The Gonzalez Family & School Supplies

Stories from Honduras continue….

There is a family, we’ll call them the Gonzalez family, they have 3 sons in the local K-6 school. The mother, is a short and feisty woman. Her life story has helped her become this way. Unfortunately, she can be found frequently screaming at the top of her lungs at one of her four children (she also has a daughter) be it at home, along the street, or on the soccer field. Frequently yelled are such encouraging phrases as “good for nothing,” “you never listen or obey,” or “you will never become anything.” We have watched her in a few street fights grabbing hair and yelling, we have heard her in the middle of the night yelling. She is also the woman who attends the Catholic church, claims she is a believer, and stops by and talks to me a few times a month while I wash clothing at the pila pretending nothing is wrong, saying hello to Alida and asking how the discipleship class is going. She always is sure to tell me she “knows about Bible stuff and is going to join.” I always encourage her to do so and tell her we are waiting to welcome her in! 

The first father of her children told her “give away the kids.” She says she would never do that because “children are not pets to just be given away.” The man she is living with now is the father of the last boy, not her daughter or first 2 boys. He is known as the town drunk. Most people here take the saying, “like father like son” to the limits and most feel that this is an inevitable fact of life – her boys will grow up to be good for nothing drunks like their father/step-father. Unfortunately, the community is a very condemning one. The father is almost continually drunk, he does sober up enough to work most days as a day laborer and gets an average wage. Almost anytime we see him he is staggering around, especially on Saturdays (payday here). If he did not spend the majority on alcohol this family would probably be doing fine, but primarily due to the alcohol problem, they are well-known within the town as one of the poorest (materially) families.  We could go into MANY more details about their family, but I think you get the idea. We could share stories every week just from this family. We’ll stick to one for now.

School Supplies Giveaways…
This family receives so many school supplies in giveaways in a year that when they receive their $500 from the government, the alcoholic father blows it getting drunk almost on a daily basis. The past 2 years when the “Bono” is given out, we have not seen any improvements to their home, food intake, children’s clothing, etc.  $500 is A LOT of money here (equivalent to approximately 3 months’ income).  This home is one of the most materially-poor in this community and continues to stay that way. Partially because of a father who is addicted to alcohol and who does not seem to feel the responsibility to provide for his kids’ schooling. With good reason – it is taken care of for him.  In addition, their health, and their health care is typically taken care of by the several international medical brigades that come to town every year and give away more medicine than they need.
Again, we are asking you to hear these stories and begin to think before just acting.  Gather all the facts, listen, learn, and move slowly - this is development, not a relief situation.  No one is going to die without school supplies.  If they were in immediate, dire circumstances then that would be a relief situation that would apply for dramatic and sudden intervention.


Stories from Honduras: Mariela

Mariela is from a rural village.  Three years ago, she graduated from the highest level of education in her village (6th grade). Shortly thereafter, some North Americans visited her town one day with a local NGO and offered to pay for her sign-up fees, uniforms, books, school supplies, etc. in order for her to continue on to 7th grade.  For 7th, 8th, and 9th grades, she has received this educational sponsorship from a North American sponsor. This sponsorship has allowed her to attend high school in a community 25 minutes away (by car). Her family only had one basic requirement: transportation costs to and from the school. This is a very good thing; her family participated, valued, and gave toward this education that would benefit their entire family.  They fulfilled this requirement for the entire first year of the scholarship without fail.

Following her first year, it was reported to her North American sponsors that Mariela had passed the year with excellent grades. They happily responded that they would like to reward her by paying her transportation the coming year (8th grade). Of course, she and her family were thrilled with this news. At first glance, this is an excellent idea. Reward a good student. Certainly makes a good story about the US sponsor save her from a life of poverty, etc. However, this simple decision to increase support instead of increasing local collaboration is one that makes us very uncomfortable, especially in the context of Honduras. Anytime that one human secretly believes that he/she is saving another, they begin to believe that they are the savior, and the one rescued begins to see themselves as in need of saving; saving by another person.

Here is where the story takes a sad, but common turn. Now, the organization began to give Mariela’s family $3/day provided by the North American sponsor in order to pay for her transportation. This amount is sufficient to pay a private mototaxi to take her to and from school from her front door, no walking, no bus.  Thinking that all was in order, the year continued, and the sponsors continued to sponsor. Very early in the school year, Mariela’s family realized that the organization would just be handing them the cash.  So they came up with their own plan.