Education can transform lives

HONDURAS • Eliezer Rodriguez has broken the gloomy cycle faced by many young people in his community. The 17-year-old is completing his secondary education at the Francisco Morazan school in the village of El Zurzular in southern Honduras, without having to walk for four hours or cross a river.

Today, he sees a promising future for himself. Instead of learning a trade to help his family, his dream is to go to college and train as a teacher of Spanish or mathematics.

The person responsible for this change in Eliezer's life is Ms Katia Gomez, a young American who, after several years of volunteer work throughout Latin America, realised her dream by establishing the social enterprise Educate2Envision (E2E).

E2E is an educational programme that aims to train entrepreneurial leaders. Since 2010, it has changed the lives of around 100 students from the rural communities of Francisco Morazan and El Paraiso in the south of Honduras. Of the 5,000 people who inhabit these villages, the majority have never been able to complete secondary education.

"Our challenge is to change the mentality of these children, to show them that they can become professionals and help their community," says Mr Alex Agurcia, E2E's chief operating officer.

Before E2E, those who wanted to study at secondary school had to walk up to four hours to attend class at an education centre. Now, they are offered a space in which to study at the local elementary school, where they can complete sixth grade. Applicants need to have outstanding academic records. Interviews are also conducted with them and their families.

E2E gets financial support from both the Rotary Club in the United States and Banrural in Honduras, enabling it to provide students with the necessary materials and cover at least 60 per cent of their tuition fees.

These young people become community leaders and act as an example for children who aspire to build their future. They are shaped to become socially minded entrepreneurs, equipped with strategies to overcome their obstacles. E2E's students learn to carry out community impact work - from health prevention campaigns to building electrical infrastructure. Many of them go on to become volunteers for E2E.

About 70 per cent of graduates have collaborated to form a micro-enterprise that produces coffee under the Adelante Coffee brand, which is then placed in the US market by E2E. Most profits from the coffee sales go towards covering school fees for young people in the communities.

The students and families that benefit from this project are living proof that education can change lives. Through their own efforts, they are transforming their communities.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline 'Education can transform lives'. Print Edition | Subscribe