Terrified. That’s pretty much the only word I can use to describe how I felt before going to Honduras for the first time three years ago. In the week leading up to my departure I was constantly cycling through excitement and nervousness, but always landing back on complete and utter fear. When you Google Honduras (don’t), nothing good comes up. Violence, gangs, drugs. These Google searches left me petrified. And yes, those are aspects of Honduras. But what nothing online will tell you is how it feels to live there, the warmth of the people, the acceptance they offer to each and every volunteer, and the outpouring of love these kids will give you. You can’t learn about what bean soup tastes like or how hard you’ll laugh the first time you try to dance bachata. Google can’t tell you what it feels like to ride up the side of a mountain in the back of a pickup truck and watch as bit by bit the tropical landscape is transformed into pine trees, rivers and waterfalls, and crisp, fresh air. And it most certainly won’t tell you how easy it is to fall in love with a group of Honduran kids.
I have fallen in love with Honduras. What started as a one year adventure before starting law school has turned into three years, and those three years will turn into four and five and six because I can’t ever imagine being able to leave this place.
Honduras has given me so much, but mostly it has given me faith in two things: First, I believe that people are generally good. And second, I believe that education can help people learn good from bad and give them the power to make the right choice instead of the wrong one. The people I have met in Honduras have given me this faith. I believe that people are generally good because I have seen it here time and time again. I have been invited to eat at tables with families who can barely feed themselves and yet they share the little with have with others. I have watched children share their lunches with kids who didn’t have any food at home to bring. I have seen students who have stood up to bullying and discrimination and done the right thing over and over and over.
And I believe that education can help people figure out right from wrong. I work with kids every day whose parents teach them that violence is an appropriate response to anger. At school, I have the opportunity to show them there are so many possible responses to anger, not just hitting the person closest to you. I have spent hours discussing topics like discrimination and homosexuality with people who have never been offered a different viewpoint from the one they grew up around. It doesn’t happen in one day or one month, but learning about what else is out there can change minds. The students who work with volunteers are able to see futures that don’t involve drugs, gangs, or being pregnant by 16. They learn that violence isn’t the answer to any of life’s problems. These students are given the information and the options to make better decisions and create better futures for themselves.
I want to help give as many kids as possible in Honduras the education to learn right from wrong and the chance to make better decisions for their futures. This is where Garden School Victoria comes into the picture. I have worked for three years at a school in Honduras as a volunteer English teacher and volunteer coordinator, and that school is benefiting lots of kids. However, it also turns away hundreds of students every year who want to learn English because there is not enough room in the classrooms. This is why I have worked together with the Honduran staff to start a bilingual, volunteer program at Garden School Victoria.
My goal is to give these students a full-immersion, bilingual program where they will graduate with fluency and opportunities. I want to start young so that kids start learning English in preschool and we can build up from there. And most importantly, I want it to be affordable for students that otherwise would not have the opportunity to have this kind of education. But none of this will be possible without volunteers willing to come and teach these kids.
The truth is that there is need here. Hondurans are joyful with so little to be joyful about. There is widespread poverty and a lack of education so profound I often feel like I’m transported 50 years back in time. These kids, for their futures and the futures of their families, need to learn English. More and more jobs here are requiring fluency in English if you want to get promoted past entry level. The high-paying jobs that actually pay enough to support a family require English. And there are practically no affordable options for bilingual education in the country, meaning that poor kids who can’t afford a bilingual education will not get those high-paying jobs and will stay poor for the rest of their lives.
My goal is to break the cycle of poverty for as many students as possible, to offer a quality English education for kids that would other have no opportunities, and to help students create better futures for themselves. But I need volunteers who are willing to come and teach, who want to collaborate and build the best volunteer program we can together. It is completely terrifying to move to another country without knowing what to expect and to start doing a job you’ve never done before. Trust me, I know. But moving to Honduras has been the best and most rewarding thing I have ever done. It has changed the path my life has taken and I don’t regret a single moment. It’s a leap of faith, but one that is absolutely worth taking.