Honduras, officially the Republic of Honduras, is in Central America and is bordered by Guatemala to the west, El Salvador to the south west and Nicaragua to the south east with the Pacific Ocean to the south and the Gulf of Honduras to the north. 1 million of Honduras’ population of 8.6 million live in the capital, Tegucigalpa, in the southwest of the country.
In pre-Columbian times, Honduras was part of the Mesoamerican cultural area and the Mayan civilizations flourished in the West. The country was conquered by Spain in the sixteenth century, which gave Honduras the name Spanish Honduras to differentiate from British Honduras, now known as Belize. They gained independence from Spain in 1821 and have been an independent republic since 1838.
The economy of Honduras is one of the fastest growing in Latin America and the country produces minerals, coffee, tropical fruit and sugar cane, as well as increasingly exporting clothing to the international market. And yet about 50% of the population, approximately 3.7 million people, still live below the poverty line. According to the Human Development Index, Honduras is the sixth poorest/least developed country in Latin America, after Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Guyana, and Bolivia.
The region is considered a biodiversity hotspot because of the numerous plant and animal species that can be found there. Like other countries in the region, Honduras contains vast biological resources. Honduras has rain forests, cloud forests (which can rise up to nearly three thousand meters above sea level), mangroves, savannas and mountain ranges with pine and oak trees, and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. In the Bay Islands there are bottlenose dolphins, manta rays, parrot fish, schools of blue tang and whale shark. The pine tree is the national tree of Honduras, the orchid is the national flower, the white tailed deer is the national animal and the scarlet macaw is the national bird.
As one of Central America’s most diverse nations with ten distinctive ethnic groups, Honduras is a complex country with no real national consciousness. However, the demand for English throughout Honduras is a unifying factor. Although the official language is Spanish, English and Garifuna are also widely spoken. Garifuna is mostly spoken on the Bay Islands and some coastal areas, such as near Tela. Currently approximately 10% of the population – 700,000 Hondurans – live and work abroad making the demand for English, particularly for children at primary age, high.
Honduras has much to offer for Project Trust volunteers. There is a real opportunity in Honduras for volunteers to feel that they are making a difference to English language teaching. Project Trust volunteers can offer long-term English teaching in both teaching and social care projects.
Project Trust has been sending volunteers to Honduras since 1981 and has since placed almost 300 volunteers in the country. PT volunteers primarily work with bilingual schools in Honduras teaching English mostly to primary school students who are very keen to learn. Many parents work extremely hard to send their children to private bilingual schools, because they value the opportunity to learn English. Subsequently the demand for native English speakers is high. The volunteers in the main, therefore, work in private schools. However, it is important to note that a large percentage of students are on scholarships at these schools. The parents of those students who pay make sacrifices to enable their children to have a bilingual education. The projects in Punta Gorda, San Francisco del Valle, Tomalá and Candelaria are different as these are public community schools. In addition, volunteers teaching in the project in El Progreso (Miqueas 6.8) are working in social care environments.