Greetings Friends & Family,
This is Matt Keiser writing to you from Harrisburg, Pa - not Honduras. It’s been a while since you may have heard from me, though many of you reading this have probably seen or talked to me in the past few months or have at least seen an update on my blog. A lot has happened this Winter as it affects my work and life in Honduras and within a week you will be receiving a proper newsletter detailing my travails thus far and what the future holds. The purpose of this email though is for the unashamed and unflinching appeal for support – specifically as it relates to the School Scholarship and Soccer projects that we’ve developed over the past 3 years in our work with the community of Los Laureles. The following is a brief appeal from the Treasurer of my support team followed by an explanation of the School Scholarship Project. Thank you for taking the time to read this and once again thank you for your continued prayers and support, I value them and know that so much of what we have been able to accomplish is because of all of you.
From Harry King -
In recent discussions with Matt and Eastern Mennonite Missions, the Missionary Support Team realized that there is money owed to EMM and the private school in Honduras for expenses incurred this past year for the Scholarship and Soccer Programs Matt initiated. While changes are being made in the oversight given to these programs, which will hopefully result in a significant part of the funding coming from Honduras, those changes cannot be implemented in time to fund the programs for the coming year. The MST did not feel that it would be right to cause the children who have successfully participated in the scholarship program for the past two years to miss a year of schooling due to lack of funding. We have therefore decided to use $9100 from reserves in Matt's support account to pay off the outstanding debts for the two programs and fund the scholarship program for the coming year. Depleting Matt's fund in this way raises the possibility of not being able to meet the financial obligations to keep Matt in Honduras to complete his term. We are asking for your help in indirectly contributing to these two excellent programs Matt has established by replacing the money taken from his support account. Any extra contributions received will go to help fund the continuation of these programs. As an MST we want to thank all of you for your generous prayer and financial support of Matt over these past years. The results of that support can be seen in changes taking place in the lives of the children of Los Laureles.
Please send your contributions to Frazer Mennonite Church 57 Maple
Linden Lane Malvern, Pa. 19355 and note on the memo line "Matt's projects".
Harry King MST Treasurer
Our high school project in Los Laureles is an attempt to offer a way out of cyclical poverty to the young children of the community here. We first recognized the need for some sort of post-elementary school assistance for the children of Los Laureles in 2009. As we grew to know the community and the way it functioned we began observing that perhaps as few as 5% of high-school aged youth were in fact enrolled in and attending some form high school; be that a traditional general education or a more specialized technical education. The 5% that did attend high school came from two-parent families that had at least one parent with steady employment and that were generally considered to be “better-off” and quite stable by Laureles standards. The other 95% of eligible students were not in school for a variety of reasons – not enough money, no interest, no hope for finishing, pregnancy/family to support, parents need them to work, parents don’t want them to or don’t encourage them to enroll. In 2009 then we observed recently graduated 6th graders, aged 12-16, instead of beginning high school that February, looking for work on garbage trucks, banana trucks, selling scrap metal, not working in any way, looking for husbands or taking care of their younger siblings while their parents worked or were away from the home. From our observation and from conversations with both parents and students we felt that the two biggest hurdles to these youth moving on to high school and thereby opening their future to a host of employment options, were in fact money, as in they had none to pay for uniforms, supplies and tuition, and encouragement.
For the 2010 school year we began our project with 7 students enrolling in a private, Christian school and with the success we experienced we decided to expand that number to 14 for the 2011 school year. That number then has held steady for the current school year. Thus far and much as we have expected, we’ve seen a mix of both academic success and failure, with some of our group earning high honors and others being placed in tutoring. A much hoped for by-product of the program though has been the reception and realignment of norms within the community. Young elementary students are already talking about high school now, adults (not necessarily the parents of the students) encourage the scholarship group to take advantage of the opportunity they’re being given and to not make the community look bad. Going to high school in some way, is slowing becoming the reality and the expectation in Los Laureles. And despite the ups and downs, all of our students have caught the vision of higher education. The pride with which they wear their uniforms, the way they see themselves as privileged high-schoolers, they way they encourage their younger siblings to work hard in elementary school – all of that shines through almost daily. Some have even begun talking about continuing on to university to become doctors and teachers, a dream that for the youth here even just two years ago was simply unthinkable and even laughable.
These new opportunities being offered to the children of one of the poorest communities in Honduras is a result of the generosity and faithfulness of a few beloved donors. In order for this to continue, in order that the younger children of Laureles might also be able to dream of a future beyond destitute poverty we must bring in new donors. Please consider joining them in opening up educational and occupational doors to the youth of the Los Laureles garbage dump. Thank you.
Snapshots of Laureles Life