Empowering Women with Literacy Classes

  • September 29, 2016

AJS’s youth clubs are designed to transform entire communities, involving parents, family members, and neighbors in the pursuit of safer and more connected neighborhoods.

As AJS staff poured into children in these neighborhoods, they found that parents and other community members were also hungry to learn. In March of this year, in the community Las Minitas (“the Mines”) where they have served for 12 years, AJS volunteers began a small literacy project to serve these adults.

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Las Minitas is a community built into the backside of a mountain. Amenities like electricity and water have only recently reached community homes. Many adults have no formal education, not even having completed first grade, and many are unable to read and write.

These are the adults the literacy program targets – adults like Doña Francisca, a 50-year-old mother of 10 who lives in a three-room house where she cares for her family and extended family. Four of her children graduated from youth clubs and one more is currently attending.

Doña Francisca was excited at the idea that her children would learn to read and write, but she was not open to the idea of learning herself. She said she suffered a head injury that left her with memory problems. She said she was too old to learn. “I know nothing,” she repeated to the volunteers, and only promised to send her adult children to the classes to study.

Three of Doña Francisca’s children joined the first literacy class. They bowed their heads along with the rest of the class as they opened in prayer. As the prayer finished, Doña Francisca appeared in the doorway and asked if she could give another prayer. She thanked God for the opportunity to learn, then took a seat and participated in the class.

Since that day Doña Francisca has attended faithfully. She also has kept her promise to God to encourage her children’s attendance. Two of Doña Francisca’s children were the first class members to learn to read, and all three are doing extremely well in the class, learning alongside their mother.

On the day her daughters read their first words, Doña Francisca sat with her head bowed. At first glance, it appeared she was studying and did not realize the huge accomplishment of her children. But Doña Francisca was actually deep in prayer. When she finished praying she looked up, eyes full of tears and asked if she could sing. Since that day, Doña Francisca’s unique songs of praise, though embarrassing to her children, have become a regular part of the class.

Doña Francisca does struggle with the literacy classes. However, she no longer believes that she knows nothing, and no longer believes she is incapable of learning. On the first day of class when assigned four pages of homework, she completed 32 pages! She is never discouraged, grateful for her small improvements, and quick to praise God for everything that she and her children have accomplished.

For her entire life, Doña Francisca had signed her name by rolling her thumb over an ink pad and pressing her thumbprint onto the paper. Last month, instead of the thumbprint, she carefully wrote her name, “F r a n c i s c a”, and agreed that she will never again substitute a thumbprint as her signature. The class celebrated – Doña Francisca thanked God.

Doña Francisca’s biggest goal is to one day be able to read the Bible. Though she can’t yet read for herself, she has her favorite passages memorized, and loves to open her Bible and recite passages like James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Programs like this literacy class go outside of AJS’s regular programs through the passion and commitment of volunteers. Their connections with the communities are helping women like Doña Francisca to learn that they are capable of more than they thought possible, strengthening families, increasing opportunities, and giving praise to God.

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This story was contributed by Mary Lynn Fager, a missionary from the United States who devotes her time to youth and community projects alongside AJS staff in Honduras.

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