Full to the brim: a reflection on generosity in Honduras

By Kimberly McClain | November 18, 2019 | The Americas | Gender Equity

For Kim McClain, GFC’s Regional Program Director for the Americas, career and family life are fueled by a deep love for Honduras and its people.

Arriving in Tegucigalpa is like arriving home for me.  My father-in-law meets me at the airport with a warm hug and a chuckle at how “everyday” these reunions have become.

I’ve been traveling here at least once a year since I was 15, meeting and then marrying my husband here in my mid-twenties. Over the past year and a half, my work with GFC has made my visits even more frequent.

Back at the house, the books, papers, and odds and ends that normally blanket the back bedroom have been crammed into teetering bookcases and rusty filing cabinets. Extra towels are laid out on the bed.

As the rest of the family trickles in after work and school, I catch up on Angela’s latest orchestra camp, Isidra’s unpredictable nonprofit work contracts, Stacy’s struggles through seventh grade, and Crista’s promising but uncertain new teaching career.

More news comes as I take the weekend to visit friends and church. One friend has yet again been laid off and has scrambled to find a new job; another has been separated from his son and needs help – I tell him I’ll reach out to some organizations I’ve met through GFC’s Girls and Migration initiative.

I also make a few phone calls and arrange meetups to help an American friend who needs some legal documents for her Honduran foster son, and to buy 150 handmade greeting cards from a women’s cooperative in my Tegucigalpa neighborhood. My dad’s church back in Rochester, NY will sell them as a holiday fundraiser.

But this trip is actually for work, so on Monday morning I switch gears. I head to the offices of COIPRODEN, a network of child right’s advocates, and interview three eager young university students who are the top candidates to lead the Honduran portion of a research project on youth movements in Latin America, which GFC is participating in.

On Tuesday, I spend the day with GOJoven Honduras, a partner with our Empowering Adolescent Girls initiative, visiting a school where they are introducing an app to guide teens who are confronting sexual or gender-based violence or bullying in school. Then I talk with their team about progress on their safeguarding and organizational development plans, two key parts of GFC’s capacity development services.

GOJoven’s facilitators lead a discussion about gender-based violence and bullying with seventh graders at an urban public school in Tegucigalpa. © Global Fund for Children

On Wednesday, I meet up with my colleague Daniela who’s flown in from Guatemala, and we attend the Central America Donors Forum through Friday. We talk to people from large donors, peer funders, and NGOs who get almost as excited as we do about grassroots civil society in Central America. We even cheer on some of our partners as they speak on panels and ask challenging questions to educate us on what they need most from their supporters and allies.

The following Monday, Daniela and I meet at 6 AM in the Pizza Hut parking lot to hop on a bus heading south, where we’ll spend two days with Redjuma, our most nascent youth-led partner.

Nineteen-year-old Junior Edgardo Estrada leads an activity for children who have been identified by area schools as needing additional support. GFC partner Redjuma is providing them with school supplies. © Global Fund for Children

Once we arrive at Redjuma’s office, we try out some new ice-breakers and energizers to get everyone relaxed and laughing before guiding them through the creation of their first safeguarding policy. Our site visit has come at a critical time: Redjuma’s founding president announced on Friday that he’ll be stepping back from his role – he will soon turn 30 and “age-out” of the organization.

Daniela and I agree we need to scrap our original plan, which was to help Redjuma create an organizational development plan. Instead, we quickly design group activities to help them prepare to elect new leaders for the first time when they meet later this month.

Kim and Daniela orchestrate a group selfie with the youth leaders of Redjuma to send to their former colleague Kevin on his birthday. © Global Fund for Children

As we stand by the highway waiting to flag down a bus, we chat about how such small investments of time can make such a difference, and what we’ll do when we come back in a few months.

Back in Tegucigalpa for one more night, I am pulled back into my family and an endless list of last-minute tasks – gifts to deliver, conversations to have, special foods to savor, and bags to pack. I’m tired but I feel full to the brim with joy, hope, and that familiar mix of happiness and sorrow that comes from loving people who live hard lives sometimes, and from being in family and community for a time and then having to leave again.

After years of trying to keep myself at a safe distance from this sadness and hardship, I have given up and fallen madly in love with this messy, boisterous, heartbreaking, joyous part of my life. And I now know that this is what fuels me.

It grounds me for this incredible work with grassroots leaders, passionate youth in tough circumstances, and scrappy organizations finding new ways to change the world. And it inspires me to be generous and draw a deep satisfaction from simply giving, even when I then have to leave and will never get to witness the impact.

As the sun sets, I’m sitting in traffic with my sister-in-law’s husband after completing my final errands: the only two electric breast-pumps in the entire city are in the back seat, alongside a new automatic bottle sanitizer. I had arrived in Honduras within hours of the birth of my niece, and nothing inspires generosity like the scent of a newborn. I have a cake on my lap for another niece’s goodbye party tonight, and a brand new deck of Uno cards for her – this having been the game we’d played every night this week.

Kim with her newest niece. © Kimberly McClain

Holding a good-bye cake, Kim poses with her two nieces, both also named Kimberly. The youngest Kimberly will be leaving to be reunited with her mother in Spain after almost two years apart. © Kimberly McClain

Tomorrow I will fly home, working on the plane to finish a key donor report before collapsing on my couch with my husband and the cat to pass along family greetings, celebrations, and struggles.  Work and family have become woven together, and they fuel me to keep giving.

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