I know that many of you who donated money to help send Stephanie to school are anxiously awaiting the news of "how did she react???" I wanted to wait a few days to share the reaction because honestly, it was a few days of reacting.
Last Tuesday afternoon, (which was right in the middle of our busiest week ever -- maybe second only to the week we got married and moved to Honduras) we sat down with Belkis and told her that we had a surprise for her. She and I had talked at length in the past few months about the weaknesses of the public school system, and how she had hoped to move Stephanie to a private school next year. I told Belkis that thanks to our friends and family, and even a few new friends we've never met, Stephanie had a scholarship waiting for her that would pay for the first year of school at a private, well-run school.
Belkis was astounded. She was silent, but I could see her hands shaking. This was a really big deal to her. I told her that it would be great if we could spend the final 2 days we had in La Ceiba working out some of the details, like which school she would attend, when she would begin, etc.
Now, to explain a bit about Belkis, she is a strong woman who keeps her deepest emotions carefully guarded. While I was a blubbering mess last week saying goodbye to everyone, Belkis was extra quiet. This was already a very emotional week for her, as she was saying goodbye to a family and a baby that meant a great deal to her. After I explained all I could about the scholarship, she said thank you and that she'd start thinking about it, and that this was a very big gift. She went home that day, and we were left wondering how she really felt about the news.
On Wednesday, Belkis came to take care of Zeke in my classroom for a few hours in the morning. She and I had the opportunity to talk at length. She told me that she was very very appreciative of the scholarship, but she had a couple concerns. You see, some of the better bilingual schools in La Ceiba run their school year from August to May, and other private schools follow the typical Honduran school calendar which runs from January to November. Belkis was concerned that we were going to place the condition that Stephanie be pulled from her current school mid-year. Most parents understand how this could be disruptive to a child's social and emotional well being, so I told her that if she was more comfortable waiting for the current school year to end, we understood and could work with that. This was the short-term concern.
Then, there was her long-term concern. Since we left Honduras, Belkis is looking for new employment and currently does not have a stable job to guarantee she could continue to support Stephanie's education after the first year. Her concern is that Stephanie would be given this wonderful opportunity for one year, but what happens after that? After a great deal of thought and consideration on our part, Tom and I told Belkis that it would be our goal and commitment to help Stephanie for the next 4 years. We don't exactly know what we'll do, or how we'll do it, but it is our goal and plan.
By Thursday, we had set up an "appointment" for Belkis to meet and discuss some school options with our school's guidance counselor. The guidance counselor already administers several scholarships for children at various schools around La Ceiba, and she had several ideas for Belkis, and was also able to help address some of the concerns Belkis had.
At the end of the day Thursday, Belkis sat us down and this is a rough translation of what she said...
"First of all I want to say thank you. You don't understand what a big gesture this is to me. It is incredible. You and your friends and family are very generous and we have been blessed by God to be given this opportunity. I don't know what my future holds, but after talking with [the guidance counselor] today, I believe it will all work out. I don't want to pull Stephanie out of her current school in the middle of this school year (right now or within the next two months) because we need a little time to find the right school and make a plan. But your generosity is overwhelming, so thank you and thank God for this blessing and gift."
Then we had to say some very difficult goodbyes. It was an emotionally overwhelming evening, but we left it with Belkis that we would be in touch regularly until Stephanie started school. The scholarship will be left in Stephanie's name in an scholarship account administered by our school's guidance counselor. We've put a time limit of one year for this money to begin to be used. Belkis knows that she's got the time she needs to help Stephanie adjust to her new education, and we can all rest assured that the money will be put to good use for Stephanie's education.
So again, from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU.