Beberlyn was 9 years old in January 2009. A quiet shy girl, she lived with her family in a stick and mud house in El Carrizo, Honduras. She suffered from severe asthma attacks, which left her frail and reserved. She loved school, and was preparing to start fourth grade, but she knew that she would only be able to go for a few more years.
Beberlyn’s school had no electricity, two teachers, six grades, and a few worn-out, government-issued workbooks. The children were destined after six grades to help their mother with chores for a few years – collecting fire wood for cooking; carrying water from the community well; washing clothes by hand; looking after the younger siblings. In their mid-teens, the young men would begin working as day laborers in the nearby melon and cane fields, and the young women would start having babies. So going to school mattered little – there was no rush – and nowhere else to go. For the families of El Carrizo, the cycle of life and poverty seemed inescapable.
All this changed for Beberlyn in 2009. She got a “beca” – a sponsorship provided by a donor through Sharefish. With the sponsorship money, her family encouraged Beberlyn to stay in school. The monthly payments covered her school uniform and supplies. And the fmily saved a little extra to buy food and help with other household expenses. Not only was Beberlyn progressing in school, through her beca she was now helping support her family.
She did not have an easy road. Her health issues caused her to miss days in school that she had to make up. The transition to middle school was difficult. She had to compete with students who had come from the city schools with better resources. Her grades slumped and she feared that she would fail and lose her sponsorship. But she never quit.
The breakthrough for Beberlyn came in the tenth grade. She was hitting her stride as a student and as a young woman. As her grades climbed, so did her self-confidence. Because of her own health problems, she wanted to work in medicine. She began talking about becoming a nurse; then she began talking about becoming a doctor.
Beberlyn has just completed eleventh grade as one of the top students in Choluteca – the largest city in southern Honduras. She is in the high school medical science program. With her colleagues she is traveling to rural communities to give health education classes about the importance of diet and good hygene. When she graduates next year, she will have a degree that will allow her to work as a medical technician or assistant nurse, or to apply to nursing school or medical school.
Beberlyn wants to take the medical school entrance exam. It’s an uphill battle, and if she passes she will have to leave her family to attend medical school for eight years in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras located more than three hours north of El Carrizo. Beberlyn has never traveled that far from home, but she is determined. If she gets in, with the continued support of her sponsorship, she has a good chance of becoming Dr. Beberlyn. Quite a journey for a shy, impoverished nine-year-old girl from El Carrizo.
There are other Beberlyns in El Carrizo – children who are receiving becas through Sharefish sponsors and advancing in school far beyond what was available to them just a few years ago. Their stories and levels of success vary, but they share a common hope made possible through new educational opportunities. But for every Beberlyn there are many others who do not have the support of a sponsor and are still caught in the cycle of poverty.
A beca is not just money, it is a lifeline of hope. Sharefish sponsors are not just donors, they are heroes who provide the children of El Carrizo an avenue of escape from the crushing poverty so prevalent in their world. We need more heroes, because every Beberlyn deserves a chance.