By María Regina Inestroza, Honduras Country Director
Is the glass of water half full or half empty? This is a question that may sound familiar from a philosophy class, as it relates to the attitude toward the situations you could possibly encounter and the ambiguous ways you can approach and respond to them.
Belky Vanessa Duran (or “Vanessa” as we call her, pictured left) decided to approach teaching in Trojes with a “half full” attitude. Vanessa is an exceptional teacher. She is molding the minds of her young students, like a soft piece of clay. She teaches in a school located in the remote community of El Sinar, in rural Trojes, Honduras.
In 2014, Vanessa approached PWW’s office in Trojes asking for water and sanitation for her students. She had heard that PWW supports communities and schools with access to these services. When we first visited her school, we quickly learned that her school not only had a need for safe water and sanitation, but we discovered that wind had actually blown the roof off the school building (pictured right). She was teaching, and the children were learning, under extremely difficult conditions.
The neighbors had loaned a small corridor for Vanessa and the children to use for classes for a few months, while they approached the mayor for support. The mayor donated metal sheets for the roof, and that’s when our story with Vanessa began.
Vanessa’s love for the community, and the unmistakable needs of the children and their school, motivated our team to approach the Japanese Embassy and request funding to build Vanessa and her students a new school, fully equipped with safe sanitation and clean water facilities.
Vanessa is a single, 25 year old teacher, who has experienced much family hardship. She had twin siblings, a brother and a sister. Sadly her sister died at the young age of 21. Although life had not been easy, Vanessa continued forward, finishing her university studies and starting work at the school in El Sinar in 2009.
Vanessa wakes very early every Monday and rides her motorcycle, from downtown Trojes for almost one hour and a half, through a muddy, steep road, to get to the Nelson Rene Moncada School to teach her 34 students, as well as parents during the afternoon. She stays in the community on weekdays, away from her own family.
Vanessa consistently stands out during PWW educational teacher training programs. She has integrated hygiene education into the subjects she teaches at school, including teaching puberty changes and menstrual hygiene management to the girls in fifth and six grades and their moms.
Vanessa is molding each of her 34 students, and their parents, to softly transform that piece of clay into a beautiful piece of art. She has a deep sense of caring and emotional connection with her students.
“The parents are the motor for the development of El Sinar,” Vanessa shares. She believes in solidarity, humbleness and team work. Her ultimate goal is for the children who enroll in her school to become integral adults, able to be agents of positive change in their families, communities, and the country, with a high level of understanding and motivation to protect and conserve the surrounding environment and its resources.
After actively participating in PWW’s educational training programs, and fully utilizing the safe sanitation and water facilities at the school, Vanessa reports that she no longer has to instruct students to wash their hands or take care of the sanitary infrastructure. It has become a habit.
She no longer has to ask parents to purchase hygiene material for their children. Every family now offers a contribution at the beginning of the school year to purchase soap, toilet paper and cleaning materials for the sanitary modules.
The drop-out rate at the school has significantly declined, and there are measurably fewer cases of female students becoming pregnant and/or marrying prior to finishing school.
My many years of working in the WASH sector has shown me that schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs and health of the communities they serve. In this case, the school also accurately reflects the true leadership that a teacher can have and the resulting change that is possible.
It has being a great privilege for me to have met Vanessa and so many other teachers across Trojes who have decided that their glass of water will be half full, rather than half empty. Our country definitely needs it.