It all started when...
In 1997, a group of 11 volunteers from Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church (NJ) made their first trip to Honduras to build a small church in the mountain top village of La Majada, near Santa Rosa de Copan. This trip, inspired by Nancy Coto of NJ, set in motion a series of events that would change hundreds of lives....forever.
Nancy, a US citizen, resident of New Jersey and member of Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church was working as a physical therapist in Santa Rosa when she met Carlos Coto, a tailor from La Entrada. Carlos was teaching women in a small mountain village, La Majada, to sew. Sharing his passion for the people of Honduras, Nancy asked her church community at home to be a part of some short-term mission trips to improve the circumstances of the Honduran poor. The volunteers from Liberty Corner, NJ were struck by the conditions of poverty they witnessed first-hand in Honduras. “Houses” of scrap metal, cola signs, wood and cinderblocks lined the road into towns, young children sold goods on the street instead of attending school, and clean water and adequate food were inaccessible to many. Schools, medical centers, and dental clinics were underfunded, understaffed and grossly under-served by the country’s government. The contrast to their lives, homes and security back home was overwhelming. They returned home to New Jersey, inspired to share the experience with their church community and wanting to do more.
In 1999, the path and God’s plan became clearer. Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church learned that Carlos Coto’s sister was helping poor kids learn to read and write in the small, poor Honduran town of La Entrada. A busy mother of three, Paty Villanueva was teaching the children in her garage on the weekends in an effort to improve their chances of escaping a life of poverty. Her lessons provided a path to God and some education and guidance to a small group of students who could not afford to attend public school. Their parents were illiterate or uneducated and the prospects for these children dim. A visit to her “school” by Liberty Corner volunteers set our church and community on a path that would change the lives of over 400 students and their families over the decade to come. The Hearts For Honduras School was born.
The 2000 inaugural class of the Hearts For Honduras School had 23 students in first grade, all from the poorest families in La Entrada. The school provided a daily meal, uniforms, supplies, a daily supplement and annual dental and medical checkups, in addition to a Christian education. Gradually, the school grew to add a second grade and a third, and a fourth. Classrooms expanded and partners joined in the funding of a full Honduran grammar school from 1st to 6th grade. Paty Villanueva, became the Director of the school. The school was “approved” by the Honduran government in 2004 as an accredited school and a non-profit foundation, Fundacion Corazones Para Honduras, was established. The first graduating class of 17 sixth graders completed their education in November of 2004.
Over the years additional classrooms and offices have been built, and other features have been added through the generosity of donors, sponsors and friends. The school now includes a computer lab, open-air auditorium, a playground and athletic fields. 190+ students are currently enrolled and a full staff of teachers offer a complete curriculum. Christian education, Spanish, mathematics, social studies, art, science, homemaking, physical education, hand writing, music and computers are all a part of the program. Students now organize and implement an annual Science Fair which is attended by students from other schools in La Entrada. The students are also taught to “give back” and they have a number of opportunities to help other people in their community. Additionally, parents of the students are also very involved in the school and a “Parents School Government” has been established with parents being involved in many school activities. In 2012, four graduates entered universities in Honduras, all continuing to be supported through the Hearts For Honduras program.