In late October, 1998, the most powerful storm to hit the western hemisphere in recorded history slammed into the shores of Central America. Hurricane Mitch was particularly merciless as it stalled over the small country of Honduras, dumping the equivalent of seven years of rainfall in only three days and leaving thousands dead. Mountainsides toppled and major rivers drastically changed course. With one third of the population homeless, the entire country’s coffee and banana plantations destroyed, and a completely collapsed infrastructure, the hurricane was described as a disaster of “biblical” proportions.
Scottish fiddler Bonnie Rideout and her husband Jesus Medrano share a common love for Mr. Medrano’s native Honduras. Immediately after the hurricane hit, Bonnie began organizing a benefit concert with the National Geographic Society (NGS) at their headquarters in Washington, D.C. where she was a frequent performer and lecturer. The NGS and Bonnie decided their focus should be on education. While there was an international effort to rebuild the country, the concert’s proceeds went specifically to build and repair primary schools. The concert was billed as CELTINO, featuring the music of both Celtic and Latino musicians. Two sold-out shows at the NGS Grosvenor Auditorium raised enough money to build thirteen schools, a community hall, a water tower, truck-loads of school supplies, and an additional forty homes. In one district school, a special fund was created to provide a permanent full time music teacher in addition to purchasing guitars for the students.
“The hurricane was the catalyst to get us involved, but after seeing how little education the rural children receive, we could not turn our backs.
–Founder Jesus Medrano
Since 2001, the couple has quietly worked in more rural Honduran districts to promote primary and secondary education. They have worked with local leaders and organizations to build and repair five more primary schools, create a soccer field, provide soccer equipment, and donate additional school supplies and books. They have also paid for the tuition of twenty secondary school students each year for over a decade. “The hurricane was the catalyst to get us involved, but after seeing how little education the rural children receive, we could not turn our backs”, relates Mr. Medrano. “The work has taken on its own steam, so we feel it is time to create a foundation to continue our efforts.” In 2005, the CELTINO Foundation became incorporated and received its 501 (c) (3) non-profit status.