Last winter, my wife and I went to Honduras for three months to help our daughter in a small, grassroots nonprofit called Chispa Project.
One night as we left a restaurant, a man followed us to our car. “Por favor,” he said, handing my daughter a note.
“PLEASE, can you help me get to America?” the note said. It was signed with a name and phone number.
The man’s plea points to the desperation shared by thousands of Latin American families making the treacherous journey north to the southern border of the United States. They come for refuge but are being arrested.
Do you ever wonder what makes them take the risk?
Why do they trek thousands of miles through harsh weather, violence and rough terrain? Why do they risk arrest or even worse, rape, robbery, human trafficking or being separated from their children?
How bad would it have to be for you to leave your home forever in Mansfield, Ohio, or Lakeland, Florida, or Charleston, South Carolina? What would force any one of us to make such a perilous journey?
In part, the simple answer is that Hondurans want to escape the second-highest murder rate outside of war zones. Their corrupt governments empower gang cultures fueled by U.S. drug consumption and U.S.-sponsored weapons.
Many of these refugees also seek better education. Public schools are overcrowded, underfunded and poorly staffed. Children are required to buy expensive uniforms and have little hope of progressing past sixth grade because advanced education requires expensive private schools.
Honduran refugees are seeking a way to make an honest living, a government that doesn't steal their tax dollars and leave their social security bankrupt and a job that pays fair wages so they don't have to watch their children starve.
Honduras is a complex and struggling country, but it's also one full of hospitality and love. Because of this, my daughter, Sara, started Chispa Project, pronounced cheez-pah, meaning, “spark” in Spanish. It’s a word Hondurans use to describe people with spark or drive. And what is better than education to spark sustainable change?
Chispa has a simple mission: sponsor children’s libraries and equip them with quality books in Spanish by working side by side with Honduran community leaders and educators.
In the 50 schools where Chispa works, the secret to success is building alliances with communities to design, fund and manage their own libraries.
Community members volunteer in the library project and raise a symbolic portion of the funding that insures sustainability and ownership.
Chispa, like Hondurans, want to see their children educated and grow up so they can remain united with their families and have choices in their future. They want to see Honduran children dreaming the American dream.
No, not the U.S. dream, but the true American dream that belongs to all people everywhere. It’s a God-given belief that all people should have the power to prosper anywhere through hard work and community that isn’t stifled by lack of health care, stolen tax money or violence.
Of the many Hondurans I met, only one asked about migrating. Most Hondurans don’t want to leave their home. They don’t want our country. They don’t want our welfare dollars or our jobs. They want their country. They want their home. They want a way to provide for their families.
That’s why my new Honduran friends are inviting my readers for an exclusive visit. They want you to sip the best cup of coffee in the world. They’d love for you to scuba dive off the island of Roatan, or explore the rich Mayan ruins of Copan or salsa dance in a Tegucigalpa nightclub. Hondurans are incredibly proud of their country.
In February 2019, I return to Honduras and I need 10 volunteers to come help Chispa establish a library for 500 children.
I need 50 more people to give $100 to help fund a library with 1,000 books. Chispa will match the donation dollar for dollar. If you can help, email me at email@example.com or leave a voice mail at 843-608-9715.
We are all Americans: North, Central, and South. May God help us all to find our American dream! Please visit chispaproject.org/thechaplain.
Reach Norris Burkes through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone 843-608-9715 or on Twitter @chaplain.