Success for All!

Dear Friends and Family,

We hope you are all well. We are fine here at TLC. We fly back today and are eaded to the airport very soon.

It’s been an amazing last week on campus. It is such a blessing to be here.

A mission team of 10 folks from Raleigh (Genesis UMC) arrived Sunday. They have been here a number of times. They worked on the new multi-purpose exercise facility, leveling the foundation with rock fill and building walls. Two of the guys also breathed new life into the 25-year-old beat up diesel truck we use around the farm.

Jeff has continued his guitar lessons and the whole campus has enjoyed his music. He has worked a lot with one of the first-year students Saylin, and her confidence has grown measurably in many ways. Last night, around the camp fire, Saylin played Wagon Wheel on the guitar as Jeff entertained us with an accompanying harmonica.

Jeff also did more electrical and other projects this week. But as he told me last night – his best time here was spent reading with students in the evenings. The first-year students particularly always need English help and it such a good way to get to know them well.

Chris held our usual “free yard sale” for the students earlier this week. We put on tables in front of our casita small items, gifts, used clothing, chocolates, make-up … things we brought or have left from our 4 weeks here. The girls draw numbers and then pick their choice item. It’s fun and they are always excited for it! It’s less about the gifts and more about sharing time together laughing about the “free yard sale.”

My entrepreneurship class finished yesterday. We had the test in the morning and then just a general discussion in the afternoon. The 8 students scored between 70 and 100 on the test … much better than the test two weeks ago. I told them they were either getting smarter or I was making easier tests! They all agreed that it was they are smarter.

One of the possible plans that several of the second-year students are considering is a social entrepreneurship endeavor. They like the idea of starting up an educational venture of some kind – perhaps in a poor neighborhood of a city where they could teach and counsel.

I spent some time with Marileth, one of the second-year students, this week. Marileth is from a small farming community called El Socorro, near us (about a 2-hour walk). The village has about 20 families and 100 people. Very small. No electricity. I asked Marileth how long her family had lived in El Socorro – she said, “always”. She means that all generations of her family have always been there. Marileth is about 31- our oldest student. Before she came to TLC, she had taught all the children of El Socorro for a couple years- ages 8 to 18 – all in a one room classroom. She was not paid as a teacher as the community had no resources. Anyhow, Marileth has done well at TLC. Quiet, but reasonably self-assured, she wants to teach (as a career) when she graduates in March. But her mom is very sick (recent cancer surgery) and as a result, Marileth is going to return to El Socorro to take care of her family.  We talked about her starting a small chicken farm and selling eggs and meat in her community. (Today there is no local provider of eggs in her community.) This could be an interim step to financial security for Marileth and her family, a help to her community and a path to continue her teaching dream.

Last night the second-year students surprised us with a dinner of baleadas and cinnamon rolls in our casita. It was so generous. They had baked and cooked for hours. It was fun fellowship and a bittersweet reminder of our departure today.

Thanks for all your support and prayers of these young women of TLC. It is much appreciated by each of them, and us.

Time now for hugs, goodbyes and a few tears.

Blessings from Honduras,

Dan and Chris and Jeff

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New Experiences, New Students, New Businesses

Dear Friends and Family,

Another week has flown by here at The Leadership Center and it was a busy one.

Last Sunday, I gave the message at the worship service. A big step out of my comfort zone, but as I continually encourage the students here to always be looking to try new experiences, I felt I must do the same. I spoke about “The Hands of The Almighty” and how they are often to be found at the ends of our very own arms. I give myself a solid C for my first sermon.

Our dear friend Dan Price was here for 5 days. He came specifically to paint the Catholic Church in our neighboring community of Los Valles. This undertaking was a huge success that involved many community members and students from TLC over a 5-day period of hard work, fellowship and a lot of laughter. The finished product is lovely and the community is very grateful.

Dan Price also brought Sweet Virginia shirts for all the students, they are very interested in his bee business.

Jeff Hayes, our wonderful brother-in-law also arrived last week. Jeff is a multi talented man and is making many friends here at TLC.  He is a carpenter, electrician, painter and accomplished musician all rolled into one lovable guy. The ladies gather around in the evenings to enjoy his guitar and harmonica. He’s now giving several of the students guitar lessons.

The second group of applicants are now on campus for their interviews. Selected students will begin studies in April as Cohort 9. We hope to accept 15-18 students and will be looking for sponsors very soon.

My short story discussion groups continue and it is a time with students that I treasure. We meet in the evenings over a cup of tea to talk and share time together. It is amazing how perceptive they are of the nuisances of these stories which they read in their second language. I admire them so much.

Business classes continue with Mr. Dan and a quiz is on deck for today. Break-even analysis is a challenge in any language. I am supplementing this class with a reading and discussion of “Who Owns the Ice House,” a guide to the entrepreneurial mindset. Students are enjoying the book.

Cirse Cruz, a third-year student, was here last weekend to consult with Dan about her business plans. Third year students are currently off campus for most of the time, working at internships and following a plan of independent study. Cirse now has a fledgling internet business selling perfumes on What’s App. She is applying for a loan to expand this enterprise and she still has a long-term plan to start a day care center to support working parents in her community. She truly is an entrepreneur in action.

That’s all for now, thanks for your prayers, encouragement and love.

Chris

Much Accomplished This Week & A Prayer Request

Good morning friends and family,

It’s Friday here at The Leadership Center in rural Honduras. We are at about 4,500 feet elevation in a beautiful mountain setting. The sun has been a bit spotty this week! It’s been cool here, blankets and sweatshirts at night.

The Lafayette College team of 12 students and faculty (nine women and three guys) departed yesterday morning. There were many hugs and tears. The TLC students and the team forged some terrific relationships in their 10 days here.

It was a very rewarding to be with these young people in service here at TLC. They came to give of course, but I know they received a lot from the TLC students as well. I know many of the relationships will continue through social media and I expect some of the Lafayette students will return.

The team worked on a variety of things while they were here:

  • They cleared a field where a new exercise facility will be built – along the soccer field. The facility will be for morning exercise and big enough for indoor wall soccer, and maybe a basketball hoop. That project will take a lot of concrete and brick work and will continue for a month led by our workers and a team coming in a week or so from North Carolina.
  • The team prepped some of agriculture fields (new one down near cook’s house). Tilled soil and made planting rows. There may be more of that to do.
  • A big project undertaken by the team was a complete reorganization and cleansing of the TLC library. We were fortunate that one of the Lafayette team was a librarian and Ana really took charge! I think this will result in much more use of the library by the TLC students.
  • The Lafayette team held three after class seminars for all students. They focused on Malala (a Pakistani woman) who led / leads social justice causes. And in the last seminar on Wednesday they asked / challenged the TLC students to describe an important life goal of theirs and draw a road map of the challenges they faced to achieve it and how their strengths and education would enable them. It was a great exercise.
  • One of the most valuable things that the team did was they loved on the girls. They read with them, they shared experiences and bits of their lives . . . encouraging them in many ways.

Teams and visitors to campus are so important to our mission and work here. It’s all about relationships. And the TLC students are so grateful for the opportunity to get to know all of us with different life experiences and to share their own experiences. To be honest, it’s pretty humbling.

My brother-in-law Jeff and good friend Dan Price came yesterday. Dan is organizing a paint crew at a nearby church in Los Valles. They will paint the only church, a small cinder block building. Jeff is already working on a couple projects here on campus.

We accept new students each year in February to begin a new school year April 1. This next cohort will be #9. Over the first 6 years, we have slowly increased the class sizes as we have garnered more resources. There are so many poor young women who cannot afford education past high school, we are usually overwhelmed by applicants. Many more qualified than we can accept.

We hope to accept 16-18 new students in Cohort 9. We are still in need of sponsors for 1/2 of the next

class if you or anyone you know is interested.

This year we have 37 applicants (all personally recommended by their community leaders or local NGOs). They are being interviewed here at TLC in three groups over the next three weekends.

Twelve TLC applicants arrived on campus last evening, many with their mother or father. They worked with the TLC students after devotional this morning and are in a class now. Interviews start later this morning. We will have a bonfire tonight for them and they depart tomorrow.

One last note, keep Honduras in your prayers this week. There are new calls for a week of protest and disruption of the Presidential inauguration on the 27th. Traffic barriers, etc. . . . we are safe here on the mountain. Most of the issue will probably be in large cities, major roads, possibly airports.

Well off to teach class now. I have 8 second year students gathering near my classroom.

Blessings from Honduras,

Dan and Chris

A Quick Check-in from Dan & Chris

Buenas Tardes from the mountains of Honduras!

Chris and I arrived Tuesday afternoon, along with a team of 10 students and 2 faculty members of Lafayette College.

They are terrific young hearts and minds and have immediately kindled relationships with the young women who are here studying at TLC.

The quarter is just underway this week. First years are completing their last quarter of English Classes- 4 hours a day. Second year students are taking Leadership, Law & Justice, Microsoft Office and Entrepreneurship Classes, a pretty full plate. There are also a few third year students here, completing their independent study classes and writing up their final internship papers.

The new electricity is terrific. It’s been on 24 / 7 and it’s so good not to rely on solar. The internet however is struggling. We have had very little bandwidth. The satellite service engineer was here yesterday (again) but I think we may need divine intervention. So I am not sure when you will receive this. But I won’t attach pictures so maybe the cloud will process it.

Chris has been swamped by her fan club of students for all sorts of help- reading club, sewing projects and just talk, love and encouragement.

I began Entrepreneurship class Wednesday. It’s going well but it’s a lot of material to cover in a month. I see some lively affirming faces and some dazed looks- so we will have fun together!

The Lafayette team has been terrific. They have been helping the students before classes each day with their daily chores. Cleaning pig pens, building a new chicken coop, picking coffee, raking the pine needles – many things.

It’s quite a change for the team participants of course. From all we have every day in the states to very modest food, cold showers and no Facebook. But it always brings out the best in people. Every time.

The TLC students are seeking out the gringo team for homework help and reading time. It’s been great.

Damarias gave a wonderful devotional yesterday morning – on her 23rd birthday. She spoke of the new year and encouragers us all to make those changes in our lives that we know we need!

The weather has been quite cool in the evening (sweatshirts) but hot and sunny by about 9 a.m. No rain in sight. Been a lot of birds around, saw a heron of some type this morning take a small tilapia from the fish tank!

Bonfire this evening – always great!

Well that’s it for now and we thank you all for your support and encouragement!

Blessings from Honduras,

Dan and Chris

Laughs, Exams & Tears

Dear friends and family,

Well, the 10 weeks here in the beautiful Honduran mountain is coming to a close. We fly home to later today.

It’s been a very busy last week!

Friday afternoon the second-year students all gave a PowerPoint presentation to the campus on a leadership or community topic of their choosing. Each presentation lasted 10 minutes or so. They did just great in their longest ever individual presentations at TLC.

Friday night we had a Honduran cultural celebration! The first-year students performed Latin folk plays which were outstanding. Then 10 of the students performed traditional Honduran dances to wonderful music. They were terrific. The colorful traditional dresses were all made by the girls here at TLC and they danced so well. (4 girls had to play the guys )

 

Saturday morning we began our clean out of the casita. We held a free yard sale and the students came by to choose items until everything was gone. (lottery) Tupperware, books, shoes, extra material, DVDs, water bottles, shampoo, chocolates, some clothes, cookie mixes … it all had to go. We had enough items for each of the 32 students to get two “treasures.” No one wanted my old beat up tennis shoes however.

There was a lot of studying Sunday and Monday. Final exams began Tuesday.

My business students were relieved to be done this on Wednesday . They did great on Entrepreneurship and Marketing exams. Final exam in accounting took its toll I am afraid. But as I told them, accounting is an acquired taste.

Chris’ tests are done as of yesterday as well.

English went well I heard. Two 2 of the 16 first-year students will need more help apparently. Next quarter it’s pretty much “English only” on campus – so it gets tougher as they progress.

All Chris’ second year’s passed math, but three or so will need more work, especially if they want to consider business in their third year. Math is just not taught well here in Honduras. For five years we have seen the same thing. Most high schools just are not giving these young people a reasonable chance with basic math.

Last night the girls had a nice bonfire for us. It was bittersweet to hear all the kind and generous things they had to say about our time together. There were tears, especially for Chris, by the first-year students. They have become so very close. But as I told them all – they are in our hearts forever and their pictures on our refrigerator at home for us to see every day!

It’s been a much-blessed 10 weeks at TLC but we are ready to be at home with kids and grandkids! But I can tell you, these young women will stay with us every day until we come back!

Maybe you will join us next time?

Blessings from Honduras,

Dan and Chris

Delicious Food, Successful Alumni, Intense Classes

June 22, 2017

Hello Friends & Family,

Three meals a day for 32 students plus 6 of us staff and the Rahm family of 5 is a lot of food to prepare each day. The meals are modest, but nutritious. We have three local women who prepare the meals Monday thru Friday. (The students take turns cooking on the weekends). Candida, our long-time cook and very good friend of TLC, is now joined by Lourdes and Marie. TLC provides support to their families via their employment.

Last Friday we took a road trip! Along with the Rahm family and Mark Irwin (a terrific young man, volunteer teacher from Baltimore who has been here all quarter), we headed to Pena Blanca, a small town near Lago de Yajoa for a change of scenery and some relaxation. We stayed at a small motel and microbrewery called D&D. Very modest, sort of a backpackers’ joint. Outside dining, American music, hamburgers, beer brewed on premise (in a container in the parking lot), all in a beautiful, very tropical setting. Moist and humid, but a great change of pace.

We were joined by one of the alumni who had not been able to make the alumni weekend on campus. Yudy graduated last year and now works at a call center in La Ceiba for 8 hours a day, goes to university every night and runs her own online make up business as well. She is a dynamo and is going to be a great leader and role model.

On the way back from Pena Blanca, we stopped at another graduate’s home near Tauluabe, in a very rural community. Karla also graduated last year. She is starting an organic egg and meat business that is needed in her area. She has built a small home, chicken coops and now has sheep. She hopes to begin to sell protein in the coming months. Karla is one of 11 siblings and we met many of them as several live with her now. She is a church leader and serves on her local community council. TLC provided Karla and Yudy with micro loans to begin their businesses.

The last full week of classes began on Monday. I still have a few important business topics still to cover. I have been explaining a bit about free markets and capitalism – using Milton Friedman video clips. Pretty exciting stuff. Honduras is a free market economy, but there are many issues with property rights here which certainly impede progress. We have been discussing issues like government corruption and business ethics. These young women have strong personal values and we can all hope they will positively impact Honduras.

This morning I gave them a thought exercise before class discussions – could they lower and then levitate a thin wooden stick. Did they do it?

Also, Tuesday night was June birthdays celebration. The comedor was flooded out by more crazy rains so we carried all the tables and chairs and food to the salon for the dinner. It was a great chicken dinner with music and dancing.

Well that’s it for now. Off to my afternoon classes.

We are excited to be headed home at the end of next week. The quarter is almost over. It’s been wonderful but we are ready to be home.

Blessings from Honduras,

Dan and Chris

p.s. I found a problem with my planned tomato harvest…

Sheep, Goodbyes & Games

June 15, 2017

Buenas Tardes Amigos,

It’s Thursday afternoon, about an hour before dinner. I think it’s rice, beans and tortillas again. I hear the sheep next door to our casita “baaing” loudly and I am thinking just a bit about medium rare lamb chops, (but they are my friends – I feed them banana peels each day).

Two of my third-year students left campus early this morning.

Jondia, who has been dealing with family issues most of the quarter, decided to take a teaching job at a bilingual private school. There was an opening and she felt she needed to take the opportunity to earn money for her family. Her father just can’t work in the fields any longer. Jondia led our Bible Study last night (Philippians) and she shared how grateful she was for her time at TLC and how excited she was to begin teaching 7th graders next week!

Doris also left TLC today as well. She wants to start a small-retail business, but has been struggling with the commitment required to continue her studies. She decided to leave TLC and marry her fiancé in two weeks. I do believe she will be in business someday.

Both young women earned 2 year degrees in Leadership and will participate in graduation ceremonies next March.

Speaking of Jondia, she won the spaghetti eating contest last Saturday. We had an afternoon of “field” games. The competition was a lot of silly fun for all. Chris and I were fortunate enough just to be the judges. Three-legged races, water balloon tosses, orange face dancing (particularly hysterical), Coca Cola chugging contest and more!

We have had a lot more rain this week. Rainy season here is mostly May and June. Good for the coffee trees and plants! But the water runs down the mountain very hard and fast.

Chris is doing such a great job with these young women. A few are working particularly hard as learning a language or math is challenging. Many evenings there’s a soft knock at our door and someone wants help or just to talk. The girls love being with Chris, in the crafts room, sewing and doing projects, in the kitchen baking cookies or especially at her short-story reading group.

Ingris, one of the first-year students and I sat next to each other at Bible Study last night. She has a loud distinctive voice and is quite funny! (We are seated on chairs that arrived last week donated by our Virginia INDUS friends). And yes, I know I need a haircut! Soon I hope.

In other TLC news this week, Rapunzel, had 8 puppies (good news is they are all healthy, bad news is the sofa cushion cleaning project took 3 days).

We are really looking forward to getting home in a couple more weeks to be with family and friends. Thanks to all of you for your support, notes of encouragement and prayers.

Blessings from Honduras

Dan and Chris