YHS and El Hogar: An Empowered Exchange
From April 4th to 11th, 2015, 10 Yorkies and 3 chaperones embarked on an incredible journey to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. During this Spanish/Service trip they visited El Hogar, a home and school for at-risk and homeless youth. They also visited Santa Lucia to bond with girls who are current students and graduates of El Hogar. After girls graduate from El Hogar, they are financially supported to attend a local private school.
Watch the video slideshow below and read Gina’s (Gr. 11) reflection on the trip:
On a cool early Saturday morning in April 2015, a group of Yorkies and three chaperones ‒ Señora Marte, Madame Forte and Ms. Kelly Van Unen ‒ travelled to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The final destination of our service trip was El Hogar ‒ a home and school for at-risk and homeless children and youth from ages 6 to 15.
For some of us, this was the first time traveling to a developing country. We welcomed the new experience by eagerly exploring the local Honduran culture. Through participation in literacy development, project work, such as painting, and hosting student-led workshops, we were united by the common goal of helping underprivileged children realize their potential.
After a tiring day of travel filled with stressful flight connections, the bright smiles and bear hugs waiting for us overwhelmed us with love and rejuvenated our travel-weary spirits. The children at El Hogar were not only full of energy, they were also a curious bunch. They asked us our names, where we came from, and when we could play with them. Some observant students even asked about the filter tube in my giant thermos bottle. Their eagerness to get to know us better was their special way of inviting us into their big family.
Following this warm welcome, we hopped into a van to Santa Lucia, 20km outside the capital city, where we had the opportunity to bond with around 40 girls from the ages of 6 to 18, who are current students and graduates of El Hogar. The younger girls were able to stay with the older graduates at the El Hogar dormitory in Santa Lucia, while the boys stayed at the main home and campus in the capital city. Shortly after our arrival in Santa Lucia, our laughter and stories filled the dorm as we cooked, danced, and sang together. We ended our rewarding first day in Honduras with a communal dance celebration.
Before our trip to Honduras, we had only heard of the poverty-stricken and often harsh living circumstances that the girls and boys of El Hogar came from, including sexual abuse from family members, and the burdens that come from taking care of handicapped parents. When we interacted with the girls on the first day, we were amazed by their infectious happiness and unbreakable sisterhood.
We were inspired on a different level when we visited Virginia Sapp, a local private school. We watched the older girls integrate into a brand new school environment, to achieve academic success independently. When we asked the girls about their thoughts of their futures, they weren’t afraid of telling us about their ambitious goals of becoming doctors, lawyers and leaders in their fields.
After touring the campus of Virginia Sapp and interacting with the girls and the other students at the school, we left feeling optimistic about the prestigious education these young girls are able to receive. We were proud of their active choice to make the best of their opportunities and pave their own ways to actualize their promising futures.
When we were back at El Hogar for the rest of the week, we became very immersed in the loving and hopeful environment that the children and staff created. El Hogar holds true to its name, which means “the home” in Spanish, for it quickly became our home despite the fact that we were in a foreign land. Never before have I dared to trust and love others as freely as I did with the children at El Hogar. To the children, we were not mere strangers; they knew that we had chosen to dedicate some time in our lives to be there with them and teach them and love them. In return for the time and effort that we offered to them, they expressed their sincere gratitude by opening their hearts to us, without any hint of judgement or reservation.
One of my favorite teaching moments from the week was the special music lesson that I gave to Gabriel. A passionate pianist, Gabriel seized the rare opportunity to play the piano (the children here don’t usually have access to musical instruments). Without hesitation, Gabriel dedicated 100% of his attention to me while I taught him new songs. Despite the dusty and half-broken piano keys, Gabriel was determined to master the songs. When I congratulated him on his natural talent for music, I saw one of the most humble and happy smiles from his heart. It was one of the rare moments when I could actually see the bursting potential in someone.
In my remaining classes later that day, I saw Gabriel’s unswerving determination in the other children as well: when they were working on high level math problems, practicing the fundamental values of academic integrity, conducting eloquent interviews as journalists for a day or trying to read a story in one breath. The level of understanding and maturity displayed among the children reaffirmed the reason I was at El Hogar — to be a role model for the children and encourage their individual pursuits to become future leaders of their community, state or nation.
The trip was full of surprises, as none of us had expected the number of “firsts” that we would experience throughout the week. Some of us attended our first church service ever at a Spanish church, while others got their first tastes of “Honduran nachos,” an appetizer made with delicious cheese and refried beans. We also painted an entire building that housed the arts classroom; visited a very poor home situated on a construction site, where one of the children from El Hogar came from; and made over 100 friends within a week.
We had left for Honduras hoping to empower these young children through literacy development and student workshops. In reality, the children had an impact on us that changed all of us for the better.
We strived to make small changes with each child, and witnessed some inspiring transformations, especially within the new students at El Hogar.
For example, a fourteen-year-old boy named Juan Pablo, and his eight-year-old and six-year-old sisters had just arrived at El Hogar two weeks before we did. At the beginning of the week, Juan Pablo had always fixed his gaze on the ground and wore a dejected look on his face whenever we walked past. By giving Juan Pablo and other new children to El Hogar emotional and mental support, and by encouraging their every attempt at adapting to the new lifestyle at El Hogar, we soon saw their stubborn frowns break into some of the purest smiles. Our brave efforts to reach out to the children most in need of our help and love were rewarded with the gift of gratitude and some lasting relationships that we will sustain through letter writing, Skyping and fundraising projects between YHS and El Hogar.
At the end of the day, it was our passion for building connections with the children and our commitment to igniting their aspirations that became our best manifestation of the YHS motto: “Not for ourselves alone”.
Gina, Gr. 11
Slideshow created by Brianna and Marysa, Grade 10.