Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Blog from a recent teaching volunteer - Malcolm

Spending five months in the rural mountains of Honduras isn’t too common among young college graduates.  After graduation, many of my friends were intent on finding the right job and getting their careers off to an early start.  In some ways, I envied them for knowing what they wanted to do, or are expected to do, for the rest of their youth.  I had no such knowledge, and was unaware of what I’d be doing the next week.  So near the end of 2011 I decided to spend half of 2012 in Honduras teaching English and History at a rural boarding school for young women.  I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, and I was scared of who or what I would find there, but at least I wouldn’t have to watch any commercials.

The Leadership Center is a small and isolated community.   When you see and talk to the same 30 people every day, there’s no hiding who you are.  Everyone gets to know each other, the good and the bad.  Luckily, the good far outweigh the bad in that small corner of the earth.  I have never been surrounded by more selfless, amicable, and positive people in my life, even when I was living in a college dormitory that housed 500 freshman.  I am still not sure if it is part of Honduran culture to give more than you take, or if a prerequisite for applying to teach or learn at the school is being nice, or if people model themselves off their environment.   Whatever the case, the atmosphere and people at the school can’t be beat, and are what I will miss most about it.

 Another great thing about the Leadership Center is its growth and change.  The school is young, it was established less than a year and half ago, and it is still developing.  If you spend a long period of time there, you become a witness to an amazing thing: timely, tangible, improvement.  Instead of endless talk and argument about how things can or should be improved, an idea is proposed, then implemented, and the school is made better.  It’s inspiring to see how a few people can make a real difference, as long as they have the will to do so.

A small example that demonstrates this approach is the volleyball court.  The teachers were discussing how to create more fun activities for the students, because despite everything, the school is in the middle of nowhere and it can get boring.  Someone mentioned getting a volleyball net, and we all agreed that would be a good addition to the school.  That week the director searched the cities for a sports store that sold volleyball nets, but couldn’t find one anywhere.  We were a little perplexed at the lack of nets in Honduras, but undeterred, so we decided to build our own one.  One Friday afternoon the students and staff worked together and we built a volleyball net from rope and sticks and trees and string.  And it works great.  We didn’t stop there though.  After seeing the benefits derived from a net, we brainstormed about more extracurricular activities, and asked for student ideas too.  Now an acting club and newspaper have started, and there are plans to build a soccer field and park and begin dance classes too.

Of course, improvement isn’t limited to just the school.  At the Leadership Center, it happens to people too.  In the five months I was there the students’ knowledge and ability expanded at a rate that exceeded my expectations.  The main goal during the first year is to teach the students English.  I understand how hard it is to learn a language, as I have studied Spanish on and off for 8 years, and still have trouble forming correct and coherent sentences.  Many of the students are already better at English than I am at Spanish, and they’ve only been learning for a year.  While some of that is due to the immersive and communicative environment of our campus, I never worked nearly as hard as they do on learning the language.  When you teach someone an English grammar rule or new vocabulary word, and then you hear her use it properly in normal conversation, it’s a good feeling.  And I experienced more of those moments than I can count.

The students aren’t the only ones who benefit from their time at the Leadership Center.  The person who left home to live in rural Honduras five months ago is a different one than the one who has returned.  I can’t pinpoint the difference, but I know it’s there, and I know it’s for the better.  Living amongst nature, with fine people and lots of time to think and read, without TV or fast food or the constant inundation of information that is synonymous with America today, does good things to a young man.  And now, I still don’t know what I am doing next week, but I do have a direction, an idea, of where I want to take my life, and also a model to follow in how to get there, that of the Leadership Center.  

The Leadership Center is a work in progress, continuously learning and improving and discovering, but it has a commendable goal to work towards: creating the future leaders of a small and impoverished country.  For showing me how to achieve the almost impossible, I will always be grateful that I spent five months in the rural mountains of Honduras.

-Malcolm Gore

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Help us Build a New Library!

I have some great news to share! We have received an offer to match dollar-for-dollar any financial gifts toward the construction of a new library. The offer is very generous and will match any donations up to $7,500. A new library on campus will provide our students with a central place to obtain resources and information for their classes, and also a great place to do homework and study and a computer lab! This space is much needed, as our students currently study in their bedrooms, outside, in the volunteer dorm or dining room, or anywhere else where they can find a place to sit.

Please consider supporting this effort. All donations are tax-deductible and can be sent to the following address. Please write "Library" in the memo line and 100% of your donation will go directly to the construction of the new library.

Art For Humanity
635 South 25th St.
Arlington, VA 22202

You can also donate online at

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Another great quarter

Sorry for the long delay between posts. We at the school have been very busy. We've had interviews for new students, my mom and sister visited, my in laws came for a visit and we wrapped up another quarter. It has a been what I would call a successful a quarter...the students have all progressed in their studies, and you can especially notice the difference in their English abilities, we've added new classrooms and we have some new business ideas for the school. We hope to further improve our s school with the addition of Bennon as the new Dean of Education and his wife Jana as a teacher, not to mention the other volunteers that will be here. I'm especially glad that Bennon will be here to help take some of the load off my shoulders and move the school in a positive direction. They are planning to stay at the school for two years! It wil be great to have a long term presence on campus. Now we are on our "Semana Santa" vacation. Classes start a again on the 11th of April. Happy Semana Santa!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

new applicants are here for interviewing

Today we will have 17 young women (some with family) visiting campus and interviewing to start studying in April.  Unfortunately we can’t accept all at this time, but we expect to choose a good group of students to study here. 

We are glad that we are able to continue to grow the school and educate young women who are ready to become leaders of their communities and their country.  We are excited that this 3rd group of students will approximately double our current enrollment to about 20 students, possibly more. 

Construction on a new bungalow for our cook has started which will open up a bedroom for the new students.  We also have plans to start construction of a new classroom.  We are also looking for funding of a library that we could start building soon as well.  This would provide a place for the girls to have additional resources for studying, researching, and/or a quiet place for reading and studying.  Our ideal library will also have a small computer lab where the girls could get on the internet or use for homework or projects. 

Like I said we are very excited to have all that we currently have and we have great visions for providing education to hundreds of young women in Honduras.  We are extremely thankful for what we have and for those who have supported us throughout the growth process.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Day at the fair - by Olga

Here is the description of a really fun Saturday that was filled with adventures.  We walked to las Botijas, laughing, talking, and playing the whole way.  Then, we had a lot of fun watching a game of football; the girls were very emotional as they cheered, “Lets go team!” Every great day must have good food, and this one was no exception as we ate delicious tamales.  I cannot leave out mentioning that we met the Vesterberg family, especially because I got to meet their son Andrew who gave me a ride on the dirt bike that was very exciting. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

A post from one of our students (translated from Spanish)

I wish to relate how life has been at the Leadership Center for the last three months.  I have to say that it hasn’t been so easy, for each stage in life comes with its difficulties.  However, we also have the opportunity to see these difficulties as adventures from which we can learn something new each day, and from every thing that happens, no matter how small it may be.

The first days here we had to learn to adapt to this new place with new people, as well as to a way of life that is a bit different than where we come from.  But when you meet the people here, you see the compassion in their hears.  I’m not only talking about the directors of the institution, but also about each and every one of the volunteers and each of the girls that are here at the center. 

When we arrived here, we were received with kindness.  We were shown the facilities and our respective dormitories.  Later, we talked about the class schedule and each of the rules—of which there are few—was explained to us.  These rules help us to better ourselves in each aspect of our character as leaders.   

To give you a better idea of life here, these are some of the experiences we have had:

Our first teachers were super fun because they looked for fun ways and techniques to teach us.  During that time we did many fun things such as: 
Building bonfires: In the evening we would light a fire and eat smores and sometimes have soda or milk.  We told jokes and listened to music and some of the girls would dance.  We also celebrated some birthdays with small parties with piƱatas and fun games. 

We also have watched many movies.  We like to go to the river because it is very close by and some of the students are even learning to swim!  Every Wednesday is Baleada Day.  We are always excited for Wednesdays because everyone loves Baleadas.  

In addition, within the past three months we had our first group presentation.  We worked as a team to create a successful political campaign.  Each candidate and her team had to describe their slogan, platform, and publicity.  And then our respective groups arranged to explain the work we had done.  The teachers evaluated our performance in each one of the categories.  Despite it being our first presentation they told us that we had done a good job. 

For Thanksgiving we made cards for each one of the volunteers in art class in which we wrote how each one of them are such good people, teachers, and friends.  We exchanged the cards at dinner, which was, of course, very delicious. 

Another thing was that with the help of some of the volunteers we were able to act in a play.  Two of the volunteers wrote it, and each character in the play had traits that corresponded to our own personalities.  When they gave us the first page we didn’t know what they were trying to do.  We thought the play was only to help us with our pronunciation, but as we continued to read the following pages over the next couple of days we began to understand what the volunteers were trying to do.  Like I said, it was a play that we presented to many people, including ones from the community.  We performed the play in both Spanish and English and we were quite nervous.  We did learn a lot about pronouncing and performing in front of people, but most of all we learned how to have fun while learning.

Now I will tell you about the community events we have organized.  I have a lot of ideas about how to help the local communities by offering information about important themes that can improve their quality of life.

The most recent event was a movie, but first we had to plan each part of the event.  We looked for a schedule that would be accessible for the community members and us girls.  We personally delivered the invitations to each one of the members of the villages.  We had to find the most adequate place to show the movies, and since it was a movie it had to be somewhere dark.  We covered the windows of one of the classrooms so the movie would look good in there, we placed chairs in the room, we installed the projector to make a big movie screen, we prepared a snack, and we also made a place for the children where they could watch a kids movie.  We decided to show the adults Mrs. Doubtfire, and the children Shrek.   

When the day arrived, we already had made everything ready but the weather was not favoring us.  It was cloudy and a little rainy and windy, and we were worried that we would not be able to have the event.  But around 11 o’clock, right before midday, the weather changed totally.  The sky turned clear and the sun was bright so that when the time for the event arrived we were all ready when the people began to arrive.  We started with some words of welcome in which we told them to make themselves comfortable and positioned to enjoy the movie.  Then we handed out snacks to help with the enjoyment of the movie like in a theater.  When the movie finished, we imparted a small reflection about the message of the movie and how it could apply to our lives.  We said that sometimes we don’t value what we have until we lose it, and then it is hard to get it back.  Sometimes even, we cannot ever recover what we have lost and it is important to be thankful for what we do have. 

To finish I want to say that during the time we have spent here we have learned many things, we have cried, we have laughed, we have played, and much more.  But the most important thing is that we have grown as people and we are successfully establishing within ourselves the character of a leader.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Finally some Help has arrived!

After the first 2 weeks of the quarter teaching several classes a day alongside the only other volunteer teacher here, Ashley, help has finally arrived in a couple from the UK and a recent college graduate from Boston College.  After a couple weeks of improvising and teaching more than usual, while also preparing for new volunteers and running the college, I would have taken any help that I could.  What we did get at the college are 3 awesome and motivated volunteers.  Even though they have been here less than a week, it's apparent that they are very excited to be here as well.  I have no doubt that we will have a successful quarter with Ashley, Ben & Martina, and Malcolm doing a bulk of the teaching.  Thank you to the current volunteers and all who have volunteered in the past for the Leadership Center!

We have been reviewing applications for new students, will have interviews in about a month, and start the new cohort of students in April.  We are very excited to be able to continue to bring in new students and teach the next generation of Honduran leaders. God bless those who have supported our ministry here in Honduras.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Back in Honduras by Sarah Lucia

We left Houston at about 9am the next morning and arrived in Tegucigalpa around noon. Despite the rough landing in which we hit the runway, took off again, and then entered the “bowl” where the Teguc airport is to try again…we did make it safe and sound. As my hands went numb (probably due to the extreme adrenaline rush that enters one’s body when one realizes that death, I mean heaven could be closer than expected) the Honduran girl next to me assured me it was perfectly normal for the pilot to make several tries before actually landing the airplane.  Anyways, by about 2pm we were on our way to Zambrano with Glen. After a few errands and a balleata (traditional Honduran street food) we were happy to meet Ira (who arrived a day earlier) at our home: the place farther than Los Valles is how we describe it when people ask… “despues de Zambrano, mas larga de Los Valles.”

It feels different coming back, maybe because some things are more new again, maybe because the dynamic is so different with only us, one other volunteer and 11 students on campus. Also, Sicily’s mobility and development have changed so much in the last month. She can walk very well now and the rocks and cement are not as intimidating as we thought they might be, yay! She loves going for walks to see the cows and horses and she is always “mooing” at the cows :) Spending the days exploring the outdoors and Honduran culture with my two little girls is a gift I know I will look back
upon with awe.

The first few nights were so cold but since then, the weather has been hot during the day and comfortable at night. The good thing about cold nights is that there are no mosquitos, I think because they can’t survive.  Ira is enjoying the responsibility and purpose demanded by the job of managing everything at Leadership Center. The girls and I love helping him, working on other projects around campus and visiting neighbors. Olivia, Sicily and I have been taking care of the gardens….watering the vegetables always turns into sprinkler and water play time and I usually end up with two, wet, muddy, giggly girls. Sometimes the girls play in the sandbox and tree fort while I clear land of prickly brambles and collect firewood for burning garbage and cooking. We do a lot of walking…often to the neighbor’s to buy beans and quajada (sp?) (sort of like cheese, but different).

Since we returned, we have been visiting a family with three little girls. It is about a 20 minute walk across the river and up the side of a mountain. Currently the mom is working picking coffee up on the mountain so she is only home to care for the kids on Saturdays. The father cares for the girls some but often he is out planting in the fields or running errands. The oldest, Nelly, is 11 and she cooks and cares for her little sisters a lot. She is looking forward to returning to the elementary school in February, it seems like her childhood has been pushed aside by the expectations of her in the home. She says she likes helping her family but she would like to go to high school someday and does not wish to have any children of her own. We will try to help her and play with the three of them as much as we can at least until their mother finishes her job at the end of January and is home more. It will be fun for us to go back to helping at the elementary school when it starts up again too. Thank you to everyone who has sent materials for the elementary school and for the college!

On a completely different note, our neighbor Erlinda and her daughter, Margarita, taught Olivia and I how to make quajada (sp?) today. We put our hands in this huge bucket of cows milk and pulled out the cheese-like substance and squeezed most of the liquid out then mixed it with salt and squished it around. It felt so gross but I really wanted to help so I sucked it up, haha. It was worth it because we had quite a few laughs and Erlinda let us bring some of the quajada home for dinner. While we were there, Olivia and Sicily danced to the music on her radio and they discovered four baby kittens in their corn storage house! They were sooo cute, I really wanted to take one home but they are not old enough to leave their mama yet. I wonder if I can get a flea and tick collar somewhere here so we can bring one home…hint hint Erlinda :) Olivia is wondering how much they cost hehe

Overall our first week and a half back has been really good. The improvements in relationships between the students show their growth in character and have continued to make our community more tight-knit and happy as a whole. There has also been a noticeable leap in their academic abilities. Ira and I have been greatly encouraged by all the positive changes we see among the students.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


This blog was created for The Leadership Center in Honduras, a small university supported by Art For Humanity ( to train and educate poor women in Honduras. This blog will be regularly updated and maintained by the students, volunteers, and staff members of The Leadership Center.

The Leadership Center began operating in 2011 as a means to educate and train young Honduran women to be the future leaders of their country, and to end the continual cycle of poverty that currently makes Honduras the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. The leaders of The Leadership Center believe that education is one of the most powerful methods of providing sustainable change to an impoverished community or country. It is through education that young women in Honduras will be empowered to inspire and initiate change.

The mission of The Leadership Center is to graduate young women of integrity who will become successful leaders in a wide variety of professional careers. This is accomplished by providing high quality education and practical leadership opportunities, thus enabling every graduate to be well prepared as a future leader in Honduras. Additionally, The Leadership Center only accepts students from poor families who would otherwise be unable to obtain an education after graduating high school. It is a foundational belief of the Center that everyone has the right to an education, not only those from elite families.

Every teacher at The Leadership Center is an educated and trained volunteer who is passionate about the mission of the school. As the Center strives to provide every student with a well-rounded education, having a wide variety of volunteers is important to achieve the desired results. With an incredible student-to-teacher ratio of 4:1, every student is given the opportunity to spend an ample amount of one-on-one time with teachers. This allows students the opportunity to graduate in less time than the average university in Honduras.

To date, The Leadership Center has accepted two cohorts of students and are planning to accept a third in early 2012. The first students are scheduled to graduate in 2013. The current students have learned from a wide variety of volunteers, including men and women from diverse academic backgrounds. While the focus of the Center is to teach English, Leadership, and Business, the students have also learned history, speech, sociology, psychology, math, music, and much more.

The leaders of The Leadership Center are dedicated to providing the best education for every student, and thus are regularly evaluating the curriculum and educational methods we use. The Center is in a constant state of improvement in order to constantly provide quality education. We have no doubt that the opportunities for The Leadership Center and for our future graduating students are endless.