Update: Jan 21 Messiah Lutheran will be giving all un-designated offerings during the Messiah’s 2016 Mid-week Lenten Services to the fund the construction of a kitchen for the Benito Montoya School (described in this post) as part of the “Feed the Need:Let’s End Hunger Together” campaign.
This past November, Messiah members Bill and Marcie Emerson traveled to Honduras to participate in the graduation ceremonies of the Benito Montoya Elementary School in the small village of El Barrial. The school is small, with just 60 students enrolled in the 2015 school year, which starts in February and ends in November. Messiah Lutheran Church is the school’s sponsor through the Lunches for Learning program.
Below is a collection of notes and photos from their trip.
As we made our way to the graduation, several of the young students were walking to school, as they do each day. We stopped to give them a ride. Some students walk more than one mile each way to school every day. The children were eager to show us the facility which was the result of an earlier visit by another Messiah member, Gerard de Jong, who rallied support from his company to pay for a kindergarten building.
The principal had set up a home-made backdrop for the graduation that was held on the porch of the building that houses the 1st through the 6th grade. In Honduras, it is a national goal to have everyone go to at least the 6th grade, so graduation from that class is significant. This year three boys completed that grade. If they go to the 7th, 8th and 9th grades, they will have to go to a different village about 3 miles away.Kindergarten here is aimed at developing basic capabilities before students start 1st grade. This helps ensure success in school. We gave certificates to six girls and one boy for completing Kindergarten.
After giving a short and congratulatory address in Spanish, we handed out certificates and recognized the honor students in each grade (those with a 90% or higher test average), we took several presents, including many soccer balls. These were a very big hit! The soccer field is right next to the school buildings. Now the girls have their own soccer ball and don’t have to worry about being ignored by the boys when it comes to soccer.
After graduation, all of the students were served a snack. Since it was a special occasion the parents and guests also received a snack too! This was done to show us how the students are served lunch each day. Lunch is a major incentive for the children to stay in school. It is free, paid for by Messiah Lutheran Church and the Lunches for Learning mission that coordinates the effort. Students certainly knew the routine. They lined up with the youngest ones served first. There was no pushing or shoving. We had snacks along with everyone else.
The Benito Montoya School does not have its own kitchen. Right now each day some of the women prepare the meal and take it to the school. The plan is for Messiah to build a dedicated kitchen for the school. After the visit to the village of El Barrial, we went to two other schools to see kitchens that other U.S. groups have funded. Most schools associated with Lunches for Learning have their own kitchen. It takes approximately $12,000 to build one of these separate buildings. They have metal roofs and steel beams with cinder block walls and a concrete floor. Most have two stoves. No wood is used in the construction. Metal shutters secure the building that also has a storage area for the food.
The Benito Montoya School has an area all picked out next to the classroom buildings, where the teachers want their kitchen building to go. We discussed the situation with the school principal and with Ron Hicks, who represents Lunches for Learning in Honduras.
Below is a translation of the speech Bill gave to the graduates in Spanish
¡Good afternoon! I am glad to visit your school today. Congratulations on your graduation.
Please forgive my poor pronunciation. I am learning Spanish.
Even though your schooling is completed, I encourage you to continue to learn. I am more than 70 years old, but I am learning a new language so I can better know the people of Honduras and other countries.
I believe this school taught you that you can learn during your entire life. That is the way people and society progress.
My wife and I enjoyed receiving your letters. It was especially nice that you included some drawings with your writing. Perhaps some of you will become artists. Art is a good way to share your feeling with other people.
I will tell the members of our church in Madison, Alabama, about your warm welcome. I will also say “Hello” for you, to the other people from our church who have been here before.
Thank you and congratulations!!
In Spanish it is:
¡Buenas tardes! Me alegro se visitar su escuela hoy. Enhorabuena por ustedes en su graduación.
Por favor perdonen mi pobre pronunciación. Estoy aprendiendo español.
Aunque su educación esté completa, quiero animarlos a ustedes en continuar aprendendo. Tengo más de 70 anos, pero estoy aprendiendo un nuevo idioma. De esta manera puedo conocer mejor acerca de la gente de Honduras y otros países.
Creo que esta escuela les ha enseñodo que se puede aprender durante toda su vida. El aprendizaje es el camino al progreso de la sociedad y la gente.
Mi esposa y yo disfrutamos recibiendo sus cartas. Fue especialmente agradable que incluyan unos dibujos con sus escritos. Tal vez algunos de ustedes se convertirán en artistas. El arte es una buena manera de compartir tus sentimientos con otras personas.
Diré a los miembros de nuestra iglesia en Madison acerca de su cálida bienvenida. También diré “Hola” por ustedes, a las otras personas de nuestra iglesia que han estado aquí antes.
Gracias y felicitaciones.