“The Power to Choose” by Jernie Brooks

When I was asked what an education means to me I had so many thoughts that came to mind. But the one that means the most is that having an education gives me the power to choose.

Having an education means I can choose what I want to study, and how I can help my community with what I learn. Having an education means I will be able to someday choose a job, not just take whatever I can get. Having an education means I get to choose who I want to share my life with, not hope that they choose me.  Having an education means that I can choose to start a family when I’m ready, not because I’m out of options.

I can get somewhere with the education I have received so far and the simple fact that I am a strong female even though the odds are against me. But I don’t want to get just anywhere. I want to get where I want to go. And I want to choose where that is.

So I guess having an education isn’t just a piece of paper saying that I can pass Science, or Math, or English. Having an education is a piece of paper that says I can have a future.

It is my power to choose.

Jernie

Jernie Brooks is a 9th grader who lives in a home with her mother, 3 younger sisters, and 1 older brother.  Jernie has been a part of the WYM Soul Sister Program since 2009, and has shown potential to be a leader in her community. Jernie lives in a community that is heavily exposed to violence, sexual exploitation, and drugs, but has chosen to remain as focused on her education as she can be. This year Jernie’s mother told WYM that she can no longer afford to keep Jernie and school and will be taking her out.

$50 a month is all that is needed to give Jernie a future.

A Huge Thank You!!!

World Youth Movement wants to send out a huge THANK YOU to the Loosbrock Family for their generous donation on behalf of the Wendall Loosbrock Trust.

It’s through the generosity of folks like you that we are able to take World Youth Movement from vision to reality, and create programming and activities to meet the needs of the youth and community of Roatan.

Thank you!!!!

A Transition of Love

When Dishorne, a young man in the WYM program, died earlier this year I received the incredible honor of washing, dressing, and preparing his body for burial.

Born and raised in the United States, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to perform such an action, as a job like that to Americans is looked upon as scary, disgusting, and unwanted. I didn’t know how I would react to the scents, the touch, the realization that I was moving around a dead body.

When someone in the States dies, we quickly hide the body as soon as we can. Once the last breath is taken, we become almost frightened of the body that is left behind. We pay someone massive amounts of money to “take care of it”, embalm it, dress it up, put makeup on it until it no longer looks like someone we love, but a strange wax figurine that leaves people whispering in the corner of the funeral parlor or scared to go up and peer inside the casket. More often than not, the dying are put into hospitals hooked up to machines in order to “make them more comfortable”. They are surrounded by strangers, beeping machines, medicine, unfamiliar smells and sounds. Death becomes scary, and informal; a job for someone else to take care of.  Morgues are frequently the setting for horror movies, dead people the antagonists in our visual indulgences. Looking at a dead body is one thing (crime scenes often attract the masses who want to do just that); but voluntarily touching one? Washing, dressing, and preparing one??? That is something that is looked upon as gothic, sick, meant only for those with twisted motives or strong stomachs.

But I loved Dishorne, and I was grateful for the extreme privilege that was bestowed upon me by the family, and the community; so I accepted the request, despite my American upbringing and cultural hesitations about what I would be doing.

It is tradition on the Island to care for the dying at home. Partly because medical intervention is hardly an option here, but mostly because the dying process is looked at as something to be cherished and the dying to made feel calm and loved. When the dying take their last breath, preparations are made for the wake that night, and the burial the next morning. The community and the family gather together and divide tasks; the women of the community cooking the feast, the men making the coffin and digging the grave. Every single task involved is planned and executed by the family and the community.

After the body is prepared, hundreds of people from all over the Island gather for the wake that night, sitting outside the home of the deceased until sunrise the next morning. Feasts are prepared for those that have gathered, and hymns and songs sung by those who loved the deceased. The body of the loved one is displayed in the coffin on the porch or in the room in which the love one passed on. The next morning those who have gathered perform a funeral ceremony, sharing stories and singing songs, and then follow the coffin on foot to the cemetery for final burial. The gravesites are simple, holes dug in the ground, a tree or bush planted at the site as a marker. Once the loved one has entered the ground, they are returned to the ashes they were born from and the cycle of love and life is complete.

The person chosen to prepare the body is the most important piece. You see, on the Island, they believe that even hours after their loved ones have died, the bodies still can sense, feel, and hear.  The person chosen must be someone whom the loved one felt connected to, loved by, and safe with, or the body won’t accept the preparation. It will become stiff and impossible to dress, it will excrete fluids, and sometimes even belch up the sickness that the loved one died from.  All are signs that the person chosen was the wrong person, and the entire burial process is compromised.

As I washed myself, as is tradition, so I could be clean and pure to prepare Dishorne for the wake and burial, I wondered if I was the right one, wondered if the boy that became my whole world felt as if I was even an imprint on his.  After announcing I was ready, everyone left the house to wait outside, and I went into the same bedroom where only a few hours before I had held him as he took his last breath; and began what was the greatest act of love I have ever preformed.

I left the bedroom transformed, never again to be the person that I was when I entered.

That morning, I made my final transition into becoming a part of the community, and the Island. I instantly became a part of the family and a part of the community in a way that I never was before, and although I may be only a mere pinky finger in the community body, I am still a necessary part of the whole.

Death, although a now beautiful process to me, is also a constant. On an Island, and in a country, where sickness often translates into death, it is always present, always waiting; the Sea always heavy with the sadness of those mourning.

Yesterday, Dishorne’s grandmother, a woman who became an immovable and ever present force in my life, whose porch became as familiar to me as my own, passed away. No doctors to tell her family what she died from, the community concluded it was a broken heart from all of the children she had to bury over the years.

Once again, I washed my hands, prepared my heart and mind for the incredibly sacred task ahead of me, and entered the room to show Ms. Marjorie how much I loved her.

Rest in Peace

Marjorie Glovan Merren

August 6th, 1949-September 6th, 2010

Moving Mountains with Pebbles

This November Nico will graduate the 6th grade.

Three short months later he will celebrate his 17th birthday.

For the past year  Nico has been attending the only school that will accept him at his age. Every night he walks the 4 miles it takes to get to school, and most night he walks the 4 miles back dejected after learning yet again that school was canceled for any number of reasons; teacher didn’t show up, no one had keys to open the gate, it’s a Friday…He had never learned to read, and when asked to name a country outside of Honduras his reply was “Las Vegas”. Nico is 6 feet and 5 inches of arms and legs, has a lazy eye, and lives in an environment where exploitation, hunger, and poverty are not the exception but the rule. He knows the words to just about every rap song ever written and is more often than not freestyling some of his own work to anyone who wants to listen.

Nico has a past that includes both theft and drugs, and has a strong family tie to the not so underground culture of cocaine exportation that has dominated the Island the last decade or so.

For the past 6 months, Nico has been attending the WYM FireStarters Boys Group. He also joined WYM’s literacy course where he began using his ability to rhyme to learn to read. But he still struggled everyday walking the line between becoming a product of his environment and creating an environment that will help him break the cycle of poverty that most of Roatan has surrendered to.

Three months ago Nico was swimming in the Sea and stumbled upon 15 pounds of pure powder cocaine carefully packaged and wrapped in a plastic bag. Although it is not uncommon for the kids of the Island to come across the after effects of an airplane drop gone wrong, or an attempt to avoid a bust; it is uncommon for them to do what Nico did next. He picked it up, walked it to his Uncle’s door step, dropped it, and walked away. This might not seem like what we would call the “right choice” in American culture, but when you are living in a culture where there is virtually no consequence for selling cocaine in mass quantities, convincing a teenager living in extreme poverty to walk away from hundreds of thousands of dollars is not an easy feat. But Nico didn’t need convincing anymore, Nico made that decision all on his own.

When WYM kids show the potential to become positive leaders, every single stone is turned over to give them the opportunities needed for them to succeed. Nico’s stone was sports. So in June of this year, with a lot of hard work and self-discipline (and a few inside connections) Nico was invited to participate in the first Roatan Volleyball League to ever exist; a huge milestone for an Island full of some of the greatest athletic potential in the Caribbean and no outlet for its use. After a lifetime of always being behind, Nico not only found a positive talent, but also a positive male role model in his coach, Manu Dibango Wilmoth Collins.  Learning how to play on a team and the importance of each individual’s contribution to that team proved to be a powerful combination for Nico and he soon started making even bigger changes in his personal life to accommodate to his new found empowerment. He stopped making the easy choices, and started making the right ones. Last week the President of the Volleyball Federation came to Roatan to officially inaugurate the Roatan Volleyball League, and with the persistence of WYM and the help of his coach, Nico got a chance to meet him and tell the story of his past and the dream of his future.

Nico walked out of that meeting with an invitation to move to the capital city Tegucigulpa and play on the Honduras National Volleyball Team. He will be given a full scholarship to attend the best private school in the country, a full time tutor, room and board, three healthy meals a day, and a team of people surrounding him who will empower him to succeed on a daily basis. After an initial trial period, Nico will then have an opportunity to travel as a professional athlete representing his country all around the world.

Looking at him now you wouldn’t even recognize him. He’s still all arms and legs, but there is an undeniable spirit of hope that follows him like a shadow bathed in sunlight.

WYM gave him the pebbles, Nico is moving the mountain.

Grassroots Generosity

We are able to empower youth with boys and girls groups, literacy groups, and summer school because WYM has people like you who donate to this cause. If you’ve tried to donate and paypal isn’t working please donate directly to our Wells Fargo account 6197987677 under World Youth Movement. Sorry for any confusion and many thanks to those of you have made it possible for WYM to apply for 501c3 status.