Gualala is a small municipality of the department of Santa Bárbara in Honduras. This picturesque village of indigenous Lenca origin has a special name, meaning, many waters or rivers; a name derived from its geographical location. This community is surrounded by the mighty Ulua river in the southwestern limit and in the northern part by the El Tiligua and El Ratón streams. Prior to the Spanish conquest, Gualala was an ancient Lenca indigenous village.
Composed of a municipal office and 10 villages, Gualala has a total population of 5,469 people. Gualala’s most prominent families include the Sabillon, Trejo, Zaldivar, and Fernandez, describes José Virgilio Reyes Gomez, the Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce of Santa Barbara, Honduras. The families are dedicated to cattle ranching and coffee cultivation in the mountains of Santa Bárbara. The Trejos and Zaldivar families work in crafts and education, many of them are educators in neighboring schools. Reyes Gomez describes the community as filled with families with a small number of children, between 3 or 4, which facilitates their educational access.
Many of Gualala’s own have risen to prominent businessmen status in cities such as, San Pedro Sula and the capital, Tegucipalga. They have stood out in important public positions in local government, ministerial offices and as deputies. Reyes Gomez asserts that the local educational level is particularly good, “with 90% of young people accessing the university while a majority emigrate to large cities and abroad. Many of the students have left to study abroad in the U.S., Europe and Russia.”
Gualala’s community celebrates the lenca festival of Guancasco, a religious celebration that brings together indigenous and Spanish Christian traditions, symbolizing the coming together of both peoples and harmonizing their differences. The celebration begins in December with the pilgrimage and the tour of the Cristo Negro making various stops along its pilgrimage. El Peregrino, as the Cristo Negro is also known is transferred to the parish of Ilama accompanied by the Virgin of Lourdes.
The Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce told Latina Republic that Gualala’s economy is small. There are no large companies in the area. However, the palm crafts industry is prevalent. Locals are hardworking with “well-defined and very humble personalities,” adds Reyes Gomez.
Meeting Nidia Sabillon
Latina Republic had the pleasure of interviewing a Honduran native of Gualala, Nidia Sabillion. The pandemic has taken a toll globally, and Gualala has faced its share of the impact. With the switch to virtual learning, not all children have been able to take classes or submit their work. In Gualala, Honduras, many children and university students, lack access to Wi-Fi, laptops or cell phones and Nidia Sabillon wanted to do something about that.
Nidia is currently in her second year of journalism which she is completing through the UNAH.
When she learned that a neighbor was making Wi-Fi available to students without access to it, she felt compelled to do the same. “I asked myself, we have internet in our home, why not do the same?” she told Latina Republic.
Nidia welcomes the children daily in her home’s porch. She makes Wi-Fi available free of charge for all students who need it. To make room for everyone, she takes her university courses through her cell phone. This way, Nidia is able to free up her computer so that the students can use it to check homework and submit their work.
With virtual classes now being the new modality, Nidia wants to help the children so they don’t fall behind.
Outside her home she has posted a sign inviting students to arrive from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm in the afternoon. She asks that they wear a mask, bring their own bottle of water and hand gel. Students are asked to wait by the door before entering and to come in in twos.
Nidia’s generous spirit has won her the ovation of many Hondurans.
Latina Republic: How did the children react when they found out you were offering free Wi-Fi and assistance?
When the children found out, they came to my house and told me: “Thank God you have internet because we have many exams that the teacher has sent us.” I felt such great satisfaction, as if God had told me, Nidia, I need you to make yourself available to the children who are in need of support.” I was very happy that these children sought me out and that I have been able to help them. Now they can send their exams to the teacher, since the only way to submit their work is through a virtual platform. When they first came to see me they were very worried and distressed because 1) they did not have access to the internet and 2) they did not have a telephone to send it.
Latina Republic: How do you juggle your own studies with helping the children who stop by throughout the day?
Sometimes it’s a little hectic. I am in the second year of my career in journalism at the UNAH. I study in the mornings and frequently, students arrive to use the internet, submit their homework online or ask questions about their studies. It works out. While I take my classes, I am also able to help them. It makes for a busy day, but with God’s blessing, we get through it.
Latina Republic: How old are they?
Most of them are school-aged children who are in first and second grade and older, between 6 to 12 years old. There is also a girl who is taking medical school classes but does not have access to the internet. I help on average, 4 little children a day. Two are my permanent students that I have started helping since the pandemic started, and the others have been arriving in the last 3-4 weeks.
Latina Republic: What is the current educational climate in Honduras?
The country is in quarantine and youth and university students are taking virtual classes. It’s hard to imagine when we’ll go back to college. The number of cases of COVID-19 have been expanding to the towns, and rural areas. This has been making it difficult for us to contain the virus. If we don’t, it will lengthen the amount of time we will have to continue with virtual classes.
Latina Republic: Do they ask you questions about their homework?
Yes, that was one of the reasons why I felt motivated to help. Many parents have not studied and do not have the knowledge in various subjects. So some ask me about certain topics and in those cases, I thoroughly prepare myself in that topic so that I can help them with what they need to know. If I can’t figure it out, I ask one of my university advisors for help: “Excuse me, professor, I haven’t studied this for a while, can you explain it to me so I can explain it to the children?”
On several occasions the teachers send children their homework without teaching the subject. The children tell me: “I really don’t understand this. They just sent it to me and the teacher didn’t explain what I am supposed to do.” I don’t always remember all the topics, but I help them as best as I can and so far, they have been able to complete their exams and submit them.
Latina Republic: How do students get their study guides?
Currently, teachers drop off the study guides at each student’s home, but they do not explain the tasks. This is the reason I wanted to investigate this new system. I wanted to find out, how teachers are educating the children now. What the children have been telling me is that they hand out exams without explaining the content. Luckily not all teachers are doing this. One of my students recently told me: “My teacher is explaining to us. He calls each of us to explain the task, but he is the only teacher who is doing this. ”
This teacher is trying really hard. He is doing his part.
Latina Republic: What does your mom think of what you do?
She is very proud.
Latina Republic: Why did you choose journalism?
It had to do with my test scores. But I think I am in the wrong major. I am undecided. I really like psychology. It’s in my heart.
Latina Republic: What inspires you to keep giving?
Helping in these moments of crisis is very important. Our country is going through a crisis and many students have stopped taking classes because they do not have access to the internet. It feels really good to be able to do mi granito de arena, my small part to help.