According to The Dialogue, one in ten Hondurans are illiterate, and 27% of Honduran youth neither work nor study. The Honduran government estimates that nearly 1,000 rural communities lack an elementary school. On my first trip here in 2014, I was exposed to children studying outside due to lack of space, under the scorching hot Honduran sun. One community affectionately referred to their students as "the chicken coop kids"; they built a schoolhouse out of chicken wire and wooden posts after a little girl was assaulted on her walk to school.
This is not to say that Hondurans don't value education. Quite the opposite. When SJBS was originally founded, parents and community members here in Cofradía dedicated themselves to creating a school for their children. Despite the blood, sweat, and tears poured into this, the future of education here in Honduras, on a larger scale, is questionable at best. The current Honduran presidency is making moves to privatize education altogether.
All of this being said, I can't help but wonder — if this were the education of kids in a "developed country" being threatened, such as in my own home of the United States, would the world not be outraged? Would we not see countless social media posts raising awareness for this crisis? Campaigns and fundraisers galore? Marches on a global scale? A blatant violation of human rights seems to fall on deaf ears when it comes to a country that can barely be seen on the map.
Sure, my frustration at these facts has been one factor that has led me to camp counseling. More powerful and moving, however, has been my idealism and hope for change. No, I don't think my presence here will be an end to global poverty or create seismic change in the way that we look at countries such as Honduras. I don't even use the word "change" to refer to a byproduct of my short time here. Rather, I've seen with my own two eyes what access to education can do.
You see, I'm a teacher back home in New York. I teach English to juniors and seniors at a public high school. Many of my students are new to the country and come from places similar to the very communities that BECA serves. Many of them are the first in their families to graduate high school. Some are even college-bound. Not quite as simple as a one-way-ticket out of poverty, but the tears provoked by such a strong sense of accomplishment at our graduation ceremony were truly moving to witness.
I see a parallel effect here in Cofradía. When talking with one of the original founding members, I just needed to know — and I told him to be very honest — Has having access to a bilingual education really changed this community? His face beamed with pride as he rightfully gloated about the endless opportunities that have been provided as a result of access to a formal education. Many students, he told me, have gone on to universities and have found well-paying jobs. Arguably more impressive is the number of students that have returned to their schools and communities to help out at summer camp or even teach. The sense of pride is palpable. It radiates off of these people.
So why did I become a camp counselor? I wish there were a short answer that I could package with a nice bow on top. The answer, however, is infinitely more intricate and winding for me. In my opinion, it should be that way. It mirrors the complexity of the situation down here. My answer could even change from day to day. Two weeks ago, I might have told you that I did this because I feel drawn to Honduras, the people, their culture. This morning, I might have said I did it because I feel so passionately about the social and political context of this country. Right now, I could say it's because I was put in this universe to teach. Whatever the reason may be at any given moment, I made the right choice.