The place I was assigned for my four week mission was Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras. The drive into this town was about 5 hours from the closest airport, and there is only one road that gets us to this mountainous region.
I was assigned to the Salesian Sister’s School and boarding house in Santa Rosa. Initially, I thought that because it was a boarding school as well, it would be “more well off” students I’d be working with. In reality, the school houses 45 girls this year, most of which come from really poor families. The tuition is very low to promote an education for girls. The boarders help with all the household tasks like cleaning the facilities and outside patios.
The Sisters accept the goods their families cultivate as a form of payment if need be. The families can exchange sacks of beans, rice, bananas, and coffee in order to provide their girls with the opportunity for an education. The resident girls are allowed to visit home every 2 weeks but most of them can’t afford to go home since they live in some of the most rural parts of Honduras. Many come from really poor communities referred to as “aldeas”. Whatever education these girls arrive with is typically minimal and so the Sisters do everything in their hands to help them get up to speed and instill loving discipline. Since most of the girls spend months without seeing their loved ones, they really are in need of love and care. They are so loving and warm, always seeking a warm embrace. It has been truly beautiful to accompany these girls with the love and care every person deserves.
The daily routine is pretty exhausting since we wake up at 5:20 to get ready for the day. The morning routine consists of grooming and spraying myself down with mosquito repellent (I only forgot to apply it once to learn my lesson). From 6 to 6:30 AM all the girls and I do the house chores which include sweeping, mopping, and/or dusting the halls, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, showers, and patios. And then we finally have breakfast at 6:30!
The girls are at school from 7AM until 1:40PM. During that time, I have my own chores and organizational tasks to do. From 9:30 to 10 the girls have a 30-minute recess in which I’ve gotten to know some of the students that live in a nearby orphanage that is in walking distance. At 12:05 they have a ten minute recess in which I help sell snacks at the school’s snack stand. I have lunch at 12:30 and at 1:40 the business kicks off. I spend my afternoon with the girls since they have lunch at 1:50, chores right after, and time for homework. I teach English classes from 3:30-4:30 on certain days while another volunteer hosts a computing workshop. At 6, we pray the rosary together and then head off to do silent study time. At 7:30 we have dinner. They have some down time after dinner and at 8:15ish they gather for the “goodnight” thought from the Sisters. Around 8:45 all the girls are seeking hugs before heading to bed. The other volunteer and I gather with the Sisters to unwind for a bit but usually by 9:30 or 10, we are so tired that it is time for bed. Our day starts again at 5:20 am.
It has been a very hard task to memorize the names of each of the 45 resident girls; however, it has been truly worth it when their faces light up as I remember them by name. It makes me think about how important it is for me, and all of us, to remember to make our neighbor feel noticed, important, and cared for. A simple warm genuine smile may seem like such a minuscule task but I am convinced that it is our kindness that impacts the world. I invite you to take it upon yourself to share a smile, be kind without expecting a favor in return, be thoughtful, be passionate about reflecting the love of God through your warmness and contagious smile. At the core of all this is the simple idea of accompaniment. By being reachable, relatable, and accepting of differences, we build a relationship that enables trust and closeness.
I have learned and practiced a lot of the skills I’ll definitely be needing for my therapist trainee position coming soon and it’s simply wonderful to see how God not only uses me as His instrument, but uses the sweet people I have met to give me a different perspective on life, poverty, gratitude, and fulfillment.