October 24, 2009
El Carrizal, Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras
This was not a party that occurred by accident, nor by a spur of the moment desire for roast pig!! No way! This was a party that was 3 years coming and carried off by the boys in the Moses Project to perfection. It Included a week of mad pace painting with a group of gringos that came down to help for the week prior to the big event. It helped that one of the 'gringos' was actually a professional painter who was originally from Guatemala. He not only knew what he was doing, but had a riot teaching the boys in Spanish (thereby ensuring that they painted the walls rather than the windows...). Throughout the week, the boys took turns in groups of 4 - 6 to abandon their classes with the plants or the trade school to grab a roller, brush or sandpaper. The results were evident in the amazing pictures of the dining room that was an empty concrete shell at the start of the week.
On Friday afternoon, work was officially terminated for the boys (the gringos kept painting in other rooms) so that they could gather the traditional pine needles for the floor, string up balloons and streamers as well as the large promotional board up front that showed off pictures of their accomplishments and battles. My wife Triny and another teacher from the local bilingual school showed up to create flower arrangements for all the tables (which the bilingual school had also lent to us along with covers and chairs -- thanks very much Gloria!).
The day of the big show consisted of family and friends of the 4 graduates getting on busses rather early in the morning to arrive in Santa Rosa de Copán by 9am and then be transported out to the site in our pickup trucks (our access still isn't too friendly to busses and taxis). We had a bus lined up, but he didn't show up and didn't answer his phone that day. At 11:30am we finally started the ceremony that we started dreaming about in 2005.
After opening with a welcome and prayer, we introduced the 4 grads:
- Ayurin Inocente from Concepcion
- Cristian Henriquez from Candelaria
- Leonardo Castron from Prado de la Cruz
- Luis Arriaga from San Agustin
We then reviewed the nature of the program for all visiters present, followed by introducing all of the Aprocola staff. Each of the grads then spoke briefly (at their request), expressing their grattitude for the opportunity they had been given and encouraging the remaining boys to hang in there until they reached the end of their term as well.
Ken McTavish then initiated the introduction of the Scholarships / Awards that he had proposed for us at the start of the year. Each of the boys was awarded up to $285 based on their performance in the program. Part of the evaluation was the responsibility of the trade school, part relied on the public junior high, part on the agriculture instructor, part on the dorm parents and part relied on evaluations done by all the participant boys in the program. In the end it is likely that these boys earned the equivalent of 2 - 3 months family income (since they are all from rural settings).
Finally came the presentation of the diplomas themselves. As with any major milestone in a persons life, I believe I saw in their eyes a mixture of excitement, relief, fear and hope. These boys had just proved to everybody that they are some of the toughest, most dedicated youth in the west. They still have tremendous challenges ahead of them, but they are also now well equipped to be more than contributing members to the society and environment that raised them.
Where do they go from here? Ayurin and Cristian were hired back by us to work on the farm, putting their learning to use and then when next year starts up they will work part time on the farm, part time as counsellors for the participating boys and continue their own education along with the current group of participants. Leonardo has returned to his village and stated in his address that he is looking for ways to share his knowledge with friends and family back home. Luis has returned to San Agustin to pick coffee for the winter and is looking for a way to return to Santa Rosa de Copán to continue his education beyond grade 9. While up in Canada these past 3 weeks, I found somebody who has contributed to offset some of his living costs while he studies. He will still need to put his skills to work to cover the remaining living and education costs, but even that is much easier with a reference letter that we are happy to give anybody who 'survives' the program.
These guys are leaders in the true sense of the word. How do I know? Here are some brief examples: they asked for the priviledge of distributing the food to all of those present, including their companions and visiting family (that's leadership according to the John 13:5; they asked for and showed great confidence in their ability to speak to a group that included foreigners and local leaders (something they never would have done 3 years ago); they showed great patience and vision in sticking through the hard times to complete 3 years of very difficult preparation.
Stay tuned to Honduras news, because Ayurin, Cristian, Leonardo and Luis are going to be 4 men that justice and economic improvement for the poor in Honduras!