Barwell's Gap Year Grant report 2018
The Trust awarded a Gap Year Grant to Rachel
Barwell. Rachel helped teach English and art with
Project Trust in Honduras. This is her report on her return.
year in Honduras with Project Trust
arrived in Honduras in August 2017, where I would be living
and teaching for the next year, through the Scottish charity
Project Trust. My project, along with Megan, a Scottish
volunteer, was in the small town of La Unión in the department
of Lempira. The closest city (if it can be called that) to La
Unión - Gracias - is a 3 hour bus journey away along dirt
roads. In La Unión itself, there are churches, small corner
shops (pulperías) which sell the basics, and a few comedors
(restaurants which are often just part of someone’s house), as
well as a bank, and not much else, which made a change to
Birmingham, to say the least! I spent the year working in a
bilingual American - run school (Vida Abundante), where I
taught English and art, assisted in various classes and helped
Living in such a different culture took some
getting used to and, with my lack of knowledge of Spanish at
the start, it was not easy to become involved in the
community. However, Honduran people are incredibly friendly
and welcoming, and within the first week of school, one of the
Honduran teachers had already invited us in for coffee and
baleadas (traditional Honduran food consisting of a flour
tortilla filled with beans and cheese).
Throughout the year, I was lucky enough to get to
know various people in the community and was welcomed into
their homes and families. Many Hondurans have very little,
with some earning just enough to eat beans and tortillas every
day, yet they still are so giving. Immersing myself in the
community not only gave me a much deeper insight into various
aspects of the culture, including the backwards way in which
women are treated (they have to do all the work in the house,
regardless of whether or not they have work outside of the
home), but I also made lifelong friends whom I know I will
never forget. By getting to know lots of people in the
community, this provided me with the opportunity to learn
Spanish and I can now relatively confidently get across what I
want to say in Spanish.
In school, I gained confidence by taking on this
role of responsibility, both in terms of teaching and
preparing lessons. I met some incredibly clever children, whom
I got to help not only in terms of their education but also by
giving them someone around whom they felt comfortable and able
to laugh. Many have very difficult home situations - there
were parents of my students with alcohol addictions, in
prison, dead, or even in a different country to try and help
provide for the family. In spite of all the problems which the
people of this country face, it should be mentioned that they
are often very positive, although realistic. I got to
experience the change in the first graders at my school
(although I just taught them art), who went from knowing no
English to being able to communicate basic ideas.
Outside of school, through the church community, I
learned a lot about the importance of faith to Hondurans, for
whom God comes before everything. I went to church almost
every Sunday, and also began to go to a church community
towards the end of my year in Honduras, which through
conversations about various Bible passages taught me a lot
about Hondurans’ perspective on life. For example, they place
a very strong emphasis on loving, giving to and helping others
since you reap what you sow.
Having the opportunity to live in a different
country gave me a lot of independence: for the first time, I
was cooking for myself (when I wasn’t being kindly fed by
friends there), living without my parents, and being forced to
make all of my own decisions. I gained experience working with
others, especially through assisting, on a daily basis.
I gained an insight into the political workings of
Central American countries and the problems which the people
face owing to the corruption of the government. Whilst I was
in Honduras, the presidential elections took place,
unfortunately resulting in violence. Even when the result was
announced, that the Nationalist president Juan Orlando, who
had changed the constitution to benefit himself, would remain
President of Honduras, many Hondurans remained doubtful about
its legitimacy, owing to the massive influence of the
government. Living in Honduras opened my eyes to the way in
which livelihoods in such countries are completely reliant
upon the government.
Learning to speak Spanish really increased my
confidence in particular, as I was no longer thinking about
what I was saying to people, but rather how to say things.
This will come in useful for my future plans to study
languages, as it made me realise my love of language learning.
I learned so much this year, about myself and my
capabilities and the world, and am incredibly grateful to
everyone who supported me, and made this experience possible.
Muchas gracias a todos ustedes!
Read Rachel's blog
for greater detail on her experiences in Honduras, as well as
her time travelling some of Central America.