Going the Distance for Children in Honduras

Honduras, November 11, 2004

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Roger Burks/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Teacher Elsie Reyes helps students with their work during a morning classroom session. Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps

Elsie Reyes is committed to education - very committed.

Every weekday, the young teacher walks more than an hour each way over rough, hilly roads to get to her classroom. She has to leave her home in the town of Santa Elena, Honduras before dawn to reach the school in tiny Los Pinos before her students arrive.

Although it's a difficult path at times, Reyes is glad to travel it.

"This is the first year they've ever had school in this village," she said. "Before that, the nearest school was an hour away, in my home town. Many generations of children in Los Pinos never even set foot in a school."

Mercy Corps, working alongside its Honduran partner Project Global Village, constructed the school and hired Reyes as the village's first full-time teacher. As part of their commitment to bring education to Los Pinos, the organizations also built a latrine for the school and piped fresh, clean spring water from a nearby rainforest to the school and houses in the village.

Three months after the school opened its doors, about twenty students attend classes each weekday. Reyes teaches grades 1-3 as well as a "preparatory" class, similar to kindergarten.

She covers subjects like mathematics, science, social studies and Spanish. The classroom is brightly decorated with maps, charts and the fanciful drawings and other creations of young students. It's obvious from watching the smiling faces of the children that they are having fun while learning.

At the present time, there aren't any secondary schools in the area - the closest one is well over an hour away by car. However, villages in the area get secondary school education over local radio stations, through a government program sponsored by organizations including Mercy Corps.

Reyes says she hopes that one of the towns in the area, perhaps even her hometown of Santa Elena, will get a secondary school sometime soon.

For now, Mercy Corps is working to finish and furnish a small house adjacent to the school where Reyes can live.

"It will be good to be near the school and village, so that I can spend more time with the children and maybe even teach more classes," Reyes enthused.

Even though she'll be closer to her school, it's clear that Elsie Reyes will continue to go the extra mile for her students.