The Women of Honduras Empowered Me to Listen, to Truly Understand
I write this on a bumpy bus ride across Honduras- passing by fields of pineapples, mototaxis, lines drying brightly colored clothing, bougambilia flowers, and a couple of groups of children mounted together on bicycles. Along the route are women carrying tortillas atop their crowns, vending crafts at the side of the road, and waving bags of fresh fruits for passing customers. As we head for the border my heart pounds with the thrill of the next adventure. At the same time it is heavy in not knowing exactly when I will return to a country I have grown to love so dearly.
The women I have met over the past year-and-a-half have deeply connected me to Honduras. Beautiful stories, stories of pain and struggle, stories of overcoming what was once thought impossible. So many of the women I have spoken with have changed their entire outlook on the future while uniting as entrepreneurs with Adelante. In turn, they have changed me forever.
When I first came to Honduras I thought my Spanish skills were pretty decent. Pero no, that was just not so. As much as I wanted to grasp the stories of our clients, I could not comprehend a decent chunk of what they were saying, getting lost in their accents and catrachismos, or Honduran idioms. However, throughout my struggle, the women of Adelante always modeled patience and acceptance with ease, never laughing at me (although often laughing with me!) when I fumbled. Humble, welcoming, and so giving was each woman that I met along the way. These entrepreneurs are mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts fighting towards a better life with humor, with gumption, and with unconditional love for their families, for their communities. They have been the greatest teachers, even though so many of them barely had the chance to finish primary school. It was through the stories of these women that I learned to love the Catracha dialect and the Honduran way of life. They helped me gain more patience, and for the first time in my life, I learned to truly listen, empowered with a new approach of understanding of others.
This week I had the opportunity to make one last trip as an Adelante staffer to visit Onis, who I met when I first arrived the summer of 2014. Today, Onis owns and runs a successful open air restaurant outside of La Ceiba. A mother of three, carrying her family, and fighting to build her business to support the ones she loves, Onis has driven her business and her family to thrive despite their impoverished beginnings. I have seen her fight to send her children to school through her earnings and the Adelante education loan. I have witnessed her rebuild her business when it collapsed in a harsh storm. I have shared difficult stories of loss with Onis and the other women in her group. Never before had I felt such collective strength, such sisterhood. This. This is what it feels like to be among empowered women.
Onis has always forgiven my blunders and displayed the utmost calm and openness while preparing me the richest cup of cafecito. She brings a spirit of strength, diligence, and kindness into every aspect of her life, but mostly with her children. Onis was never able to complete school herself, but vowed to put all of her children through college. This week when I went to visit her, Onis was beaming. Her oldest daughter, Gabriela, had just registered for her first classes towards her nursing degree that day. Gabriela is pursuing her dream to serve Honduran communities without access to proper healthcare. Edison, who is now going into high school, will start his studies in computer science. He brightens when he speaks of his plans to go to college. Not only has Onis broken the intergenerational cycle of poverty, she has also raised her children to create positive contributions for the Honduran people.
I have been so fortunate to meet Onis and the entrepreneurial women throughout Honduras who are building a foundation of hope, strength, and opportunity for their families. While they drive their communities forward, they push me to continue to grow, to listen, to understand, and to ultimately find solutions in building a better tomorrow.
So cheque leque panqueques… ¡ y gracias por todo! Siempre seguimos Adelante…