Patrick is a volunteer at the Villanueva campus. He is the Director of Middle School Education.
My time at WBK Honduras has been a number of things – unique, exciting, and adrenaline-pumping as well as very challenging, stressful, and at times arduous. But let’s start with the positive aspects, which in my opinion, far outweigh the negative. I still vividly remember my first day in Honduras and the blast of culture that shot my way. From being introduced to the bustling downtown with its enormous cathedral nestled in central park, to eating carne asada con encurtido with bachata playing in the background, to hiking Coca-Cola mountain for a spectacular view of the city’s architecture, I knew that I was in for an adventure. I’ve gone scuba diving in the beautiful island of Utila, seen the spectacular Mayan ruins of Copan and Tikal, relaxed on the beaches of Belize and El Salvador, awed at the cobblestone streets and architecture of Santa Barbara, felt the third world hustle and bustle of capital cities San Salvador and Tegucigalpa, and partied my face off in Guatemala City. The chance to travel has been priceless – but coming to Honduras has given me the chance to do so many other things – to learn a new skill, to learn a new language, identify with a new culture, gain further appreciation for my own culture, and improve the lives of more than a handful of children who I have grown to love more than I ever would have imagined. To watch and live alongside the triumphs and the struggles of the people of this country has been truly enlightening. It has taught me patience, perseverance, and an almighty appreciation for this region known as Latinoamérica.
Let’s be clear, the experience hasn’t been all glitter and glam. Honduras is a dangerous country. It’s dirty. It’s really hot. Cold showers in the morning are not fun. I miss my dishwasher. However, these are small lifestyle changes that I believe even a slightly open-minded and flexible person will overcome. In my mind, the biggest challenge is the job itself. The school lacks resources, teachers, and administration. There may be times when you feel stuck and there isn’t anyone to turn to. You may not have the resources to fulfill a lesson plan or complete a project. But out of these struggles you learn how to solve problems, you learn how to make back-up plans, and you learn how to think outside of the box. These are valuable skills that will transfer to whatever career path you choose in the future. And you have the chance to help a young, growing NGO with a beautiful goal. Stay the course and it will be worth it.
And of course, there are the kids. Los niños. You love them. Then you hate them. Then you love them again. The kids are pretty wild, but you learn to discipline them. You’ll learn creative approaches. You’ll learn how to think like a kid. They have wildly different personalities as well as learning abilities and previously learned English skills. I hope you’re ready to draw a lot of pictures. And obviously learning a new language is a slow process and it’s going to be frustrating but you can’t help but smile when some 3rd grader is going as hard as he can trying to explain the situation to you in broken but intelligible English with the occasional Spanish word thrown in there, Spanglish style. Then he asks you if you want a handful of his Doritos. My principal once told me, “they aren’t going to remember me, but they’re going to remember you guys.” Heck yeah they will. And I’ll remember them too.