Contradictions enveloped our recent trip to Honduras. Before the trip began, concerned friends warned me that “people are leaving Honduras, not coming”. Unknowingly, I entered the country with preconceived ideas of violence and corruption.  The two weeks spent in Honduras, however, painted a picture far more complex than the warning I was given.

It is a picture of a country ravaged in gang violence, yet so hospitable to our Global Pearls team. We were met with overwhelming amounts of delicious, homemade food every day, including a “last supper” of pancakes and orange juice made by an IHER student named Patricia. Patricia’s mother taught her that the world is full of opportunities, you just need to be willing to take them. With these words in mind, Patricia eagerly accepted an IHER scholarship to finish her education while raising three children on her own. Her heart to serve is not only demonstrated through the love she shows her children, but through her 3am wakeup calls to make pancakes and juice every Sunday to sell to IHER students. The fact that she sacrificed time away from her kids and her studies to make us breakfast blew me away, and it proved to me that the violence in Honduras could not stop individuals from serving those around them.

Another contradiction I noticed in Honduras was the distinction between a corrupt, every-man-for-themselves government and individuals morally driven to do what’s right. An example would be Jeremias, an electrician in San Pedro Sula, who selflessly gives his time and resources to children, so they might have an alternate social space to gang participation. While speaking about the need to educate children through electrical training, his eyes lit up with passion. Jeremias believes his purpose in life consists of self-sacrifice to help the next generation of youth in a town divided by rival gangs.

The last contradiction I noticed may be one of the most common amidst impoverished countries. It is the explosive joy that shines throughout devastating economic circumstances. In all the rural communities we visited, we were met with students excited to chase their dreams. For some, joy shone through the leadership they displayed while baking fresh bread or polishing eggs to sell. For others, proudly singing songs in English with wide smiles brought joy to all those who heard. Joy can be found in a quiet “thank you”, a guessing game with new friends, or a heartfelt letter about solar lights. The IHER students I had the privilege of meeting know that circumstances are temporary, but joy leaves a legacy.