The morning saw us once again traveling out of Tegucigalpa. This time, we traveled north of Tegucigalpa to the Amarateca Valley to El Hogar’s Technical Institute (ITSM). Driving along the CA5 – congested as it weaves its way out of the city – you look along the hillsides that line the road with their slopes filled with ramshackle houses of every color stacked on top of each other.
The further you go north, the hillsides become less congested and greener. Eventually, you turn off the highway and travel down a winding dirt road (sometimes being met by a herd of cattle) to enter the walls of ITSM.
The time when the official graduation photos are taken – something that always happens before the ceremony – is very special. Each graduate poses for their photo and the pride they have is evident in their smiles on each face. These photos mark a moment in time that none of them will ever forget. It’s also a time filled with a lot of behind the scenes joking between the graduates as they each try to make the others laugh while photos are taken.
The photos are a more private moment caught in time, but the graduation ceremony is the complete opposite. Following a Eucharist service – something held before each El Hogar graduation – the graduates’ friends and family gathered in the ITSM auditorium for the ceremony.
Each graduate donned the bright blue gowns and caps, and sat on the stage as a variety of speakers lauded their hard work, gave sage advice, and expressed how the students would be missed. Lazaro Juarez, Director of ITSM, the Rev. Matthew Engleby, Executive Director of El Hogar in Honduras, and Liz Kinchen, Executive Director of El Hogar in North America, all spoke passionately – the care they have for each student evident on their faces and in their words. As each graduate received their diploma, their fellow honorees joined with their friends and family to applaud their accomplishment.
After the last diploma was handed out, it was time to celebrate with delicious food and conversation before the graduates left with their family members and friends.
In Honduras, there are small, three-wheeled vehicles called moto-taxis (also known as tuk-tuks) that serve as small transports through the cities or down very long side roads. As we turned out of the road to ITSM to travel back to Tegucigalpa, several students were waiting with their families next to the moto-taxis they’d taken to the road. Their faces were filled with emotions, but their smiles gave away their anticipation for beginning this next chapter in their lives.
Each one of them has a story filled with difficult beginnings, but they each also found hope at El Hogar. They take that hope and their potential with them as they enter the world as graduates.
Tomorrow, the El Hogar clausura at the Elementary School will celebrate the students who will be moving up to begin their next El Hogar journey.