02 Oct The Brighter Children Team Visits Students Helping Honduras
Back in August, I had the privilege of making a trip to El Progreso, Honduras along with Becca and Sarah, where we learned more about our new partner school run by Students Helping Honduras. After a mere four days in El Progreso, we left feeling as if we were family, more eager than ever to fundraise and support SHH’s Bilingual School. We crammed a lot of activities into those few days, and we want to share a little bit of what we learned with our supporters.
Shin Fujiyama, the founder of SHH, started the organization when he was still in college at Mary Washington after he made a service trip to Honduras and saw how much help the country needed. (It’s the second poorest nation in the western hemisphere.) After graduation, in order to create a greater and more lasting impact, he moved to Honduras and helped build a community there called Villa Soleada. He helped negotiate to buy what used to be swampland, and along with the families there, cleared the land and constructed over 40 houses on it (along, of course, with a huge soccer field)! He built the Bilingual School there, which offers free education to children whose families cannot afford it, and charges a $25 fee/month for those families who can. A lot of the parents put in sweat equity at the school if they cannot pay the fee, such as by helping to cook, clean, build, etc. This makes a huge impact, as most private bilingual schools in the city charge $200-$300 a month, which is unaffordable to a majority of the population. The Bilingual School also provides a better quality of education than the private bilingual schools, as it has both Honduran teachers and native English-speaking teachers (including those that have volunteered before with Teach for America). As a result, English proficiency at the school is 90-95 percent, while the private schools are closer to 70 percent. The Brighter Children team was definitely pleasantly surprised by this aspect, as the children’s spoken English was much better than our Spanish! We were able to really talk to the children and learn about their stories, and bonded over story-books, music, learning how to make pastries and ‘baleadas’ (a traditional and delicious Honduran dish which is composed of a flour tortilla, folded in half and filled with mashed fried beans, eggs, meat, or anything of that variety). During lunch one day, we also helped the students plant baby trees which were donated to SHH from one of its partners. It was great to see them so excited to plant and water the trees, as well as learn about the science behind trees.
Each day we were at the Bilingual School, we got the chance to tutor some of the students in math and reading, as well as have lunch with them. As we learned a little about the students first hand, we realized that even though some came from tough situations, they were always happy to be in school with their friends, often mischievous and laughing. We were invited by two students — Melissa and Cesar, who are sister and brother — to their home. We had coffee with their family and their grandmother taught us how to make ‘paselitas de pina,’ which are pastries filled with pineapple, and which were amazingly delicious! Melissa and Cesar are 11 and 9 years old, respectively, and are really bright students. Their older sister, Paola, goes to a school in the city because she didn’t make the age cut to be in the Bilingual School unfortunately, but the three of them were chatting our ears off, in the best possible way! It’s also a testament to the Bilingual School that Melissa and Cesar’s English proficiency were better than that of Paola’s, due to the high quality of education at the school when compared to the schools in the city. The three siblings are very tight-knit, and we know Paola will learn quickly from practicing with Melissa and Cesar.
These siblings’ mom is the House Mom at the Children’s Home for the girls. (There’s a House Dad for the boys too, who live in a separate house.) There are about 15 children in each home, whether because they were abandoned by their parents, orphaned, or estranged from their families due to violence or extreme poverty. These children are either attending the Bilingual School, or other schools in the city if they are older. SHH provides them professional counseling as most have been traumatized in their past, as well as provide them outlets to express themselves and develop their skills, whether that be soccer, music, painting, vocational work, etc., and is focused on making sure they feel safe and prepared enough to integrate into the community as they grow older.
The Children’s Home is just one of the many programs that SHH implements. The organization currently has a goal of building 1,000 schools in impoverished regions of Honduras, with 21 schools having been built to date. It also has plans to create a Cradle to College program, where SHH will provide guidance to pregnant women on the importance of education and nutrition, so that even before the children are born, they are given the best chance at going to school and learning to their fullest potential. I have over-simplified these programs here, but check out the website at www.shhkids.org to see and appreciate the thought process that went into SHH’s programs.
Brighter Children is proud to be partners with SHH and its Bilingual School, as our trip has opened our eyes to the lasting impact that one non-profit can have. We came back from Honduras inspired to do more, so that we can support the children at the schools that are changing lives not only in Honduras, but also our partner schools in Colombia, Kenya, and India. Through our fundraising efforts, we aim to support these education systems and ensure more children can take advantage of them. Remember, it only takes a dollar a day to send one child to school for a year! Thank you to our donors for making our school partnerships fruitful, and to the schools for changing history.