It's a southward journey of more than 2,100 miles from here to Honduras, a largely poor Central American country where many children can't walk to school because they can't afford shoes to protect their feet.

It's a southward journey of more than 2,100 miles from here to Honduras, a largely poor Central American country where many children can't walk to school because they can't afford shoes to protect their feet.


But students and staff from a Massachusetts school, with the help of some local police officers, gave children in one Honduran community a better chance at an education.


"It's a life skill, if you have more than someone else, you give," said Bob Heller, a Walsh Middle School teacher and director of the school's student council. "You don't have to do a lot to make a difference."


In November, Framingham Police Lt. Patty Grigas left with a group of volunteers for an eight-day trip to Honduras, carrying medicines, school supplies and footwear for families living near Comayagua, a community about 50 miles north of the capital of Tegucigalpa. Much of the school supplies and footwear were donated by Walsh students and staff.


According to the CIA World Factbook, Honduras is the second-most poorest country in Central America and among the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. The country, slightly larger in area than Tennessee, is home to an estimated 7.5 million people. Nearly 28 percent of Honduras' population is unemployed and more than half live below the poverty line.


"I figured there would be a few things (donated), but the response was overwhelming," said Grigas, who visited three villages, an orphanage and a school during the trip. The donated supplies they delivered helped about 125 families, she said.


Framingham Police Officer Kathy McGrath, who serves as the Walsh school's resource officer, worked with the school to help coordinate the collection with Grigas' trip. McGrath said students loved to contribute.


"We got a great response," she said.


Among the donations from Walsh were cleats and flip-flops -- an inexpensive accessory that will help many of the area's poor children walk to school comfortably, Heller said. Many children can't make the trip because they must walk and cannot afford any footwear, he said.


They also received school supplies and some sports equipment. After Grigas' visit, the school sent down a large crate with more supplies.


"We had an opportunity to meet other people while we were out," Grigas said. "People were so nice to us."


Walsh students spent a month collecting the school supplies and footwear earlier in the fall, and it was the largest collection effort the school has undertaken, Heller said.


"It was a nice cross sections of students, parents and staff members," Heller said. "Something as simple as flip-flops... it's worth a ton for these kids (in Honduras)."


The school's student council focuses on community service efforts, including a Thanksgiving food drive and an upcoming collection program for homeless veterans for early next year.


Heller is hoping to get some photos back of the Honduras children using the donated gear.


"For them to see their material in the hands of children who need it, (that) will make a strong statement," Heller said.


MetroWest Daily News writer John Hilliard can be reached at 508-626-4449 or jhilliar@cnc.com.