By Paige Kubik
I just returned from my second trip to Rancho Paraiso as an adult leader and translator for the youth mission group from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian. Each afternoon I’d assist with the latrine, floor, and room addition projects in the community of La Jagua, but in the mornings I led classes in the elementary school and kindergarten.
Cindy sat at the desk in front. She was a petite 13-year-old, strikingly beautiful. Each day, she shared her desk with another of the older girls and her younger sister, no more than three, who sat between Cindy and her friend.
Cindy was the school’s de facto leader. She was bright, always volunteering when I asked for a reader and quickly deciphering word puzzles I’d brought, despite the fact that the students were unfamiliar with crosswords and word searches. When she finished her work, she would help her little sister and other students. When all 70 children seemed to need help at once, she would make sure they waited their turn and would coach them until I was available. On the playground, she organized the soccer teams, suggested new games to play, and made sure the little ones were included and protected. In the afternoon, our youth saw her exhibit these same leadership skills as they worked in houses around the community.
It was obvious that Cindy loved school. I guessed that she was responsible for caring for her little sister, and the only way she was allowed to attend school was if she carried her sister with her. When I saw the HOI-supported middle and high schools, I could easily envision Cindy in the classrooms, soaking up every opportunity to learn. I wondered if she would have the chance.
Twenty-five years earlier, I was a Peace Corps volunteer living in a small, rural community at the southern tip of Honduras in Choluteca, near the Nicaraguan border. At first, I washed my own clothes on a washboard using well water. But then one of the older mothers in Azacualpa asked if I would hire her to do my wash. She wanted to earn money to help her son Lucio go to school. Lucio was the youngest of her six children, about six or seven years old at the time. Each week, he would come to my house to pick up my dirty clothes and return a few days later with my clean laundry. We would visit at those times, and he impressed me as a child much like Cindy…bright, mature, sweet, and hungry to learn. Sometimes I would loan him school supplies, and I would wonder if the little bit of money his mother earned as a laundress would be enough to send him away to finish his education after elementary school.
On the last night that St. Andrew’s was in Honduras, Lucio came to visit me in Tegucigalpa, sharing cashew nuts and fruit and news from his family and our friends in Azacualpa. He is now a handsome young man in his thirties, happily married and planning a family when the time is right. As the leader for mission groups from the United States who come to work in feeding programs around Tegucigalpa, he is in charge of logistics, facilitating group visits, and feeding 500 children each day. In his now-perfect English, he told me about his work, his travels, and the current political, social, and economic climate in Honduras. And he told me about his path since we last saw each other in 1992. Thanks to sponsorship by a church in Villa Rica, Georgia, after he finished sixth grade in Azacualpa he was able to go away to school, eventually earning a college degree. His education has enabled him to serve so many children in Tegucigalpa, to teach Americans about Honduras, and to help his own mother with medical care and a comfortable life as she grows older.
Hearing Lucio’s story, I thought of Cindy in La Jagua, and wondered what her path in life might be if she had the same opportunity as Lucio.
Those who sponsor our youth’s trip to HOI need to know what they are making possible. Young people from the United States are changed forever, learning how their decisions at home affect the lives of people around the world, realizing that fulfillment comes less in riches than in relationships and giving, and discovering a call to service. Our trip helps finance supplies that become latrines and floors that contribute to better health in La Jagua. Peace and understanding are built as Hondurans and Americans work side by side. And for only $600 a year, children like Cindy can have the educational opportunities that my friend Lucio has enjoyed and that have benefitted him and so many in his circle of influence.
For the future of all the Cindys of Olancho, thanks to HOI and all who make its important work possible.
Paige Kubik is a member of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Tucker, GA. You can find her on Google+.
HOI is grateful to Paige for sharing these memories and to her mission team for all their hard work in La Jagua! To learn how to sponsor a child’s education through HOI, please click here.