CLARKS SUMMIT — While most high school graduates left for college or began working this summer, two Abington-area teenagers chose to spend a year in a foreign country to help children in Honduras.
Hannah May, daughter of James and Jill May of Clarks Summit, and Matt O’Brien, son of Kay O’Brien of Factoryville and Paul O’Brien, arrived in Honduras on Aug. 15 to work for one year at La Providencia, a school for orphans and at-risk children in central Honduras.
The school is a template for other orphan ministries around the world. Believing the best practice to care for orphans is to provide a family-based community, La Providencia arranges for Honduran children’s adoption into loving families who will nurture and provide stability.
Adoptive parents are Honduran nationals who live on the campus. In addition to providing housing and medical care, they feed, clothe and educate children on site.
“Something I was really impressed with is that their orphan care system is so different than what we have here,” Hannah May shared. It actually focuses on the family relationship as opposed to just housing and physical needs.”
Plans are in the works to also provide housing for elderly widows.
“They are working on a house for them right now,” Hannah said. “They will get the care they need and be like grandmothers for the children who live there.”
La Providencia believes the best way to ensure long-term success and sustainability is by helping Honduran families adopt the orphaned children and hiring Honduran nationals to teach and provide care in a safe environment. Because of this, they have a greater chance to make permanent change in the community.
The school’s mission is ‘to inspire and equip others to love orphaned and at-risk children and their communities with excellence.’
“What impressed me most was how effective they are at growing and strengthening the Honduran community, by building families, and providing education to those who wouldn’t normally get it,” Matt O’Brien said. “You can see this success in the joy on the children’s faces.”
This year, La Providencia will provide education for pre-K through ninth grade, with plans to expand through 12th grade. O’Brien will be an assistant PE teacher and also assist teaching music to students at La Providencia.
“I will work all day as part of a team in these two classes,” he said. “I also get to teach an after school club of marital arts.”
O’Brien went on a missions trip last year. He began to seriously consider moving to Honduras earlier this year.
“I had already been looking at different gap year programs before my decision to come to La Providencia,” he said. “Like most high school graduates I didn’t have my whole career planned out, however I did know that I loved to serve God wherever that may be.”
May is a teacher’s assistant in pre-k and kindergarten. The unassuming teenager lights up when she talks about the children at La Providencia.
“The highlight for me is working with the kids,” she said.
At age 18, May has already been on three mission trips to Honduras. Her interest has grown with each visit, but it wasn’t until recently that she seriously considered taking a year to work there.
Her parents support her decision.
“My dad says, ‘Do adventurous things while you still can’,” she said with a smile.
O’Brien’s mom, Kay, shared, “I am totally excited that he has the opportunity to live in a third world country. I know it will change his perspective on life and help to see God’s amazing grace in ways he never imagined.”
Located in South America, Honduras has endured social upheaval and political instability. It is one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. Electricity and internet can be spotty but the living conditions are modern by Honduran standards.
“It’s like the US, only with a little bit worse electricity, a little worse Wi-Fi connection and a little bit colder showers,” May said, laughing.
She and O’Brien aren’t going for the comfort, and it certainly isn’t a vacation. May leaves not only family and friends, but some comforts of home and her black lab, Coda.
“Obviously I will miss my family and people back home. I guess I have in mind that even though it’s hard, what I am doing in Honduras is more important right now. I know it will be worth it.”
“Not to sound sappy,” O’Brien added, “but I miss my girlfriend the most, and family and friends. But other than that, I kind of like it here (in Honduras) more. There really isn’t much I find myself wishing I had. In fact, most the time I’m glad to be away from all the common routines of life in the US. I would highly recommend everyone travel after or during high school to a different country to gain a different perspective on how the rest of the world works, the “real” world if you will, where families live in huts with barely any food or money. A place where they can understand the power and impact of Jesus Christ.”
Located in South America, Honduras has endured social upheaval and political instability. It is one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. Largely agricultural, the country’s economy depends on crops which are susceptible to natural disasters.
La Providencia is a school that provides housing, education and care for orphans in a safe environment without isolating them from their culture and community.
To learn more about the ministry, visit providenceworld.com