Go Ape

Edgar Aguilar

Last year, Project Trust Volunteers taught and supported 44,374 children, young people and adults in teaching and youth care projects around the world. At the majority of our projects, our Volunteers are involved in teaching English as a second langauge (TESOL). Not only is this an incredibly rewarding job and a fantastic way to integrate with the local community for our Volunteers, it can also have a lasting positive impact on the host community.

For many, learning the English lanauage opens up new opportunities for education, work, and cross-cultural learning. One example of this is Edgar Aguilar who was taught by Project Trust Volunteers as a teenager in Vida Abundante School, Honduras. Read his story below…

Tell us a bit about who you are and where you come from:

My name is Edgar and I am from a small town, located in the mountains of Honduras, called Tomala. I am 21 and I have two younger siblings. Currently, I am a third-year student of International Relations and Economics in a college in the United States.

Tell us a bit about where you are now and how you got there:

Almost three years ago I moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, a city in the United States in which it snows pretty much half of the year. I moved here because I was accepted into a college that gave a good scholarship. It is crazy to think of how I got here; growing up I never thought of the possibility of going to university abroad. If you had asked me ten years ago I would never had said that I wanted or planned to go to college somewhere outside Honduras.

In my town there is one kindergarten, one primary school, one secondary school, and there is not a university. When students graduate from high school they move to the bigger cities to continue their studies if they can afford it. I attended school in my hometown up to 9th grade. After 9th grade my parents supported me to move to a different town that allowed me to be part of an ‘Intensive-English-Course’ at a bi-lingual school. This course was taught by two Project Trust Volunteers from Scotland: Eleanor Gibson and Anna Diamond. They were really willing to help.

After six months of learning English and trying to pick up a Scottish accent I was set into a tenth grade in which 90% of the classes were taught in English. In tenth grade and throughout the rest of high school I had supportive teachers. Some of those teachers were from the United States. In their attempts to support the improvement of my English skills, one teacher I had in tenth grade let me know of a summer volunteer opportunity in Michigan. I ended up spending the summer between my junior year and senior year of high school in the United States. When I got back to Honduras my English was even better and I started to want to apply to colleges in the United States. I applied to several universities around Michigan and that is how I got to Calvin College.

Why was learning English important to you? What opportunities did being able to speak English open up to you?

At the beginning I just thought it would be cool to know the language and also a girl that I liked went to the school at which I learnt English. It was after I started to learn the language that I realized all the opportunities that I opened up:

  • Internship in the US during high-school
  • Going to university in the United States
  • Watching movies in English
  • Listen to music in English
  • Take more advantage of the information on the internet (which is mostly in English)
  • Work in Washington DC
  • Travel
  • Learn from new cultures
  • Meet people from around the world

You decided to invite Project Trust Volunteers to teach in your home town of Tomala in 2013, creating a new project for us. Why did you take the initiative to do this, and what did you hope to gain from it?

I thought that I had been lucky to have been instructed by helpful people in learning English and thought that the schools I had attended would benefit a lot to have people from Project Trust.

Not everybody in my town has the resources to send their kids to a private bi-lingual school like my parents did. By getting Volunteers for the public schools in my town we start to engage in processes to close gaps of inequality. We thought that Volunteers from Project Trust would help improve the English classes in Tomala, hopefully this would potentially open more opportunities for the kids in my community. I think that the access to information is a big one. Given that most information on the internet is English, I think that it is crucial to know the language to enhance young people’s world views.

Volunteer Kristen Hunt who is currently teaching English in Tomala, Honduras, 17/18

Are you happy you made the decision to do so? Why?

Yes. I think that English classes have improved in the school in my town. Furthermore, I think that having Project Trust Volunteers in Tomala has created an interesting cultural exchange. Europeans who go there learn from life in rural Honduras, and people in the town learn from the Volunteers’ views and lives. It allows the Europeans to see the world beyond the comfort they might live in and it helps people in Tomala to acknowledge that there might be more in the world than the poverty they might have been forced to experience.

Have you stuck to your Honduras roots, despite living in the United States?

I have tried to. It is hard sometimes, you always pick up stuff from the places you are at. However, I try to keep a balance. A big part of my identity is being Honduran and that shapes the way I see and adopt a lot of things. I try to adopt new ideas and explore new views while remembering where I come from. Also, I would always prefer Spanish to English.

What is one thing you would say to someone learning another language?

Do not be intimidated by the language and people who speak it well. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Use every opportunity to practice and learn the language, even if you do not understand everything right away, you gradually will find yourself understanding more.

How would you describe Honduras to someone who has never visited the country, or doesn’t know much about it? Could you sum it up in 5 words?

Beautiful, warm, hard-working people, and venturesome.

Finally, what is one thing you would love to achieve in your lifetime?

I want to back to Honduras with the means to seriously contribute to its development..