TATIANA'S STORY: THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE TOP SCHOLARSHIP INITIATIVE
16.06.2022 | BLOG
In this blog article, I - Julian (CEO & CO-Founder of The Opportunity Project) - would like to share a story with you which is very close to my heart. It is the story of how the idea of the TOP Scholarship Initiative came about and more specifically, the story of an inspiring girl called Tatiana.
With every hour of work and every donation from generous people such as you, we are striving to create opportunities for people like Tatiana so that they can lead a fulfilling, self-determined life. We are striving to level the playing field.
I hope that you enjoy reading about Tatiana, one of our TOP Scholars for 2022.
It was June of 2021 and we had arrived at La Montañita just as lunch was being distributed as part of the Food for Thought initiative. The Food for Thought initiative has shown that a free lunch is a great incentive for children to come to school regularly and for the long term, and therefore ensures that more and more children successfully complete primary school.
Shortly after our arrival, I met a familiar face. It was a girl named Tatiana. I had already met Tatiana during my first visit to Honduras three years ago. At that time, I stayed with her family for a while and had the opportunity to get to know life in this village a little better. I remember Tatiana as a very helpful, curious and clever child. While Tatiana was still in primary school in 2019, she has since completed it and now spends her time helping her mother cook and distribute food to the school children as part of the Food for Thought initiative.
Tatiana at 9 years old in front of her primary school in 2019
While I was of course delighted that she was supporting The Opportunity Project, it was hard for me to comprehend that Tatiana had "finished" her school career at just 12 years old. Wasn't she supposed to go to secondary school and have the opportunity to learn more? Was that really all there was for her?
After Tatiana had finished helping her mother with the food and all the primary school children had finished eating, the lessons started again. Since there is an extreme shortage of teachers in Honduras, one teacher is usually responsible for all the students in a school. The schools are relatively small (La Montañita has about 25 students), but the age groups range from 5 to 13 years, which makes it difficult to provide high-quality lessons to all, simultaneously. Of course, the teachers do their best to cater for all the children, setting them up with different tasks.
WHAT IS A REFUGEE?
Julian with Tatiana, her brother and cousins in 2019
It was amazing for us to see how Tatiana, without being asked, grabbed a few of the older children and helped them with the maths tasks they had to do. A few minutes later, she was standing at the blackboard explaining long arithmetic to the children. You could see how much Tatiana was enjoying herself in this teaching role, challenging herself cognitively and helping the others to understand the material.
In a conversation some time later, I finally had the chance to learn more about her current situation. When I asked her why she doesn't go to a secondary school, she answered: "I would like to go, but unfortunately there is no school like that in the area." Of course, she was absolutely right. The nearest secondary school is in Talanga, a small town about 1.5 hours away by car or bus. She went on to say "...besides, my parents can't afford the school fees, materials and uniform".
Wow. I had to let that sink in. Despite knowing from personal experience that people in these communities face many challenges, some situations are simply shocking. I had to think of my own educational career. For me, my siblings and friends, there was never any question that after primary school we would go to secondary school and then have the opportunity to study or train for further skills. But in Europe, we are simply in an extremely privileged situation and the reality in Honduras is - unfortunately - vastly different.
At that moment it was clear that we have to change something here. On one hand, ambitious children like Tatiana must not be left without further educational opportunities, and on the other hand, we can only create long-term change in communities if we support further options for children after primary school. It is the only logical step to follow up on the other initiatives and ensure that lasting, even more meaningful change is achieved.
Tatiana the new teacher of La Montanita?
The TOP Scholarship Initiative was born out of this morning in La Montanita. An initiative that aims to give children and young people in rural Honduras access to secondary school after completing primary school.
As always, we wanted to make sure that we did this right. With the help of our partners in Honduras, we researched the full and complete costs of a scholarship to secondary school (including the necessary books, materials, uniform, fees and transport costs). Next, we concluded that it would be most effective and beneficial for the communities to select four children who were determined, committed and passionate about continuing their education. We talked with the teachers, parents and community leaders, visited the homes of the school children and spent some time getting to know them. We asked any interested children who had completed primary school to fill out an application for the scholarship. Choosing the four scholars was undoubtedly our biggest challenge, as of course we want to support all of the people who want to continue their education. However, we maintained that it would be best to select four students for now so that we could support them wholly.
Tatiana: One of the 4 children selected for the TOP scholarship
Tatiana wrote an excellent application, expressing how much she loved going to school and that it was her dream to become a teacher someday and help the people in her community. To read her inspiring words and realise that Tatiana exemplified that our work in Honduras was making a real difference brought so much joy to our hearts. We are truly on the path to creating lasting change for people like Tatiana and so many others in her community. We are honoured to know and support Tatiana, and are sure that with your help, we can ensure that she achieves the bright future she deserves.