Roxanna Turner taught me the value of this statement today. Some members of previous teams have said we should provide funds for Honduran communities to maintain their own schools rather than bringing the supplies and doing the maintenance work with them. When I mentioned this to Roxanna as we arrived, she disagreed.
Roxanna Turner is a teacher at the high school in the Ashland, Wisconsin school district. She previously worked on a grant that the Ashland Rotary Club initiated through the Duluth-Superior Community Foundation to adapt the foundation's Speak Your Peace curriculum for high school students, and the project received the foundation's Touchstone Award as an outstanding example of achievement. Rene, a Santa Barbara, Honduras Rotary Club member, brought Roxanna and me, along with painting supplies, to Zorca while the others in our group purchased additional supplies for our day's work. When we arrived, a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky above us.
|View behind the Zorca school.|
Zorca (14.85183°N, 88.35183°W) is a small village in the mountains west of the small city of Arada. As Rene parked his truck on the side of the road, two women wearing pink pull-overs waved to us from the school atop a stairway to the road. Then a man and a boy came down to help us carrry the six-gallon buckets of paint, our ladder, and painting supplies up to the school. When we climbed the stairway, we saw several more men and women in the the two classrooms moving the desks, shelves, and tables to the center and scraping the walls to prepare them to be painted. A new kindergarten building had just been constructed next to the elementary school, and more parents were sweeping to prepare the concrete walls for their first coats of paint. We learned that everyone in the community was eagerly getting the schools ready for the beginning of the school year next week.
As we carried buckets and boxes up the stairs, I told Roxanna what some previous participants on these Rotary mission trips said about providing funds to these communities for maintenance rather than traveling to Honduras to help them do maintenance work.
"Not necessarily," she replied. "It is very important for me as a teacher to make my classroom an attractive space for learning. The work being done here takes that effort to a whole new level." Along with the parents and teachers, we picked up brushes, rollers, and trays filled with fresh paint and went to work.
As I painted trim around the windows on the front of the school, I overheard Roxanna talking with school boys around the corner as she worked a roller on a long pole. I do not speak Spanish, but their questions and answers of each other were interspersed with laughter as a shy, young father quietly worked alongside.
|Teachers paint the window grates (from left: Roxanna Turner,|
Erlin Izaguirre, and Yara Enamorado).
As the day progressed, I came to realize that this project provided a means for Roxanna and that father to build an understanding of each other without the tension of an interview process. The school kids' natural curiousity provided a means for learning about each other as the basic need to prepare the school for the new year was served. By the end of the day, we not only completed an important project in the little, mountain village of Zorca, but we also learned about each other and made new friends.