Come Fly With Me

Chispa Project continues mission to bring libraries to Honduras

By Norris Burkes
October 2019

I know you’re busy, so in this month’s column I ask for only a few minutes for you to consider two questions.

First question: Feel like taking a trip with me?

If so, I’m inviting you to join my wife and me March 8–15, 2020, as we return to Honduras.

“Why would I use my vacation dollars to go to a third-world country?” you ask.

Well, if you’ve been following my column for the last five years, you know I’ve been to Honduras several times to help Chispa Project start libraries in public schools.

Chispa Project is a 501(c)3 started by my daughter, Sara, to share the choice of education. It’s pronounced cheez-pah, meaning “spark” in Spanish. It’s a word Hondurans use to describe people with spark or drive. What is better than education to spark sustainable change?

I know a lot of my readers have that kind of spark because last year 12 volunteered to go and returned with life-changing experiences. Half will return this year as veterans. (Ask me for references.)

Chispa has a simple mission: Sponsor children’s libraries and equip them with quality books in Spanish by working side by side with Honduran community leaders and educators.

In the 60 schools where Chispa is established, their secret to success is building alliances with local communities to design, fund and manage their own libraries. The local people raise a symbolic portion of the funding because self-help ensures sustainability and ownership.

 
Chispa Project, like Hondurans, wants to see children educated so they can grow up with their families and have choices in their future. They want to see Honduran children dreaming the American dream.

No, not the U.S. dream, but the true American dream that belongs to all people everywhere. It’s a God-given belief that all people should have the power to prosper anywhere through hard work and community that isn’t stifled by lack of health care, stolen tax money or violence.

But most of all, I see Hondurans working for a better education. Their public schools are overcrowded, underfunded and poorly staffed. Children are required to buy costly uniforms and have little hope of progressing past sixth grade because advanced education requires expensive private schools.

Now, I’m guessing you have questions like, “What will I do in Honduras?”

As a volunteer, you will paint, label and inventory books, and help with library-inauguration festival activities and decorations. You do not need to know Spanish or have any great art skills, just enjoy working with kids!

If you can’t go, consider this second question: Would you become one of 50 people who will give $100 this year to help fund a library with 1,000 books? Chispa will match your donation dollar for dollar.

Finally, I’ve had people tell me that Chispa Project struggles against impossible odds. “Why do you do it?” they ask.

Melissa Rush, a returning volunteer from Charleston, sums it up the best. “The end result proves it’s worth the risk. We need to risk it for the children. Risk being afraid. If the children can read a book and see something beyond their neighborhood, I can put up with discomfort. We come for a week, but they have a lifetime.”

To donate or join the trip, email Burkes at norris@thechaplain.net, leave a voicemail at (843) 608-9715 or write to 10566 Combie Road, Suite 6643, Auburn 95602. For more information, go to chispaproject.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento. Burkes is available for public speaking at civic organizations, places of worship, veterans groups and more. For details and fees, visit thechaplain.net.

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