Liz Kinchen is El Hogar’s North American Executive Director. She’s provided the blog post below, which tells about her recent experiences with welcoming an El Hogar graduate, Daniel Benitez, to speak about his life and about the difference El Hogar made.
This April, we had the privilege of hosting El Hogar graduate Daniel Benitez in the Boston area. Daniel has a fascinating and unique story, and he graciously shared it with our supporters over his ten-day stay with us.
We were so eager to take full advantage of the rarity of having an El Hogar graduate with us that I’m afraid we worked him to the bone, and scheduled him to speak at no less than six house parties plus a taped interview session. But Daniel was kind, gracious, generous, and humorous with everyone he met.
We heard about his early childhood selling vegetables and tortillas on the street to help his mother feed her six children, and the scarcity of school attendance while he did this work. I don’t imagine it was easy for Daniel to tell this over and over again. His fortune changed when his mother, with poignantly mixed feelings, brought him to El Hogar at age 11. This was the first door that opened for Daniel – one that changed the course of his life.
Although he worried about how his family was getting along without him to help, Daniel slowly came to view El Hogar as his new, or additional, family. Daniel’s work ethic, positive personality, intelligence, and willingness to step into opportunity led the staff at El Hogar to recognize his potential – and more doors opened for him. An El Hogar teacher made sure Daniel was accepted into a program after leaving El Hogar, which prepared him for University. That program – the Micah Project – found funds for Daniel’s tuition while he attended one of the most prestigious agricultural universities in Latin America, Zamorano University.
A university degree in Agricultural Engineering led Daniel to internships in Honduras, England, and the United States. Which is what led Daniel to us. He had just finished a year-long internship in Iowa and was on his way back to Honduras to prepare for entrance exams to Purdue University, or another graduate program in the U.S. Daniel has been assured by professors at Purdue that there is a fully funded place for him there. More doors…
Clearly, Daniel is a success story. But he shared with many of us the darker story of his brother, Charlie. Charlie, another beloved El Hogar graduate with promise, was pursuing a university education in Honduras. Last year, Charlie’s doors were closed abruptly when a gang member’s bullet ended his life. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, in a city where violence so often goes unchecked.
Life is complicated and precarious in Honduras. This is exactly why Daniel’s long-term goal is to return to Honduras after graduate school in the U.S. He wants to help his country. He wants to teach and to start his own farm, and employ people. He wants to pass along the values he learned along his way, starting with his years at El Hogar. He wants to open doors for others. He wants to give back.
I have no doubt in Daniel’s ability to continue to walk through open doors, nor in his ability to open doors for others. His eagerness to help us help El Hogar was palpable. It was not just a delight, but a privilege to spend significant time with Daniel. He reminds me why I feel it is an honor to work with El Hogar. Daniel strengthens my hope and belief – belief in positive change, belief that effort expended does make a difference, and belief that what each one of us can do is made much greater with each other.
Hear Daniel’s story in his own words by watching the video below:
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