A crew of volunteers from Brookings-based Peaceful Waters Ministries has once again trekked to Honduras to help maintain a school it operates.
The ministry was conceived in 2004 when an opportunity came along to join a group of other Catholics to help build homes in Honduras. I thought this would be a good experience for our two oldest teenage daughters, Ann and Suzie.
I wanted them to see how fortunate they were to live in small-town, USA. All three of us received quite an education about how lucky Americans are.
We learned firsthand about the gang violence that is so prevalent. The city that we work in is San Pedro Sula. People can type San Pedro Sula into their web browser and will see it has one of the highest murder rates in the world. The kids growing up there see this as normal and so the cycle repeats itself.
Ironically, it was I who got the real education of the three of us. It was a life changing experience for me.
Like all countries, there are many problems. Many believe that the gang violence and many of the other problems is due to a lack of hope in the community.
After we returned to the United States, a group of us decided we wanted to make a change. After much discussion and prayer, we decided to focus on education as a means to bring about a positive change in the community.
As a result of that discussion and prayer 14 years ago, Peaceful Waters Ministries was formed and it now owns and operates a 5,000-square-foot school named Regina Marie. We teach seventh through 11th grade (there is no 12th grade in Honduras). This year we have 85 students and 10 teachers — only one holds a teaching certificate, four have a college education and one can’t read.
Yorleni is 18 and teaches English. She just graduated from the school. To work or teach at Regina Marie, the number one qualification is that they truly care about the welfare of the students and the second is that they set a good example and the third is that they reasonably understand the subject they are teaching.
This past May, Brookings resident Ben Cowan and I traveled to Honduras to help with the school. I assisted with a lighting project for the courtyard and worked with the staff on various administrative issues. Ben, a future seminarian, taught religious education and played soccer with the boys. He’s a pretty good soccer player, even by Honduran standards.
Ben had arranged to visit a Franciscan monastery so we took a small group of the students on the visit. The Franciscans are very involved in the community. In addition to religious education, they work with local lay people to run an orphanage and a medical clinic for low-income people.
New students are selected by the staff in Honduras. Qualified students are allowed to attend regardless of their ability to pay. Most students who attend private school in the United States come from affluent families. Regina Marie is in the poor part of town — there are no affluent families.
Because of the poverty, Peaceful Waters is always looking for donors to help subsidize the school. It has to raise about $20,000 a year to cover expenses. This year the Honduran government is cracking down on privately-run schools and is requiring various fees for licensing which totals $6,500. They do not provide any educational materials or any oversight.
Reading, writing and mathematics are the foundation of any good education. Most of the time at Regina Marie is focused on these fundamental skills, but more is being done. The school has a lab with 18 computers. It took two years to transport these computers in suitcases.
When we were there, Javier was teaching the students how to disassemble their computers, identify the components and see that there was no a dust build up. When the students were done, they restarted their computers and they were all working again.
Javier is 25 and a recent college graduate. We are bringing him to Oregon later this summer for a visit and to meet some of the school sponsors.
Although he is young, he has become the school’s best teacher. Like many of the people in Honduras, Javier grew up without a father. He was adopted by people who help run the school. Javier knows he is one of the lucky ones and this is reflected in his dedication to the students.
Having been an exchange student in high school and having the opportunity to visit several countries as an adult, I have come to know how travel can change a person’s view of the world and how they look at life. I wanted to share some of this with the students.
Stadelman Electric, owned by myself, has been sponsoring field trips to the beach, an overnight trip to the capitol of Tegucigalpa and a tour of local colleges. On the last visit, Ben and I took the students and traveled two hours for a tour of natural caves and then went to the largest lake in Honduras for a boat ride. It was the first time any of the students had been in a cave or on a boat.
These field trips are not something that is done at any of the other schools there.
Traveling, just for the fun of it, is not common in Honduras. Very few families own a car. Naturally the students enjoy these trips. The school’s goal is to get them to think beyond their immediate surroundings, to see how life could be, to break the cycle of violence and abuse.
When traveling to Honduras, suitcases are filled with medical supplies. This year Peaceful Waters received a donation from Cal-Ore Life Flight. The supplies were taken to a medical clinic that was recently opened by the Catholic Church. One of the items donated was a new otoscope, which was appreciated by the doctor at the clinic because she did not have one.
With a separate donation, we transported two 3-D printers to Regina Marie. This is not something that is found there, except at technical colleges. This type of printing is going to play a major part in the manufacturing industry. Peaceful Waters wants its students to be part of this future.
I firmly believe adult leaders will emerge from the school and make great changes in Honduras.
In the meantime, the volunteers are quite satisfied knowing that they are making significant changes in the lives of the students. When I look into their eyes, and see their smiling faces, it is all the proof I need that we are making a difference.
Regina Marie is open to all students regardless of their income. This is only possible by donations. It costs $250 per year to sponsor one student. People can link their Fred Meyer rewards card to Peaceful Waters Ministries. All of the money received by the nonprofit organization supports the school. And remember the students and school in prayer.
To donate, make checks payable to Peaceful Waters Ministries Inc. and send it to Peaceful Waters, Tim Stadelman, 98153 North Bank Chetco River Road, Brookings, OR 97415
For more information, contact Stadelman at 541-469-4385 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Val Cowan at 541-254-1750 or email@example.com .
Regina Marie can be found on Facebook at Caminando por la Paz-Honduras.