Lunches for Learning has always maintained a laser focus on providing lunches in school - because that's what keeps kids in school and helps them complete their education. However, we have encouraged many of our school sponsors to visit Honduras with us on Day-in-the-Life Trips and Graduation Trips. These trips have always been designed to introduce current sponsors to the schools they assist and experience first-hand the very real impact of our mission which is made possible by their financial support.
Because the needs are so numerous in this region of Honduras, our sponsors - along with input from community leaders in the Valle Department - often identify additional needs at their sponsored schools above-and-beyond the lunch program. We often receive questions about the types of projects which Lunches for Learning endorses - and the types we tend to discourage.
Provided that the lunch program at any L4L-sponsored school is fully-funded, most projects which directly improve lunch program delivery or the learning process in school are encouraged by L4L. This includes kitchen construction, latrine construction, roof repair or replacement, and textbooks or other learning materials which benefit the entire school:
Why are there projects which L4L discourages?
- Without an on-site kitchen, the mothers of the community must prepare meals at their homes and then carry the cooked food - sometimes a 45-minute walk or more - to the kids at the school.
- In the absence of indoor plumbing at these schools, the kids and teachers receiving lunches deserve to have latrines which improve sanitary conditions and provide a sense of basic dignity. The latrine pictured here was provided in 2019 by Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Madison, Alabama for the students and teachers at their sponsored school.
- Damaged or missing roofs make it impossible for kids to be in school during the rainy season, which also hinders their ability to receive the daily school lunch provided by our sponsors and donors.
- Textbooks and other basic learning tools are a rare luxury in many of these remote, rural, public schools in Honduras. These important learning tools are simply not provided in any consistent fashion by the Honduran Education Ministry.
Yes. The L4L school lunch program is empowering the kids of rural Honduras to learn their way to a better life. It's bringing a new sense of hope to these remote, rural, nearly forgotten communities. Any initiatives which can be perceived as providing handouts - or have the potential to create dependency, or ignore the innate skills and abilities in these proud Honduran communities - run the risk of creating resentment among the very families with whom we are building a long-term partnership.
How does L4L suggest we balance the challenges identified in any of these deserving Honduran communities?
The answers to a few basic questions can quickly help us determine whether any suggested project would either empower the community, or potentially do more harm than good:
The L4L school lunch program is literally changing the trajectory of the lives of kids who would likely otherwise be dropping-out of school to search for food on a daily basis. We simply want to make sure that we are constantly maintaining our focus on this life-changing school lunch program - while at the same time allowing our sponsors and donors to grow their relationships with their sponsored school communities by considering additional initiatives which directly benefit the lunch program and the school learning experience.
- Has the community in question been consulted so that they have the opportunity to help identify what their school's needs are? Or are we assuming that we know best what their needs are?
- If a tangible, brick-and-mortar project is suggested, are we hiring local tradesmen to coordinate much of the work effort - allowing them to use their skills and expertise to better their own community while they also earn pay to help them earn a living and support their own families?
- Is any project under consideration intended to benefit all children in the school equally?
If you would like to learn more about how you as an individual, your family, your church or your organization could expand your impact in Honduras by meeting some of these additional needs at L4L-sponsored schools, contact Phil to discuss this further.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are schools selected to be included in the L4L program?
We are constantly on the lookout for rural Honduran schools with a clear need for the L4L program. We use a four-step plan to determine whether a school will be invited to join the program:
- We interview the mayor of each municipality to ask where the need is greatest.
- We interview principals in schools we currently serve for their input on where the need exists.
- We meet with administrators in the Honduran Education Ministry for their input.
- We do a discreet drive-by to visually verify the level of poverty in any school being considered.
When a school is selected to be invited into the program, we schedule a meeting with the entire school community. At this initial meeting, L4L explains that the partnership requires full community involvement. Students are required to be in school to receive lunches. Mothers are expected to participate by preparing and serving lunches in a rotation every school day, and Principals are required to secure the food supply, manage the parent cooking rotations and provide L4L with reports each month detailing how many meals were served each day of the month. If the full community agrees to these expectations, then that school joins the L4L program, and the kids' lives, health, and education immediately begin to improve.
What are the reasons for the desperate poverty in Honduras?
In the 15th century, the Spanish discovered what we refer to today as Central America.They decided to make the place their own, and then proceeded to set themselves up as the nobility with all the wealth and prestige their families had held in Spain. They took ownership of all the valuable, arable land. They created government hierarchies which allowed themselves to govern the indigenous people. They began to force people to learn Spanish and abandon their indigenous languages. In general, this small band of wealthy elites took over the region and made sure that they and their descendants maintained all wealth in the areas they controlled. To this day, the descendants of the indigenous people were marginalized and literally pushed out to the most remote areas comprising the most worthless land where food is difficult or impossible to grow - the areas where L4L has been active since 2004. The families of the children served by L4L in Honduras are seeing their first generations of kids have a chance to succeed with at least a basic education.
What are the requirements to become a teacher in Honduras?
Becoming certified to teach in Honduras is very similar to the process in the U.S. A four-year university degree is required to become certified as an entry-level teacher, and advanced degrees and certifications are required to advance in the teaching profession, to achieve the Honduran equivalent of "tenure", and to become a principal. In schools where the principal is the only teacher for all grade levels, students develop excellent collaborative learning skills as the teacher works with one grade level grouping, then gives them an assignment to work on together as he or she moves to work with the other grade level groupings throughout the day. These Honduran teachers accomplish amazing thngs through their innovative methods of utilizing limited resources while teaching their students.
What is the difference between an L4L sponsor and an L4L donor?
Because L4L is an IRS-approved 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, all gifts made to L4L are fully tax-deductible. We are funded 100% through charitable gifts. We receive no government grants and have no other sources of funding. Charitable giving makes the L4L program possible. Anyone who makes a gift to L4L is considered a Donor, and we are grateful for the generosity we receive from every single donor. The term "sponsor" is used to describe an individual or a group - such as a family, church, civic organization, or just a group of friends - which has made an annual, ongoing financial commitment to L4L. Student Sponsors maintain a commitment from $150 per year up to $2,499 per year in support of our core lunch program. School Sponsors have committed a minimum of $2,500 per year to support the lunch program at a specific school. As School Sponsors, they receive the added benefits of their name(s) on a permanent banner at the school, they are featured on the L4L website, they receive correspondence from their sponsored school each year, and they have the opportunity to visit the school they support when they travel to Honduras with us. You may view a roster of our School Sonsors on the Schools page of our website.
Is L4L considered a faith-based non-profit?
L4L is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and as such we are not officially a faith-based organization. Many of our supporters are active in churches that are either part of a mainline denomination or non-denominational, and some supporters are not involved in any church at all. We are supported by a number of churches in the US, as well as a number of Rotary Clubs, small businesses, individuals, informal groups, and families. Our decision to remain an independent non-profit is intentional. As an example, several of our supporters participate in employee matching gift programs - and many of these corporate giving programs state explicitly that they do not support faith-based organizations. By remaining independent, and therefore appealing to the broadest possible spectrum of supporters, we can more easily grow our base of support and impact the lives of even more kids in Honduras. This was a decision made in the very earliest of days of L4L by our Founder, Ron Hicks, and our current Borard and Staff fully agree that remaining independent is the best way to ensure the long-term success of the organization. Our focus is not on any affiliation at the organizational level, but on improving the lives of as many struggling Honduran kids as we can possibly reach.
How did L4L end up in this particular region of Honduras?
As our Founder, Ron Hicks was preparing for retirement in 2004, he made a motorcycle trip through Latin America. He left his home in Montgomery, Alabama, shipped his Moto Guzzi motorcycle to Brownsville, Texas, and began his journey there ... a journey that would take him through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. As he was passing through a border checkpoint between El Salvador and Honduras, he was approached by a dirty young girl whom he later learned was named Anabel (pronounced "Annabelle"). Neither spoke the other's language, so Anabel reached out her hand asking for spare change. Ron gave her a few coins, then watched her immediately use those few coins to purchase food from a street vendor. He later learned that over 70% of families in rural southern Honduras lived in abject poverty and that kids routinely dropped out of school at very young ages because they were desperate to find food to survive each day. This desperation had created a multi-generational cycle of poverty with no end in sight. The plight of these Honduran children touched Ron's heart, and his determination led him to create Lunches for Learning right there in the Valle Department of Honduras ... the place where Anabel impacted his life simply by reaching out to him with an empty hand and an empty stomach.
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