It was a passing of the torch.
Jordan Krauss’ older brother Ethan had been going with their parents, John and Kelli, to help villages in the western part of Honduras for the past four years. But after Ethan began attending college at West Virginia University, the time had come for Jordan, a sophomore at Powhatan High School, to take part.
She kind of knew what to expect. She knew what the days were going to look like when it came to working with the school in the village they’d be going to – Santa Rosita – and the trench line that they’d be digging for the PVC pipe that would be bringing water directly to the community. She had been seeing pictures of her parents’ time and work there since she was a little girl.
But she didn’t expect to feel the way she felt when she first saw the children.
How some of them didn’t have shoes.
How excited they were to do just the simplest activities with her, like blowing bubbles, for an hour.
How grateful they were for those little things, like the tennis balls and lacrosse sticks that they brought for them to play with and have.
“It’s so amazing to just be able to give that to them,” she said, “and make them happy and just play with them all day.”
She had a Polaroid camera with her, and so the boys and girls would come up to her, asking: can she take a picture with them?
She loved just hanging out with them – really just doing anything with them, because they’ll do that one activity with you all day.
“They will never get bored with doing anything.”
And when she introduced them to the game of lacrosse – told them what it was and that there was a boys game and a girls game, showed and taught them some passing and stick tricks – they were eager to learn.
She would bring a couple of sticks to wherever they went each day, and after she gave some of the sticks to the school the first couple of days, she and her family saw that a couple of the children were really picking up the game.
So she brought individual sticks for each of them the next time they came back.
A couple of the boys, Ever and Mario, got really good at it as they were throwing the ball with each other, flipping their sticks and doing stick tricks.
At the water celebration held at the village in which Jordan’s family worked last year - Pierdas Coloradas – Jordan got to teach the children there about lacrosse as well, and one of the girls, Claudia, was really picking it up. She was so determined in those couple of hours – she had that stick in her hand the whole time – and every time Jordan would give her another stick trick to do, she would get it in 10 minutes and go over to show Jordan, wanting to demonstrate what she had learned. When Jordan and her family went back to the village a couple of days later to work on the school, Claudia wasn’t there, but Jordan had brought a stick for her to keep. She and her family gave the stick to the Pierdas Coloradas water system’s manager, who said he would give the stick to Claudia.
“They learn so quick,” Jordan said of the children, “and they want to learn.” They weren’t there because they had to be there, she said. “They’re there because they want to do that, and they pick up everything so quick.”
All of Jordan’s lacrosse donations were collected through her Powhatan lacrosse team, her club team, the Richmond Strikers Lacrosse organization and her church, St. Luke’s Episcopal.
When they go back – because next year they’ll visit Santa Rosita after the water system has been put in – Kelli is certain that some of the kids are going to be running down the mountain road in their flip flops, carrying their lacrosse sticks, excited to reunite with the young woman who happily spent that first week with them as their teacher, coach, and friend.
Fulfilling a need
John and Kelli Krauss were living in Leesburg when they went on their first mission to Honduras through their church 10 years ago. They’ve been going with the same core group of people every year, but after the trip kind of fell off of the church’s calendar a few years in, they weren’t willing to give up this work that they had grown to love so much.
“Every village we went to,” Kelli said, “we would become so connected to them.”
So after going on its own for a year or two, the group decided to create the nonprofit Partnership for Clean Water and Education (PCWE/www.pcwe.org).
The nonprofit now has 10 board members and for years has been working in villages in the western part of Honduras near Copan. It’s mainly focused on bringing clean water to those communities. Each project consists of finding a water source, tapping into it with a headwall that captures the water, linking the headwall to an underground PVC pipe that stretches all the way to the village, and putting in a cistern through which the water is supposed to be purified.
From there, the water is distributed to spigots located outside each and every home serviced by the pipe. Kelli said there are about 40 homes benefiting from the water system in Santa Rosita.
PCWE works with Agua Para el Pueblo (Water for the People of Honduras) and Cornell University, who look at different ways to install the clean water systems. All of the systems they’ve helped install are gravity fed; there’s nothing else you need to do except install it, because the water source is usually higher up than the village, and even if it has to go up and down the mountain, there’s so much pressure in that pipe that it can then feed into the village.
PCWE does a couple of fundraisers each year to try and at least fund one water system for one village every year.
“In 10 years now, we’ve been to so many village celebrations where they can’t even almost put into words their gratefulness and how thankful they are that people from thousands of miles away think of them and want to do this for them,” Kelli said. “Some of these villages, we had a village last year – there was a guy, 65 years old, had never had water in his village. I mean this was the first time they were getting fresh, clean water funneled into the village. Otherwise, it’s going to a dirty water source with a pot, filling it up and bringing it back.”
As they continue their mission, one of the possible courses of action Kelli said they’re looking at is making sure that the villages in which they’ve previously worked are properly maintaining the water systems they now have, and that they’re keeping on top of the purification process.
But they have noticed changes when they’ve gone back. People just look a little healthier now that they’re drinking clean water.
“Even just in the one year, you do notice a change, and in the villages too, a lot of the times the kids can’t go to school because they have to walk to these water sources,” Kelli said. But now that they have the fresh water right there in their community, they’re freed up to attend school.
Fostering educational opportunities for Honduras’ youth
While bringing clean water to the villages remains the main focus, the mission’s commitment to education in Honduras is steadily growing.
For many children, the highest level of schooling they can attain in their villages is sixth grade, unless their families can afford to send them away to high schools, or schools with higher education in larger villages and communities.
The teachers in the schools are very dedicated, Kelli said, but the classes are being taught in very, very bare conditions. The schools are made of cinderblocks – sometimes even mud blocks – and Jordan one day was teaching a boy who didn’t have a chair, meaning he had to stand as he did his work.
In the last couple of years, PCWE started looking at schools and ways to help them. While John and Kelli funded a school for a village they worked in 10 years ago as individuals, last year was the first time that the nonprofit committed to building one. The people of Pierdas Coloradas had approached John, Kelli, and their group with a handwritten letter asking for a school.
The board voted right there on the spot and said that, yes, they would do it.
That’s part of why they returned to Pierdas Coloradas with Jordan: to work on the foundation for the new school.
And on the first day they reached Santa Rosita, Jordan was told that she could work in the school with the children. She helped with bringing in supplies and teaching the students about sanitation so that, when the new water system was installed, they would know about washing one’s hands, what brushing your teeth means, and how to use a lavatory properly. She helped the students with lessons in which they learned about numbers and colors. She ended up giving one of her lacrosse sticks, as well as a Powhatan Lacrosse shirt, to a boy named Kelion, who was one of the students she taught.
Jordan was also a physical education teacher, and the children got to go outside with her and play, blow bubbles, jump rope, and learn lacrosse, which they loved.
Kelli thinks that, while they were happy to receive things like a tennis ball or a lacrosse stick, it means so much more to them to know that people care about them. “There are these strangers showing up every day for a week, wanting to be there, wanting to spend time, wanting to work on the trench line, to do this for them.”
Jordan loved that first trip to Honduras – “it’s a memory I’ll never lose” – and she’s looking forward to returning next year.
John and Kelli’s son, Ethan, started going to Honduras his freshman year and went every year until he graduated from high school because he fell in love with the project. But Kelli did say that, after she and John had been going for a decade, “you kind of forget what it is for someone when they go for the first time and see this.”
Seeing it through Jordan’s eyes brought it all back.
“And I don’t want to say we’re desensitized, because we go there and we understand the magnitude of what we’re doing. But you get used to it. You know what to expect when you go,” Kelli said. “So seeing it through her eyes this year was really special and engaging to me, and then seeing how much she embraced it – because it’s a project that we love so much – to see her jump right in and really embrace it and love it and want to go back just makes me extremely proud as a parent, and hopefully we’ve set her on a good path to knowing that she has a lot to give.”
Getting to partake in her family’s mission for the very first time – being part of their work in Honduras and a part of the lives of the children in the villages – helped Jordan to see that people shouldn’t take things like playing a sport – or even something as essential as access to clean water – for granted.
“Because those kids there have nothing,” she said, “and they’re so grateful for so little.”