Ticket to Read

Honduras beckons with love and books

By Norris Burkes
December 2021

We’ve watched news stories of Honduran families making the treacherous journey toward our southern border.
So today, I have only two questions.

First question: What makes those families take such a risk?

Why do they trek thousands of miles through harsh weather, rough terrain and threats of violence? Why do they risk arrest or even worse—rape, robbery, human trafficking or being separated from their children?

Here’s what I know: Public schools in Honduras are overcrowded, underfunded and poorly staffed. Children without the needed resources find school difficult and often drop out.

That’s why my daughter, Sara Brakhane, who lives in Honduras, started Chispa Project, referencing the Spanish word for “spark.” Hondurans use “chispa” to describe people with spark or drive.

Chispa Project has a simple mission: Sponsor children’s libraries and equip them with quality books in Spanish, working with Honduran community leaders and educators. Sara is executive director of Chispa and I’m on the board of directors.

In the 60 schools where Chispa is underway, the program builds alliances with communities to design, fund and manage local libraries. Community members volunteer in the library project and raise a symbolic portion of the funds that ensure sustainability and local ownership.

Chispa, like the Honduran people it serves, wants to see children educated and grow up so they can remain united with their families and have choices about their future. The program wants to see Honduran children dream their own American-like dreams.

Of the many Hondurans I’ve met, most don’t want to leave their homes. They don’t want to come to our country. They don’t want our welfare dollars or our jobs. They want their own nation and their own communities. They want a way to provide opportunities for their children in Honduras.

Now for the second question: Would you consider joining me and 25 other volunteers for a week in Honduras while we start three new libraries?

Come fly with me. It will be fun, I promise. It’s only a three-hour flight from Houston and we never leave the Central time zone.

The day after we arrive, we will begin to decorate new libraries to make children proud of their schools. We will paint the walls with colorful murals, assemble bookshelves, and stock and catalog an entire library.

Imagine us working together, rolling two coats of white paint on crumbling walls. The paint provides a bright pallet for murals intended to inspire future readers.

Children will surround us, chattering with the English words they know. Their smiles will go for hours as they read the picture books we bring along.

The days are sometimes hot and long, but not to worry. I reward my volunteers with ice-cream cones from a street vendor.

I know some of you are asking a question: Is it dangerous?

That’s a risk you will have to assess on your own, but I can tell you I have brought and safely returned several octogenarians in past years. And I can tell you I’m comfortable with my daughter, her husband and their 1-year-old baby living in Honduras.

Now is the time to sign up for one of our two volunteer trips for 2022. The first journey is May 15–22. The second runs June 19–26.

I know you have more questions, so check out our website at chispaproject.org/volunteertrip. Read the details, fill out the forms and watch the five-minute video. Email me if you have questions.

And if you can’t fly with us, will you consider a donation to help us establish these libraries? Whoops. I guess I promised only two questions.

Norris Burkes can be reached at comment@thechaplain.net. 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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