Students Helping Honduras

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As I step off the bus into the muggy, pitch-black night of Honduras, I panic as someone tries to wrestle away my suitcase. I clutch onto the handle, struggling to see the face that matches the acquisitive hands: as my eyes acclimate to the darkness, I make out the features of 8-year-old Naoun, now mute because of the domestic violence that victimized him in his infancy. Disarmed by his smile, I relent ownership of the bag, which he shifts to one hand. Without a word, he slips his free hand into mine.
On June 26th of my junior year, I arrived in El Progreso, Honduras, to volunteer for Students Helping Honduras, a non-profit founded by my mother’s former college student. Every heat-blistering day for two weeks, I taught math and English to the children of Copprome Orphanage. Every mosquito-infested night, the children crowded around a pockmarked table of their own accord to pore over their ragged textbooks. Although many of the answers in the books were appallingly incorrect, these worn-down antiques were the children’s sole source of education, and the children worshipped the content, accurate or not. Their assiduous dedication to their studies was the confirmation that education was their only means to escape the bars of their poverty. Moved by such perseverance and commitment, I tried to nurture their dreams by enlisting them on a project to draw a mural depicting their futures. The result was a tree rising proudly above a verdant pasture, the broad leaves sprouting graduation caps, books, art palettes, doctors’ gowns, and so many other symbols of their dreams.
On one particularly sticky night, 13-year-old Julissa approached me shyly and asked, “¿Puede leer esto conmigo?” She wanted me to read her a dog-eared postcard. “¡Claro!” I answered willingly. Printed on the card was an English version of the Apostles’ Creed, and together we read every line. Watching her brows knit in concentration as she tried to memorize the incomprehensible words, I was overwhelmed by her absolute faith in God. She, like all the other children at Copprome, had been the casualty of a dysfunctional family, impoverished living conditions, and social ostracism, and it dumbfounded me that she could sustain such unwavering belief in a deity who had apparently been the cause of so much misery. Despite their wretched backgrounds, the children at Copprome lived with a passion for life and gratitude for each blessing that I had rarely seen.
The children of Copprome changed my attitude towards life and others, as well as my self-estimation. The zeal of the orphans for life was contagious, and I returned home hopelessly infected. Aware of my infinite capacity to appreciate and cross cultural barriers, I now find myself impassioned to reach out to others. During the next four years, I plan to major in anthropology because I believe understanding the roots of diverse cultures will further nurture my tolerance of and compassion for others, qualities which will enable me to contribute to global society in a concrete way.





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