Honduras Child Alliance provides educational enrichment and healthy living programs in El Porvenir, Atlantida, Honduras. It was founded as a response to the ongoing cycle of poverty that is present in the lives of many Honduran youth. The practices and goals of the Honduras Child Alliance are rooted in the belief that the poverty cycle can be broken via education with an emphasis on creative problem-solving and practical skills.
MovingWorlds recently sat with the Executive Director and founder of the Honduras Child Alliance, Eve Horowitz, to talk about the organization and the role Experteers have played in its development.
How did Honduras Child Alliance (HCA) start?
Our community of El Porvenir is very beautiful. The Caribbean Sea is just to the north and the Pico Bonito National Park (translation: Beautiful Peak National Park) is to the south. Fishing and pineapple picking are the two main sources of employment in El Porvenir, where workers average around $12 USD per day. In Honduras, this daily income is not enough money to properly feed a family and purchase school supplies. Many of the children in our program are from these families and so many of them are living in extreme poverty.
Honduras Child Alliance began as an English program, the Porvenir English Program, or PEP for short. To the east of El Porvenir, there is a smaller city, called La Ceiba. La Ceiba is one of the few areas in Honduras that has some tourism infrastructure. We knew that if the children in our community could grow up to be bilingual, they would be more likely to find secure jobs in La Ceiba and potentially further their education.
With this mental model in mind, we quickly morphed into a Spanish and English literacy program. In the past year and a half, we have added the technology of laptops and e-readers. Understanding how to use a computer is an essential skill for further education and employment, and most of our students have never even touched a keyboard prior to attending our programs.
As our elementary students grew older, we then added a teen program to focus on English, leadership skills, and academic skills. Now, we even have an evening English class for adults!
Our projects focus on giving children, teens and adults tools to be successful in the world but equally important, practice their decision-making skills and being able to think for themselves.
What does HCA prioritize in its curriculum?
Public schools in Honduras are not well equipped. The classrooms are overcrowded with 30, 40 and sometimes 50 children in a room, and often the teacher has very limited training and supplies.
As an example, recently the public elementary school in our area lost its 5th grade teacher and they were forced to combine the 3rd and 5th grade students together in the same classroom. This is problematic of course, because students in these grades are at different developmental phases, and thus need a very different curriculum and classroom dynamic. The biggest issue was that the classroom was wall to wall desks and it was nearly impossible for one teacher to give needed attention to all of these students.
At Honduras Child Alliance our approach to learning is very different. With three locations around the community, it is convenient for our students to attend. Activities are project based with lots of input from the kids. Our international volunteers work with students in small groups and the children learn via art, model building, music and games. Everything is hands-on and encourages curiosity, and this is what keeps the kids engaged!
Why did HCA become a partner with MovingWorlds?
The Experteers from MovingWorlds are a great fit for HCA because of their professional commitment to their work. Typically, Experteers are already in the career phase of their lives and bring high-quality skills and talents. In addition, coming to a developing country requires flexibility and maturity and we find that the MovingWorlds Experteers are well prepared.
What does HCA expect from its Experteers?
We can generally tailor the Experteering experience as a balance of their existing skills, skills they want to build and the needs of our organization. We ask our volunteers to stay for a minimum of six weeks so that they can become fully immersed in the culture and community. Many stay much longer, even up to a full year. The Experteers highly value their time with us in Honduras as a cultural exchange that provides a new level of professional experience and a hands-on approach. Our students, and the organization as a whole, benefit greatly from the skills and knowledge that the Experteers bring to the table.
Tell us about some of the Experteers you’ve had and your experience with them.
We recently had Rustom Dalal Experteer with us as an accounting adviser. Rustom is living in the United States, but originally from India. We’ve also hosted a videographer couple from Australia, Zoey Rolfe and Tom Nagy, and two curriculum development Experteers, Erin Dodd and then Christie Sozio, both from the United States.
In Rustom’s case, he arrived during HCA’s holiday hiatus. Although it is unusual for HCA to accept volunteers during our break time, it proved to be advantageous. It allowed Rustom and our project manager enough time to thoroughly evaluate the budget, document and graph our spending, and plan for the upcoming year in a more efficient way. More so than working with the kids, Rustom came to support our organization with accounting and finance expertise. Graphing and projecting our funds was immediately beneficial! Since many of our students arrive to class hungry, we operate a Healthy Snack program to provide a calorie dense, protein filled snack each day. We hoped to expand both the quantity and quality of the food being provided and Rustom was essential in putting together documentation that helped us develop our first grant proposal for funding. Within 3 months we had our grant!
What common traits did you see in the Experteers that were the most successful with your org?
Although our Experteers have been very different people who come from a broad range of backgrounds, it’s been our experience that the Experteers went above and beyond what we expected. They connected with the children, the other volunteers and the community. They are dedicated, hard-working people who continue to stay in touch and continue to support our programs.
Does HCA have any need for Experteers right now?
We certainly do! Experteers who are interested in curriculum development and social media development are an ongoing need but we are growing in our photography and visual arts activities and so we are also interested in hosting photographers and videographers as well. You can see our projects on MovingWorlds here.