Last Wednesday I flew to San Pedro Sula to visit Leadership Center graduates Mairyn, Yolany, Yudy and Lenis. They are staying in an apartment and attending University Classes as part of a pilot program sponsored by TLC. I had a wonderful visit.
On Thursday, Yudy and I took a bus to the inner city to distribute dresses for young girls and new shirts for young boys to the homeless. The city was quiet and the experience humbling.
In the afternoon, the students gave me a tour of their University. They are working hard and very grateful for the opportunity to study.
On Friday we boarded a bus for the 4 1/2 hour trip to Zambrano to meet up with returning undergraduates of TLC just back from first quarter break.
Here on campus, second quarter is underway and the first years are experiencing the English only policy for the first time. They are trying so hard to make conversations. Their efforts are inspiring.
I have visited English, Community Development and Psychology classes and can report that the teachers are doing a wonderful job and the students are so glad to be here.
My visit is short this time, I return home Thursday but I know I’ll be back soon!
We are back from a four-day excursion with the class of 6 second year students; a visit to Moholy’s home town of Tocoa and a side trip to Isletas. A long trip with 10 people in a small van, but rewarding in so many ways.
We departed TLC at 6a.m. last Friday, a bumpy ride at dawn off campus to begin the 10-hour trek. Heading north and descending from our 5,000-foot elevation, we passed through Comayaga, and Siguatepeque and then stopped for breakfast. The girls enjoyed ordering different foods at the roadside restaurant including some fried chicken and chorizo at 9 a.m.!
Next we passed Lake Yojoa, through El Progreso, Tela and then to La Ceiba on the northern coast for lunch around 2 p.m. Fried chicken, tostadas and fast, plentiful internet made for a great lunch. A quick Face Time with family was wonderful. (I miss my grandchildren!)
We arrived in Tacoa about 4:30 in the afternoon at the home of relatives of one of our first-year students, Judy. The students settled in while we, (Dan, Joseph and myself) located neighbors who had graciously offered to house us. We then connected with Marta, (a graduate of TLC 2 years ago) and had quick dinner of baleadas and fruit smoothies, then off to church; long, loud and passionate.
Marta now works for Clean Water Missions and she is truly a TLC success story.
Tocoa is a relatively large town, about an hour from the coast line. It is busy, with many stores, gas stations, restaurants and so on. The homes surround the busy main road in small neighborhoods. The main street is paved but most of the side streets with homes on them are not.
The next morning, Dan, Joseph, Marta and Chris headed to Isletas to visit Olga and Yanetzi who many of you know from their visit to the USA in December. The hour or so long trip to Isletas was enabled by traveling through the Standard Fruit (Dole) banana plantation that surrounds the community for many miles.
Isletas is a very modest community with one main road that is not paved. The area is surrounded by water, streams that regularly overflow so many homes are elevated.
Yanetzi’s store, El Classroom is up and running and did 10,000 limpiras ($500)of business in the first week. Initial customers include students who need school supplies to attend school, workers who need copies of documents (1 Limpera each copy) and even teachers who need curriculum developed. By spending several hours in her store we can tell you she is poised and confident. Her Internet and administrative services are becoming a significant part of her business. She has been invited to the local school to discuss her products and services. She is also a leader in her church. Can you tell that we are proud of her?
We also spent time with Olga trying to determine the best way for her pharmacy or medicine store to proceed. We have several ideas now that we have spent time in Isletas and Dan is working hard on this business plan. We were at Olga’s home for several hours talking and enjoying her family and drinking coconut water from her trees. Olga’s Mom fixed lunch for us and we were able to meet many family members.
That night we attended church with Yanetzi and were the overnight guests of Nidia’s family in Isletas. The hospitality and generosity of people with very modest resources is humbling.
Isletas is a very small community located in the very center of a vast banana plantation owned by Standard Fruit Company (Dole). As such it is a company town, almost everyone works for Standard Fruit. The company controls the road in and out of town and the limited healthcare that is available. Though not “well off” by US standards, most men in Isletas are employed.
We returned to Tocoa the next morning to join the second-year students as they presented the second day of seminars to a small community just outside Tocoa. The goal of these training sessions was to inspire a group of community leaders to begin to address some of the problems facing this very poor community. The students did a wonderful job with the seminars and left with promises.
Another evangelical church service on Sunday night featured Joseph and Maholy singing Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord, and Si Senior, most inspiring! (We have a video to share later.) The service was attended by about 400 people and was loud, joyful and very long! We arrived back in our homes for the night tired and ready to sleep.
We left for home very early the next day (5 a.m.) and although it was touch and go several times, the van made it home. We rented this van at a cost of $350, a significant cost for TLC. A lack of reliable vehicles continues to plague this ministry. The construction truck has been on its last legs for two years, bumper falling off, inaccessible driver’s side door, faulty electrical system and broken floor boards. The TLC van has been in the shop for over 4 weeks receiving a rebuilt engine costing $2000. The director’s vehicle is an 10-year-old SUV with more than 200,000 miles. The motorcycle’s headlight does not work. To say that this ministry needs better transportation vehicles is a leading contender for understatement of the year. Much is being accomplished here despite regular setbacks and daily frustrations.
When we reflect on how two young women who were educated here at TLC might begin to change and improve the small village of Isletas, we can really see the impact this mission might have in Honduras in the future! That is encouraging and we thank you all for being a part of this.
Classes resumed today and we are hard at work again, teaching, tutoring, leading discussion groups, sewing, reading and working on business plans. Definitely earning our salaries. 😊
The picture above is one of the first completed quilts! 4 done and 19 to go! The girls love this project and it is very fun.
We are looking forward to Team Jose’s visit in a few weeks. Keep us and the TLC students and leaders in your thoughts and prayers. Till next time.
Chris and Dan
Click on a thumbnail to scroll through these images at a larger size.
One of the challenges at The Leadership Center, given its remote location and relatively limited finances, is infrastructure and self-sustainability.
All electricity is generated by solar panels and water comes from the river and is filtered for bacteria. Composting is a big operation on campus (including composting toilets) to generate nutrients for the coffee farm. More and more food is being grown on campus. We have Aquaponic “cement ponds” which raise Talapia for consumption and the fish water is purified by running it through cement troughs that grow malanga and other vegetation for human and animal consumption. Duck and other water plants are grown in other tanks to feed the chickens and the fish. The pigs eat almost all the food waste and scraps. (One of the pigs will be slaughtered in about 4 weeks.) About 40 chickens are egg layers and a new batch of 40 chicks for meat are being raised.
We are attaching some pictures of malanga growing in the aquaponics, the roots being harvested and prepared as well as the delicious result!
TLC is a long way from self-sustainability but getting closer all the time. The organization must rely on charitable donations to support the free education program it provides to these Honduran women. The coffee farm is the real hope for future self-sustainability as this mountain shade grown coffee is really very good. The 25,000 coffee plants (about 75 % produce) will soon be supplemented by another 10-20,000 seedlings that will be planted soon. (If you are interested in some TLC coffee, let us know as we hope to bring back 50 pounds for a fundraiser!)
Dan’s business classes have had a challenging week. We had an Entrepreneurship mid-term exam and there is more work to do! On the bright side, business plan preparation is now underway. All four seniors are from small rural villages with limited kinds and numbers of businesses. Betis is working on an agricultural supply store for farmers and small land owners including fertilizers, pesticides and veterinary products. Esperanza is developing the San Jose Dairy Store which will sell products like milk, cheeses and eggs, from local farms. Gaby is planning Gaby’s Bakery and Coffee Bar which will specialize in cupcakes and locally grown coffee. Angela, who probably will teach English on graduation, is working on a business plan for a fast food restaurant (fried chicken and plantains, pizza, tacos and hamburgers!)
We had a wonderful visit yesterday with our good friends from Heart to Heart. They drove over from Puerto Cortez (about 5 hours) to see us and TLC. Oscar Serrano, Mary Frenter and 4 others joined. We toured the campus. They sat in on classes. They were really impressed with TLC and it is our hope that some of the H2H teens might apply to TLC next year.
Every Sunday morning the students at TLC celebrate a worship service together. This past Sunday’s service was notable because it was the first official function in the new multi-purpose building (The Salon) AND Dan delivered a thoughtful message entitled Not Yet. We prepared a bulletin, Trinity style, with a Call To Worship, Responsive Reading and wonderful Praise Music led by TLC musicians Maholy, Karla and Dayana. Through the story of Lazarus, Dan reminded us that prayers can be answered several ways, sometimes yes, sometimes no and sometimes NOT YET. In these instances, patience and faith are required. Jesus waited 2 days before traveling to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead; the prayers of Martha and Mary were answered, but the first answer was definitely, “not yet.”
Later that afternoon, the ladies held a Trade Fair in the new Salon, selling goods and services to each other and the teachers and staff. Dan won the raffle, a giant Hershey bar.
We are not suffering the weather here as you will see from the breathtaking sunset picture below.
We have a lot to share with you about our trip to Comayagua with the 4 students from the senior class.
After a very bumpy ride off campus to Zambrano mid day Thursday we then got the opportunity to learn first hand about the Honduras bus system. As best as I can figure, there are basically three categories of bus service (all commercial); medium sized buses with no working air conditioning and few available seats, small buses with no air conditioning and even fewer seats and large yellow school buses (chicken buses) with no air conditioning, windows that don’t open and very crowded seats. Buses pull up to sort of designated bus stop areas and a guy (handler or conductor) leaps off and shouts to get on quickly as the bus slows down. He says there are plenty of seats. There are not. Of the six of us, 4 stood in the aisles on the hour or so ride (on a larger/medium sized bus) to Comayagua. It really was not that bad (the girls made us sit) and the mountainous countryside is beautiful. The conductor eventually comes down the aisle and collects 360 lempira from us (about $ 3 each).
Comayagua is in a beautiful farming valley. Comayagua means “abundance of food” in Mayan. This pre-colonial city was the capital of Honduras until 1880. As the bus driver rolled past our Comayagua bus stop (the bus we were on was going to Siguatepeque), one of the students, Betis, yelled at the conductor. The bus stopped about a mile further than we wanted, but we “de-bussed.” Within 30 seconds a white taxi pulled up. The taxi driver of this small beat up very old white Nissan 4 door, said 20 lempira each to take us downtown to a hotel. That was fine, except 6 of us and 6 backpacks and a couple bags seemed like a lot to fit in. But our driver said, “no problemo.” Bags in the trunk (no spare tire-so plenty of room ) and me jammed in the front seat and 5 ladies in the back, on each others’ laps; in 10 short minutes we pulled up in front of Hotel America in downtown.
The hotel was very modest (old) but seemed clean. Next we began to negotiate the price for our rooms. Betis had called ahead to make sure that space was available. As far as we could determine only 7 or 8 of the 55 rooms were occupied. So for L 1000 ($50) per night for our room (including breakfast typico) and the same for a double room for the ladies agreed upon, Dan pulled out his AMEX card. Well, the quoted price was for cash and to use a credit card would be 20 % more. We did not want to pay 20 % more but did not want to use that much cash right away so we asked if we could go to a bank. Yes, but now the banks were closed. “No problemo, we could pay mañana.” Fine with us. Equipped with a Wi-Fi password and two remote controllers per room, the six of us crammed into a 3×4 food elevator with backpacks and bags.
The Wi-Fi proved to have very limited bandwidth on the 4th floor (the location of our room #326), so we moved to room #236, yes, located on the third floor. Since we were coming from very occasional bandwidth at TLC, the connectivity was wonderful and we soon were updating our PC and even FaceTimed with the grandkids.
That evening we walked about 1/4 mile to the town plaza were we found a very nice restaurant. We enjoyed horchata, queso & chips, pollo and brassero. The owner of the restaurant, Ricardo talked with us about his business and encouraged our young would-be entrepreneurs.
We slept well that night and enjoyed the simple clean room and a bed without a mosquito net for the first night in a month!
The next day we toured ourselves around Comayagua. We visited bakeries, agricultural supply stores, dairy products businesses and restaurants – the four businesses that the students are most interested in. We had a number of good conversations and the students learned a lot. One of the bakeries offered one of the girls the opportunity for a couple-days internship, after we all enjoyed pieces of cake and coffee.
Comayagua is a busy city of about 50,000 people. The streets are crowded and it’s remarkable how so many people are selling so many different things- not just in stores but all along the streets. People are clearly working hard to make ends meet. There are few signs of any affluence.
We visited the Cathedral de Santa Maria, built around 1600, a beautiful church that includes a clock tower holding one of the oldest known clocks in the world made in Spain about 1100 AD. Imagine that an almost 1000-year-old clock that rings terrifically.
All in all, a great visit for a couple days. Good food, hot showers, internet, business research and fun company with the chicas.
It felt good to get back “home” to TLC Saturday evening. We celebrated January birthdays on campus with a special meal of baleadas and cake.
Our classes are going well and we are working hard with the students both in class and out of class. They are eager learners but in some respects they are behind what we would like on fundamentals like math and reading comprehension, which slows them down.
Let us close with this encouragement for us all. Lenis, one of Chris’ students, led a devotional this morning in which she said that today was the day to witness to one another God’s love for us all.
It is cold here on the mountain! (We are at about 5,000 feet elevation here at TLC). Not to complain too much, as most of you are enduring snow, but it was about 42 degrees last night and with no heat – it’s pretty chilly! The sun has been hiding last couple days so electricity and internet are struggling a bit. Who expected a polar vortex in Honduras? The girls all are wearing ski caps, sweatshirts, scarves and even blankets. But the good news is the sun is peeking out a bit and we expect warmth and electricity soon!
We have some good news from Isletas, Yanetzi and Olga’s community on the other side of Honduras. These were the two young women who graduated from TLC last year and stayed with us this past December. Many of you met them and helped capitalize the TLC Investment Fund to help launch TLC graduates’ businesses.
Yanetzi received initial capital from TLC two weeks ago and signed a lease for El Classroom, her educational supplies store. She purchased initial inventory and began to install shelves and fixtures last week. She will be ready to open the store in a few days. School starts back up in Honduras next week (public schools are generally off all of January), so she wanted to be ready as parents must buy supplies for their kids to be able to go to school. Yanetzi says that people in Isletas are very excited about the store opening and that they will start buying supplies this weekend. She is very grateful for the opportunity.
Olga is continuing her work to get to the point to start her Isletas’ community pharmacy. She is working with a doctor in San Pedro Sula to try and get licensure and other requirements handled. We are optimistic but she is still a ways away from getting this business started.
Our classes are going well. Chris has the second year students and I (Dan) am teaching and working with the seniors. Chris and I leave campus tomorrow with the 4 seniors for a senior class trip! They and we are very excited. We will get a ride off the mountain to Zambrano and then take a chicken bus to Comayagua, a couple hours away. Comayagua was established by Spanish conquistadors in 1537! We will spend a couple nights in a hotel and do some “market research” for their business plans. I think that means research and talk with suppliers and competitors to their businesses, but I think the students believe that means “go shopping”! (Chris is most excited about the prospects for a hot shower.) More to come on our trip next week.
This year, Trinity UMC has sponsored three wonderful young women, all first year students. Trinity is providing financial support for the education of Daniela, Yudy (Judy) and Dayana at TLC. They are lovely young women, excited and grateful to be here. All three students study English for four hours each day. In Honduras, the ability to speak English provides improved job opportunities. Dan and I (Chris) work with these ladies several times weekly on their pronunciation, reading and speaking abilities. Their favorite question, “Can you use that word in a sentence for me?” Daniela is the more quiet of these three students, but she is always thinking and processing new vocabulary. Daniela likes to play volleyball and draw pictures of flowers and butterflies. Today is her birthday, the bulletin board is decorated for her and we all sang Happy Birthday to her at devotionals this morning. Judy is petite and lively. She approached me (Chris) on the very first day to listen to her oral reading which we do together at least twice a week, we are almost finished with The Little House in The Big Woods[by Laura Ingalls Wilder]. Judy makes jewelry to sell in her community to raise money for her transportation to and from campus. Judy enjoys listening to music, taking pictures and acting. Dayana is from the Cortez region of Honduras and knows of The Heart to Heart Ministry. With prior classes in English, she is the most fluent of the first year students. She leads worship services in English and Spanish and is passionate about her faith. She will be responsible for weekly worship (Iglesia) here at TLC beginning in April. She preached last Sunday morning about putting on the armor of our Lord. (Here’s a video of a song sung during worship.)
One last thing to mention quickly. Last Thursday, Dan drove us into Tegucigalpa. We followed Joseph Rahm in a vehicle as we needed to drop one at a mechanic. The road from TLC to Zambrano is rutted and steep in many places – more like a river bed. But we made it! In Teguc we had a nice lunch at the American Embassy with Hal Constantine and his wife Stacie; both work at the embassy. Hal is an economic advisor and commercial officer and we are quite excited that they have shown interest in TLC. It sure is a small world, as we met Hal at a missions meeting in Arlington at Little Falls Presbyterian Church about a year ago and then he was stationed here!
Well we are off to lunch soon (when the bell is rung) for plates of frijoles, vegetables and corn tortillas!
The sun has come out and all is good here!
Blessings from Honduras,
As we are nearing the end of our third week here, I am happy to report that we are busy, working hard and very fulfilled. Aside from missing family and friends, things at The Leadership Center are great.
We have had several new and fun things to eat this week, corn flakes with scalded fresh milk, a whole banana roasted on hot coals then peeled and covered with Nutella and fresh fried tilapia from the Aquaponics garden. All very good.
Our teaching schedule continues to challenge us. As first time teachers, we spend a lot of time preparing for class. Additionally students seek us out for tutoring, pronunciation practice, and reading aloud practice. Add to this staff meetings, a little time for craft projects and we are exhausted by the end of the day and thus sleeping well.
We have made peace with the cows, they have their space and we have ours. Our paths no longer cross and that is good for everyone. Unfortunately, we are now contending with a few pesky mice at night who are good at extracting the peanut butter from the trap without springing it.
The director of TLC, Joseph Rahm, instituted an English language only policy at the beginning of this week that is unpopular. Students must speak English, with few exceptions, all day and everywhere on campus. The first day was very quiet but slowly they are attempting more conversations.
The computer lab is thus far successful and enjoyed by the juniors. Each day they learn new skills with various Office applications, we are beginning just with Office Word. They so appreciate the donated laptops with Office software for them to practice with. We hope to install a small printer in the lab tomorrow so they can print some of their documents.
We had a pretty interesting Bible Study last night. We are reading and studying Acts. We discussed Acts 19 and how Paul taught and encouraged people to learn or know Christ by meeting them where they are with their own faith. We also discussed evil spirits and evil. Of course the culture and tradition here in Honduras does pretty much believe in active evil spirits. It was a very interesting discussion.
In Dan’s Entrepreneurship Class we are learning different business models and discussing which specific business might make sense for the graduates to start. (This class will graduate at the end of March.) So far we have 12 different possible entrepreneurial businesses among the 4 seniors and I need to work with them to get them down to 1 viable business each. Then we can begin more market research and develop plans. We have a variety of possibilities now including bakery, internet cafe, agricultural supply store, super market, water purification and more businesses in the exploration stages. Trying to narrow the field is a process!
Yesterday afternoon, we had an entrepreneur from the Copan region present his business to the students. His family owns and manages a farm near the Copan area (Maya ruins). He has added an “agri-tourism” to the family business to supplement their income. Tourists can visit and stay at the farm, work in the fields (cacao, coffee, corn, bananas), ride horses, and enjoy the nearby hot springs. The girls really identified with this Honduran entrepreneur and it was quite fascinating.
Well that is it for this report. We miss you all and are enjoying our service. We are learning much!
A big hello to everyone back home! Today has been a fantastic day do far. We kicked off the morning with a wonderful devotion led by our very own Chris Moore and had a discussion about the key characteristics that define all of us who have come here to help those in need. Regardless of our theological and denominational backgrounds, we are all here to serve and to love as per the example given by Christ.
After a delicious breakfast, we came to the school to help out. Most of us were in classrooms helping to teach. It is definitely different than our classrooms. Each child works independently and each has different skill levels for each subject. So it’s not your traditional method of teaching where everyone is learning the same subject at the same time. But that’s okay. And from what I hear, they are moving to that more traditional classroom model next year.
I was in the 7&8 grade classroom today. I was surprised that it is not like our 7&8 grades. Most of the kids are learning on about a 3&4 grade level. But I’m not complaining-it made it a heck of a lot easier to tutor them in math (not my best subject by far!)! I was having to relearn fractions and work through word problems.
The kids are amazing though, and all of us are enjoying the love and joy that they have shown us. We are about to head back to the hotel and then out to dinner. So much love to everyone back home! You’ll be hearing from us again soon!