“Rebecca’s Table was started because I saw the need in the community” says Mrs. Betty Mesa, head of the program since its inception in 2004. “Everyone that comes to Roatan sees the paradise, no one sees behind the scenes where there’s much need”, she says. “When we first moved to the Bight no one wanted to be here because there were no roads and no resources, now it’s a great place to live” she explains.
The idea to start the children’s meal program came from Pastor Harriet of the Oak Ridge Chapel Church on Oak Ridge Cay. “Back in 2004 Pastor Harriet asked me to start a feeding program that would provide food for the children once a month, I agreed, and with L.400 lempira we embarked on the journey of feeding the children”, says the leader of Crusadas del Evangelio Church in Oak Ridge Bight.
For the first two years of the program, Mrs. Mesa and a couple of volunteers from the church cooked the meals at her home in Pandy Town, they would then hire a taxi dory to take them to the Bight where, on the street, they would feed the children that came looking for a meal.
In 2005, a young man from the US by the name of Howard Lee Rey who was teaching English at an institution connected to Oak Ridge Chapel befriended one of Mrs. Mesa’s two daughters and offered to help by providing L.1, 500 lempiras monthly so that more children could receive food and so that they could be served once a week instead of once a month.
“The hardest thing for me is to see a hungry child,” says Mrs. Mesa. “After the amount of children we were feeding increased, I would sometimes spend the money for the electricity to buy more food.” Seeing the need for additional provision to meet the needs, Howard Lee offered enough money to feed an additional 50 children; breakfast on Wednesdays and lunch on Fridays. Before going back to the US, the young man asked if building a dining area would enable the program to continue to expand. “I told him: ‘If someone could build a kitchen I could start cooking in the neighborhood and not have to travel with pots and pans from my home in Pandy Town.”
In 2005, with a donation of $20,000 dollars from Mr. Lee’s parents back in the US, 5,000 Lempiras of their own, and the help of 17 members of a Methodist church in Alabama, Mrs. Betty Mesa along with her late husband, Mr. Jesus Mesa, started to built the kitchen and dining room that would serve the children eating at the newly christened, Rebecca’s Table, named in memory Rebecca Neal Norvell, Mr. Howard Lees best friend, who died in an accident in 2002. Rebecca loved children and in her honor, her parent provide $400 dollars monthly to help keep the meal program going and they try to visit the center each year. At a cost of Lps. 2,000-3,000 weekly, Rebeccas Table feeds from 100 to 150 kids every Wednesday afternoon. On special occasions such as Children’s Day and Christmas Day, and during the first week of school when breakfast is served instead of lunch, the cost of the program can run well over Lps. 5,000 for the week.
The walls of Rebecca’s Kitchen are lined with decorative paintings created by Rebecca’s mother, and there’s a picture of Rebecca, age 22, on one of the walls. She would, no doubt, have been proud of the work being done in her name.