In 1996, I took the first of those trips to Honduras, and I opened my eyes to the third world, their living conditions, and their attitudes toward life. Living - literally living - in Honduras is a struggle.
Twenty-first century (twentieth century at the time) education means something different in Honduras. There are no computer labs, no iPads, and no SMART Boards. In fact, being a modern school in Honduras might mean there is electricity in the school. It might mean there is running water for toilets.
Students in the village of La Concepcion were required to wear uniforms. In the picture, the girl in pink on the outside of the fence, looking in, is apparently unable to afford a uniform (simply a blue skirt and a white shirt). She is not allowed inside the schoolyard. While I was there, I was interested in seeing the school. It intrigued me. One day, I walked over to the fence. A boy around eight years of age walked up, and we talked through the fence. Without a translator. I was able to tell him I was el profesor, a teacher, and he begged me to come to meet his teacher. I declined. I didn't want to interrupt the regular schedule, especially without a translator.
I did get to go inside after hours where I snapped a quick picture of the fifth grade classroom. Observe a few things:
- the glossy "chalkboard" painted on the wall
- the tired old Disney characters adorning the wall
- handmade benches and tables
I don't know what that means for the kids who are somehow making across our southern border, and I don't need to comment on their current situation. I just know the conditions from which they may be coming. We take so much for granted.
That being said, I can never forget the faces of the Honduran children, and I often wonder if they have even survived in their situation to this date, less than 20 years later. In spite of their living conditions - the sewage and solid trash in the streets, the dirt floors in their houses, and the thin material that counted as their clothes - they still smiled. They weren't scared to speak to me, greeting me with buenos dias, every morning (or simply, bueno), and they weren't afraid to work hard. A single piece of candy lit up their faces.
I wonder how those kids would have reacted to an American school. I wonder how far they could take the opportunity. I wonder how much they would appreciate the things we often take for granted - so much more than a piece of hard candy.