legislation, approving it and finally implementing it.
"We're going to catch them dead or alive. Whatever comes first," said at the meeting Mayor Hynds. The Lps. 250,000 reward offered by the Municipality was five times the size of the prize offered by Honduran Police for the capture of the most wanted man in Honduras: Ignacio Andero Rodrigez. The award money was paid anonymously, but conditions of the Roatan Municipality reward didn't exclude another potential criminal from profiting on informing on his competitors in crime.
Doug Thorkelson, another US businessman, questioned the amount of the reward that could potentially be counterproductive and attract too many leads. While murders of two Americans on Roatan, in 1998 and 2003, remain unsolved, no money was offered by the municipality to solve them. Adan Francisco Sauceda Medina wanted for a murder of a US citizen on Roatan in 1998, remains at large.
A few hours later, during a CANATURH-BI meeting, similar voices of concern were heard again. "I'm afraid and I'm angry. We no longer feel safe here and I contacted my Senator Harry Reed (R-NV) for a travel advisory to be posted here," said Blanton. "A travel advisory is a wake-up call to the Honduran government: 'you better protect your assets.'"
Despite initial promises of COBRA units and a team of fiscales, it was the Bay Islands DGIC and Preventiva that made arrests in the Smith killing. Two days after the meeting eight suspects in the Smith murder were arrested in Los Fuertes. It is not known if the group includes all the persons involved in the Smith case. In fact a series of high profile home and business robberies in Sandy Bay and West End took place in the last two weeks of December.
The December events made many people realize how fragile the island prosperity is. Since the late 1990s Bay Islands' economy has changed its focus from fishing to tourism industries and its prosperity now depends on the security and comfort of not only tourists, but its Expats. Slowly the island divides itself into gated areas with 24 hour security and public areas where anything goes. "If foreigners, Americans, can't feel safe here, this is going to kill tourism. It's not just about economics," said Kathleen Corey, US Embassy vice council, who came to Roatan after the Smith murder.
While US embassy in Tegucigalpa did change the travel description for Bay Islands, Honduras is unlikely to join anytime soon the ranks of only three other countries in the region with a travel warning: Haiti, Columbia and Cuba. "Fifty U.S. citizens have been murdered in Honduras since 1995, with a very significant recent increase in the number, and most cases remain unresolved. (…) During a wave of home invasion robberies in Roatan in late 2005, assailants shot two foreign residents, killing one U.S. citizen," reads the consular information sheet from US embassy in Tegucigalpa.
Honduras doesn't have the highest murder rate in Central America. In 2001 El Salvador had 117 murders per 100,000 and Guatemala had a rate of 45, matching that of the most violent (2004) US city - New Orleans. "I don't foresee urging Americans not to go to the Bay Islands anytime soon," said Ian Brownee, US council in Tegucigalpa.
Still, the US isn't the only country keeping a watch over the escalating crime problem in Honduras. On December 12, prompted by their Bay Islands warden British Embassy in Guatemala updated their travel advisory website: "You should take precautions against widespread petty and violent crime in Honduras, especially in the Bay Islands. (…) Violent crime on Roatan, including armed robberies and murder, is on the increase." At the end of December Canadian government didn't change its travel report for Bay Islands.
Few people know the criminal reality of Bay Islands that its 15 year coroner, Dr. Murillo who for Lps. 7,000 a month examines about 50 forensic criminal cases a week. Most of them are domestic violence related, but about 10% are rapes, assaults and murders. "We are only lucky that we didn't have an air crash here, or a major bus accident here. We just don't have any triage set-up," said Dr. Murillo who has to pay out of his own pocket for many of his medical supplies needed in coroner duties.

Security officers of National Port Authority (ENP) and Frontier Police check the documents of vehicles entering the La Ceiba dock. According to ENP officials, on average two people a week are stopped and passed to the police at the La Ceiba dock entry. ENP security officials complained that they do not receive a list of stolen goods from Roatan police to verify against the cargo of four transport vessels arriving from Roatan each day.

"At times, authorities ask me not to mention some touchy issues, but these things need to be talked about," said Dr. Murillo. Because many victims fail to report their crimes, the statistic numbers available for burglaries, robberies and rapes reflect only a fraction of the real picture. Only in case of homicides, where there is a dead body, the statistics accurately reflects reality.
The growth and investment in parts of the Bay Islands is likely to continue, but many people dread the scenario of a violent crime against a foreign tourist. "One of these days there will be an attack on a tourist bus. It's inevitable. Its going to happen," said Steve Jazz, an American business owner.
And it looks like criminals don't need anyone to give them any ideas how to make their living, they diversify. In late February 2005, tourists visiting Roatan were robbed at machete point at Carambola Gardens in Sandy Bay. While a tourist couple from Fantasy Island was exploring the trails at Carambola an armed, masked man approached them and demanded their money and valuables. The couple handed over their traveler's cheques, wallets and watches and was allowed to leave. Next, the same man confronted a couple from Bay Islands Beach Resort and robbed them of their money and wallets. "We've been there almost 20 years and nothing like this has ever happened there," said Bill Brady, owner of Carambola.

Two guns recovered at the house of the suspects accused of murdering Smith.

According to US Embassy in Tegucigalpa in the last 14 months 13 US citizens have been murdered in Honduras. In 2004 four Americans were killed in Honduras, one of them in the Bay Islands. While small numbers like that are subject to fluctuation, still, in 2005 these numbers more than doubled. In West End alone, a tourist hub and home to around 1,200 people, in 2005 there were four murders. There are some places on the Bay Islands that crime, especially violent crime is rare. Over the last three years there was only one reported murder on Utila, putting its average au-par with that of US.
Seven US citizens have been murdered in Roatan since 1998 and in 2005 two Americans were killed on the Island. In November, a German citizen was killed in Cayos Cochinos. Foreigners are not only victims of crime; they are sometime its perpetrators. Arnold Morris, a fugitive wanted by FBI and IRS lived on Roatan since early 1990s and was only extradited from the island in 2004. In unrelated cases, in the past two years on the Bay Islands two
Dola Garcia, 35, owner of Rotisserie Chicken restaurant in West End, holds some of her stolen items recovered by the police on December 14. After arrest of suspects of the Gary Smith murder DGIC police offices were full of recovered stolen goods. By 10am victims of home robberies were lining-up, trying to locate their stolen property brought in suitcases and bags. Dola Garcia's West Bay road house was robbed four times in the past year. "They even took my perfume," said Dola Garcia, 35, owner of Rotisserie Chicken restaurant in West End, as she searched for items taken in a house robbery from December 3, one of four she fell victim to in the past year.
Americans were arrested for murder.
On the Bay Islands many people are quick to blame migrants from the coast for the rising number of crimes. "I've been in prison with them on the coast and I see them here now," said Thomas Brooks, a self employed chef living in Coxen Hole's poor El Swampo neighborhood. In reality, nobody knows how many of the crimes are committed by migrants from the coast, and the group has become a scapegoat.
Several suspects in the Smith killing are displayed at the Roatan police station. (Photo: Don Pearly)

Still, the Bay Islands police effort isn't without successes as while house robberies have escalated in the recent years, the murder rate in the department has actually decreased falling from 25 in 2003 to 19 in 2005.
The fall in murder rate on the Bay Islands came at a cost of more that doubling the Bay Islands police force in the last four years. There are currently 113 Preventiva officers spread out across the department. On the national level Honduras' President Elect Mel Zelaya promised a 200% percent in the police staff over the next four years. Locally, according to Tito Dixon, Roatan Municipal police chief the municipal police staff of 9 is expected to double under the new mayor.

Bay Islands Crime
B.I. Murder Rate* Population 2003 2004 2005
Murder Rate per 100,000 (3year average)
Roatan
50,000
17
13
13
21.5
Santos Guardiola
15,000
3
4
1
17.7
Guanaja
11,500
5
4
5
40.5
Utila
8,500
0
1
0
3.9
Total
85,000
25
22
19
25.9
*Stats courtesy of Bay Islands Preventiva Police
Death is much more a part of life in developing countries than it is the industrial, wealthy ones. From a perspective of US and Europe, where the public is used to isolate and disguise the aftermath of violence, Hondurans and Honduran police force treats death and violence more matter of fact and is less disturbed by its visibility. For many Expats and tourists living in Honduras is a clash of cultures and expectations.
The violence and crime has its own direction and force. To change anything will take both understanding the causes of the problem and finding realistic ways of slowing down and controlling the criminality. The problem is likely to get worse before, or if, it gets any better.
feature story / editorial / local news / business ______________back to top
Not a Crime to Question by Thomas Tomczyk

Nobody seems to be objecting to comparing New England weather with Roatan's, but until now people got really jittery when occasional anecdotes compared crime risk of living on the Bay Islands and US. The fact is no one had a chance to analytically look and compare crime statistics on the Bay Islands with Honduras, US, or anywhere else. They just didn't exist.
Over the course of the last six months, Bay Islands VOICE obtained dependable crime data for the island department and using earlier compiled population estimates, we are now able to publishing the first ever crime statistics for the Bay Islands.
Statistics serve a purpose of creating a benchmark of comparing places that may be geographically and culturally very remote, but undergo and suffer similar results of development. The lack accurate population data, and the lack of statistics, particularly crime statistics, prevented some companies from seriously considering doing business on the Bay Islands. For example, this information vacuum was a major headache for airline companies studying profitability of opening new flight connections between US and Roatan.
There are year to year spikes and valleys in statistics, especially in places with growing yet small populations and dynamic economy. Sometimes one or two crimes can skew the statistics for the entire year. On the other hand if there was not a single murder in a given community, statistically this would show as zero for that year.
Over the last three years the Bay Islands murder rate was reduced in the department and is now almost half of the Honduras' average matching that for Belize. In countries such as El Salvador, Columbia and Guatemala the murder rate is higher than Honduras which has one of the highest murder rates in the region. Its department of Cortez has the highest murder rate in the country, with 102 murders per 100,000 people.

I believe it is important to keep things in perspective. Even thou most people in Honduras like to compare their stats with the US, that country doesn't have the lowest crime, especially murder rate, in the world. Compared to all Western European countries US it is five, sometimes ten times as violent.
In the long run downplaying, even negating the level of crime on Roatan will backfire. To ignore these problems is shortsighted and many times come from short term gain: "make your money and run" type of mentality.
Both island and mainland authorities had years of warning about the dangers of exploding population and economy of the island department, yet haven't done enough to curtail the growing crime problem associated with that growth. They have done even less to understand it, but many of them managed to escape criticism for their failures.
The temporary crime fighting solutions too often focus on money: buying vehicles, radios, gasoline. While that is all good, it is not good enough. The reality is much more complicated. We don't know how many crimes are committed because of drugs. We don't know which portion of crimes is committed by Roatan natives, new arrivals, drug addicts or foreigners. Which parts of the island are especially vulnerable to crime?
As an editor of Bay Islands VOICE I owe our readers to present them with the most accurate, honest and unbiased portrait of life on the Bay Islands I can find. This is an unwritten contract I have you and part of our mission statement. We owe this also to the people who live here and to the people interested in coming and investing in Bay Islands.
In current issue of Bay Islands VOICE we are attempting to explain how the Honduran justice system works, what its weak points are and what is being done to control the crime problem on the Bay Islands.

Marine Park Reorganizes Itself

A new group is in charge of keeping watch over the West End-Sandy Bay Marine Park. "We're at the point in turning Roatan's coral reef to algae reef," said Will Welbourn, secretary of the Marine Park, during a December 12 presentation at CANATURH-BI meeting.
The Marine Park isn't the only group that looks after the wellbeing of Roatan's reef. Since 1993, BICA marine park patrols have been patrolling the park on daily basis, with two paid park guards using three boats. BICA has signed a Government contract for park maintenance in 1993, but according to Irma Brady, BICA Roatan executive director, the organization is open to cooperate with other groups attempting to help in managing the Marine Park. "A marine park can't be managed effectively by one group because of its large area. Everybody has to pull resources together," said Irma Brady, BICA executive director.
During Marine Park's group presentation to CANATURH-BI, Mayor Hynds brought-up the issue of the organization's nonprofit status and the legality of its $5 per diver, per year donation. Even though the Marine Park is still in the process of organizing its legal status most of the West Bay, West End and Sandy Bay based dive shops participate in the keychain tag program.

During a weekly meeting marine park members show some of the illegal fishing equipment confiscated in the Marine Park. "We are setting goals that are achievable and that could make a difference," said Will Welbourn: Lourin Jones (volunteer), Gay Pook (volunteer), Michelle Akel (treasurer), Will Welbourn (secretary). The group has also organized two beach and two reef clean-ups in the last two months. A secretary was recently hired and the position of a Park manager looks to be filled.
The proceeds from tags, and voluntary dive shop donations go towards maintaining two boats, renting office space and paying salaries of park rangers. Seven days a week, from 6am to 10pm, four park rangers and four Preventiva police officers take turns to patrol the 14 kilometer long park reef in Marine Park boats.
The offenses that park patrol has confronted, or fined people for include: spear fishing, hook fishing for lobster and conch, lobster trapping, dropping anchor on coral, standing on coral, bilging inside the reef, dangerous jet-ski driving, passing of boats too close to dive boats. Some repeat offenders have been sent to spend a night in jail.
 
An American Retiree Killed at His Roatan Home

Roatan Expat community anxious after an escalating number of robberies on the island culminate in a murder

Gary Smith, 58, a disabled Vietnam vet and retired homicide detective from Texas, was shot four times and killed at his home in Brick Bay, Roatan. Armando Vaquedano, 24, a watchman, remains in a hospital. Five people suspected of the killing are in custody.
On Sunday December 11, around 2:00pm the robbers entered the house of Patty Greer, owner of a local dive shop, tied-up her watchman, and loaded-up five suitcases stolen goods. Greer was away from the house and police suspect that the robbers waited for her to get back to use her car to transport the stolen goods.
Both the Greer and Smith residences are on an end of a dead-end road, 300 meters from a Brick Bay Resort, an area that has seen six house break-ins in the past two months. During one of the robberies, Allan Bruce, a Canadian living in Brick Bay was shot and wounded.
Around 3:00pm, Smith's wife, Carolyn Rolland, 61, saw two masked and armed men at her gate and alerted her husband. The couple locked themselves in their bedroom.
Robbers and Smith had begun firing their guns across the bedroom's door and walls until Smith ran out of ammunition. The robbers broke down the door and shot Smith. "They dragged me by my hair," said Rolland who was taken to the Greer house garage, tied and threatened to be silent.
It wasn't until Smith's gardener, Carlos Gutierrez, escaped from his captors that anyone reacted to the shooting. Gutierrez hopped down the road with both his feet and hands tied to alert the neighbors.
Within minutes, three armed men: two guards from Brick Bay Resort and Oscar Padilla, businessperson living at the resort, went up the road to investigate. As they came close to the Smith's house the robbers begun shooting at them and forced the three men to take cover and fire back. "I lived six years in San Pedro Sula and I never seen anything like this," said Padilla who fired 11 shots in the direction of the robbers.
Police and ambulance arrived within 15 minutes from receiving the emergency call, but the robbers fled into the bush abandoning their stolen goods.
Along with around $500 cash the assailants took Smith's 9mm gun, but left behind their revolver, shirt and a bandana. Blood marks at the scene indicate that one of the assailants was wounded.
While Smith's dead body was taken to Wood's Medical Center in an ambulance, Vaquedano who was used in the attack as a human shield by the robbers, waited an additional 15 minutes for transport to Roatan Hospital. Vaquedano lost one kidney, suffered damage to his diaphragm and other kidney and fell in and out of coma.

Brick Bay road leading to the Smith and Greer residences.

According to Dr. Jose Ricardo Murillo, Bay Islands Coroner, Smith incurred three potentially fatal shots: to the head, neck and heart area. Smith's body was transported to San Pedro Sula for an autopsy and his wife plans to arrange for an army burial in the US. "They are not going to scare me. This is my home and this is where I plan to live out my days," said Rolland.
On December 12, a US Embassy vice council arrived on Roatan to witness the criminal investigation. The anxiety among the local ex-pat community remains high while some business owners fear the impact the murder might have on the tourist traffic coming to the island.
Five of the assailants were caught in Los Fuertes on December 14. Roatan Municipality, with financial assistance of local citizens, put out a Lps. 250,000 ($13,000) reward for information leading to their capture. "We are willing to capture, or kill the people who did this. Whatever comes first," said Roatan's Mayor Jerry Hynds.
On December 14 at 6am, police searched two houses and a boarding house in Los Fuertes. Police found drugs, stolen goods, ammunition and two guns from the Smith murder. Seven men, one of them wounded in the leg, and one woman were arrested. "None of us slept or left the job since Sunday," said Alex Ordoñez, one of four DGIC (investigation police) officials in the Bay Islands. According to Ordoñez around 20 of the home robberies could be solved in these arrests. Smith is the second US citizen killed on Bay Islands in 2005 and one of 13 Americans killed in last 14 months in Honduras.

by Thomas Tomczyk


Arabian Night Island Beauties
Compete for Christmas Festival Crown

The 13 contestants weave through the audience displaying their Arabian dancing skills.

French Harbour battled Los Fuertes and Parrott Tree edged out Flowers Bay. The December 10 Coral Cay match-up was more serious than a football match as the beauty crowns were awarded for the entire year. Twenty girls interviewed for the Miss Christmas Festival pageant and eventually 13 girls competed for the crown. Unrepresented was Oak Ridge, as the girl representing the community became sick at the last moment.
Not to put an additional financial burden on the competitors, most girls could and ended up dressing in gowns they already owned. Instead of the talent portion of a full pledge event, the girls danced in an Arabian dance routine. "No one knew how to dance. First they had to learn," said Edda Borjas, who with Julissa Cribas envisioned and organized the event. Borjas who studied dance at SENSEA School in San Pedro Sula, coached the girls in improving their speech and dance, practicing with them two hours a day for two weeks before the event.
Each girl was given up to five points for each portion of the contest, their scores were tallied and six finalists were chosen. Each finalist was asked a question and judged on their speech and reasoning abilities. "What would you like for Roatan to look in five years?" and "Which country would you like to visit and why?" were two of the questions.
In the end it was, Derissa Carter, Miss French Harbour, who impressed the judges the most. Second place went to Andrea Casco, Miss West End, and third to Marissa Dixon, Miss Parrott Tree. The winner of Miss Christmas Festival took home Lps. 2,000, a trophy and a basket full of complementary goods. Around 800 tickets were sold to the event and all the profits will go towards Little Friends Foundation.

feature story / editorial / local news / business______________back to top
Legendary West End bar changes hands

Angels at the Airport

Non-Classical approach to fundraising

Roatan Airport never looked so good when the buildings' lobby was lined with drapes and red carpet was set at its sliding glass door. A portal to the island by day, on the night of December 1, Manuel Galvez airport turned into a temple of culture, island style of course.
Christmas Concert for the Angels provided an opportunity to enjoy classical music, socialize and give back to the community's children in need.
Over 230 People dug-out and dry-cleaned their moldy jackets and black velvet dresses to not only show-up at the event, but to impress. "I can't believe this is Roatan… so many dressed-up people," said Averyl Muller, one of the event organizers. Half-a-dozen men wore tuxedos, but other more casually dressed guests wore island shirts and Bermuda pants, balanced things out.

Flower's Bay Bethesda Methodist Church Children's Choir begun the evening singing Christmas carols followed by the events main feature. Rossini, Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky pieces were played by Philharmonic Orchestra of San Pedro's Victoriano Lopez Music School, directed by Jose Iglesias Carnot. "I've heard Saint Petersburg orchestra and these guys are with them right up there," said Eileen Birmingham, a fourth time pediatric doctor volunteer with Global Clinic at Roatan Hospital. Two of Roatan's best voices, Myra Rieman and Halcie James, closed the evening singing three gospel songs.
The atmosphere was much more relaxed than a typical concert hall could offer. As VIP guests enjoyed the concert with a glass of champagne at their table next to the stage, others took non-prompted breaks to get a gin-and-tonic at an airport rent-a-car office turned into a bar.
Sara Mannix, Helen Murphy and Marion Seaman were the chief organizers' of the event that originated 100 days earlier when Mannix thought of organizing an end-of-the-year party. Helen Murphy, who had run the La Ceiba Culture Center, suggested centering the event around an orchestra concert and thus the idea took on more definition.
Around 50 sponsors supported the fundraiser, but not everything went as expected. Isleña Airlines, which originally offered a 75% discount transporting the orchestra from San Pedro Sula, backed out two days before the event. Organizers lost $2,000 dollars of revenue and Isleña was dropped from the sponsors list.
Over 200 regular and over 30 VIP tickets were sold. $31,000 was raised with $6,000 going towards expenses. Each of the four nonprofits benefiting from the event received an equal, $6,250, portion of the profits that will be released to them for particular projects.
$25,000 profit raised went towards helping several of Roatan's nonprofit organizations. The four main recipients were Clinica Esperanza: a Sandy Bay clinic providing healthcare to low income families, Familias Saludables: AIDS fighting non-profit from Coxen Hole, Island to Island: prenatal health organization, Littlest Angels- a nutrition and health center for babies. Some of the things that the raised money will pay for include: HIV test kits, AZT medication, building supplies and transport of Christmas toys for Roatan kids.

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2003

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