LHS Students Building Schools in Honduras, One At A Time

Students in Lawrence High School’s chapter of Students Helping Honduras (SHH), led by Spanish teacher Alyssa Katz, have been busy. Since beginning the club three years ago, membership has grown from two to 100, money has been raised, and students have accompanied Ms. Katz for a week each summer to Honduras, helping build needed schools.

The Problem

honduras-mapHonduras is widely judged as one of the most dangerous countries in the world and an estimated 1,000 villages lack safe access to schools. Most children are not educated past the sixth grade. One reason is that they are needed to work to alleviate their families’ extreme poverty. Another is that adolescents must frequently walk over an hour to get to school and, on their way, they are under threat of being recruited, kidnapped, or killed by gangs.

Only about 30% of Honduran children make it to high school, fewer still graduate.

Students Helping Honduras (SHH)

SHH, a U.S. nonprofit with chapters mainly in colleges and universities, is playing a major role in providing safe educational opportunities for Honduran children. In 2007, SHH’s first year, the organization created Villa Soleada (Sunshine Village), a gated community that is protected by armed guards, located in the northern town of El Progreso. It contains the organization’s headquarters and provides housing for all SHH volunteers, homes to 44 local families, the Villa Soleada Children’s Home (an orphanage), and the Villa Soleada Bilingual School.

By the end of this year, 33 schools (pre-K through middle school) will have been built in northern Honduras since the organization’s inception with the ultimate goal of 1,000 across the country. Each three-room school costs approximately $25,000 to build.

LHS students from left to right: Lily Friedman, Michael Pernell, Alyssa Katz (teacher), Sarah Marion, Kyle Schuler, Sarah Tennant, Lauryn Jodoin, Owen Cutaneo, Nelle Evans, and Emily Castoral.
LHS students from left to right: Lily Friedman, Michael Pernell, Alyssa Katz (teacher), Sarah Marion, Kyle Schuler, Sarah Tennant, Lauryn Jodoin, Owen Cutaneo, Nelle Evans, and Emily Castoral.

Lawrence High School’s SHH Club

During the 2015-2016 school year, multiple events were held by LHS club members, raising $17,000 needed to build the Jorge Fidel Duron Middle School, a small three-room structure that serve as an educational facility for 7th-9th graders in Esfuerzos de Jesus, a rural northern Honduran town.

This past summer, nine LHS students spent a week with Ms. Katz on the school’s construction. By bus, they rode over  1 ½ hours each way, from Villa Soleada to the worksite, accompanied by armed guards. In 100℉ temperatures, they worked alongside village residents doing everything by hand (i.e. sifting and carrying buckets of sand, digging hard packed ground, and pouring cement).

SHH club members will begin fundraising efforts quickly after returning to school with hopes to raise the last $8,000 by the end of December for the middle school to open in February.

“Empowering the youth of Honduras through education in order to break the cycle of poverty,” is the goal of Students Helping Honduras (SHH) said Ms. Katz. “It’s said that every year a child attends school past 6th grade is a 15% increase in salary.”

“The key is to continue the education to the secondary level so they have the opportunity for better jobs and aren’t stuck in minimum wage jobs for the rest of their lives. The goal is to develop a generation of doctors, lawyers, and presidents that eliminate the corruption, benefiting the country,” said LHS senior and club co-President, Olivia Waaben.

Nelle Evans, fellow LHS senior and club co-President, has been to Honduras twice and finds the experience invaluable. Working alongside community members, playing soccer with young kids after a long hot work day, sharing family meals, learning to cook Honduran dishes, and keeping in touch via social meeting once home, are all things she treasures.

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When discussing the advantages children have in the U.S., accessing education, healthcare, and food, Miss Waaben said, “I have a profound sense of gratitude.”

Why do they spend nights and weekends fundraising, and a week of their summer in a third world country? “Para los niños (for the children),” agree Miss Evans, Miss Waaben, and Ms. Katz.

News idea for Lawrence Township and Lawrenceville? Email Angela Jacobs (angela@mercerme.com).


Mark Your Calendar

This year’s first fundraiser will be at Scoops and Swirls, an ice cream and frozen yogurt shop, in Lawrenceville (160 Lawrenceville Pennington Rd.) on Wednesday, September 28th, 5-9 p.m.. Customers will be required to present this flyer in order to be part of the fundraiser where the club will get 15% of the sales!

Contributions can be made directly to Lawrence High School’s SHH club by clicking here. To keep tabs on all upcoming fundraising efforts either visit them on Instagram (shh.at.lhs), Twitter (@shh_at_lhs), or at their Facebook page.

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  1. Thanking for publishing this article about LHS and SHH Club. Honduras was the original
    “Banana Republic”, having given large land grants to US companies in the 19th c.

    It has highest murder rate in the world.It’s a place where parents would rather sent their
    unaccompanied children, some as young a 4 y/o, to El Norte. While most of the world
    condemned the coup in 2009, the US Department of State supported the coup and did
    not hold up aid. It was good for business.

    Some of sites I follow are rightsaction.org and mimundo.org and soaw.org

    Thank you, again. Honduras needs all the help it can get.
    These students are in the right place, at right time.

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