It's no secret that I no longer live in Los Laureles...or Honduras for that matter. Life as a mission worker there has come to an end and so have the many projects that once both defined my work and were the structure and support for so many kids there. The largest and in many ways most important project we ran there was the high school scholarship fund - I've written aplenty about it and won't rehash the fundamentals of it here. While down in Honduras visiting this past Christmas though, I heard from not a few youth that they wanted to keep on studying and were wondering if I might help them. I have a hard time saying no. More importantly, I didn't feel like I could once again abandon these kids and dash any chance they might have of escaping their cyclical poverty. Especially when I most certainly had the resources to help them at my disposal. I told them I'd consider it but to not count on me as their only resource; some heeded that advice, most did not.
I talked it over with Duke one night while I was there and explained that I was concerned about the logistics. In years past it's been me or another worker that's gone to the schools to sign the students up, gone with them to market to buy uniforms and supplies, checked in on them periodically to make sure grades were on par and all was going well. This year though I wouldn't be there and there would be no one else to do all the leg work. Duke looked at me seriously and offered to do it himself. I smiled, looked at him and shook his hand.
In the next few weeks before school began, Duke compiled a list of 20 high school students, some veterans of the project and others just starting out from 6th Grade. He enrolled each one in their public high school of choice and started a file on each student. He went to market and brokered deals with the uniform vendors, the shoe salesmen and the school supply houses and came back to me with lists of needed items and their prices. He went to the Western Union once or twice a week to receieve the funds as I sent them down and then went back to market with each individual student to purchase their supplies. School began 2 weeks ago and he's now taken on the task of making sure our students are punctual, prepared and fulfilling their end of the deal; a month ago he sat them all down as a group and informed them that if they didn't try their hardest to get good grades that he would personally kick them out of the project and take back their school uniform. He called the other night asking that I make a warning call to one of the girls because he didn't like her lazy attitude.
I've felt for Duke this past month, I'm not sure if he realized just what he was getting himself into; what kind of gargantuan task he'd taken on. He's had mothers of children not in the project begging him to let their child in so that they too can study. He's had to herd 20 high schoolers through the process of enrollment and supply procurement with plenty of complaints along the way and he's had to be stingy with what little money we have. I've been impressed though, he's grown a lot in just the last month both as a person and in the eyes of the community. I'm excited for the what future holds for him.