Honduras (MNN) — Though public education is free and required as part of Honduras’ “No Child Left Behind” initiative, less than half of all children who start school will complete primary grades, and less than 10 percent of all students will graduate and continue on to university. Those who are in school often do not receive a quality education due to a lack of teachers and classrooms. The illiteracy rate is as high as 80 percent in some rural areas.
Ena Quiggle has lived in La Paz, Honduras for years, and caring for the poor in her community has been a way of life. “God has always placed it in my heart to do something – you know, to do something about helping kids get ahead in school.”
Even when her own children were young, Ena and her family would often visit remote villages and provide care for those who were struggling. Once her children completed their education, Ena felt compelled to do even more. She wanted to help the children in her community who didn’t have that same opportunity.
“I thought about an after-school program, but I didn’t know how to start it,” she shares. “I didn’t know what to do – but I had it in my heart that I wanted to just get a bunch of kids from the street and reach them and get to know them.”
MINISTRY BORN FROM COMMUNITY
After a year of planning and praying, Quiggle met Esmerelda Lara at her church, and the two found a common passion for helping children. With encouragement from family and friends, NiCo — or Niños in Community — was born.
“We found a house that had been abandoned,” Quiggle says. “We didn’t have any chairs, we didn’t have any tables, so we sat on straw mats. That’s how we started. We went to the school in the area, one of the poorest areas in La Paz, talked to the director, and asked them to give us two or three kids from grades 1-3.”
Volunteers joined the team, and all quickly learned of the true challenges they were facing. “It was shocking for me to see that kids in third grade, they were at a pre-school level. They didn’t even know their ABCs, they didn’t even know their numbers, they didn’t even know how to write their names.”
NiCo is open two days a week for the children who attend. Quiggle says, “We go Tuesdays and Thursdays in the afternoon from 2 to 4 pm. We decided to do it on Tuesdays and Thursdays, because on Mondays we can always go to the school to remind the kids.”
A typical day at NiCo looks like this: “The main thing is for the kids to get the Word of God, to learn some verses, that’s the main thing. So first, we teach the kids a Bible study. We also teach them hygiene, washing hands, and brushing teeth, and then we have about 45-minutes of tutoring. And then at the end, we give them a snack, a meal.”
For many of the students, the meal has been a literal lifesaver. Extreme poverty means many families eat one meal a day – or less. Quiggle says some children thought the program was about food. “Many times at the start of NiCo, they (the students) would ask at the beginning of the class, ‘Are you going to give us something?’ But even if they came for just the meal, that was good enough for me, because then they would receive the Word of God, they would get some help with schooling, and then get their meal.”
Simple things make a huge difference in the lives of the children attending NiCo. Four children had difficulty rolling their ‘R’s, an essential part of the Spanish language. But a volunteer worked with the children, and Quiggle is overjoyed by the results. “They now can roll their ‘R’s, and it’s great because they get teased at school, you know. The love the volunteers give to the kids, the care we all put into it for the kids, I think it has made a big difference in them.”
A PLACE OF REFUGE
In 2015, Orphan Outreach joined hands with Quiggle and Lara as a ministry partner. Quiggle says, “That was an answer to my prayers, because NiCo is a place of refuge for those kids who don’t have a place to do homework or somebody who can help them with homework and someone who can give them a hug. They don’t have those things at home, so NiCo is that — it’s like their extra home. Honestly, I’m so thankful God brought Orphan Outreach because now I can see this will continue.”
When Quiggle thinks about the future of NiCo, she envisions more.
“We only see the kids twice a week, and we would like to see them every day — at least four days. We also would like to help those kids who go to school in the afternoon and are free in the mornings. The kids who are in fourth grade, they don’t come to NiCo anymore because they go to school in the afternoons. So it would be nice to open up NiCo in the mornings, too.”
She also dreams of a discipleship program for mothers.
A CALL TO GREATER COMMUNITY
Quiggle asks for prayers, not only for the children of NiCo, but for the country of Honduras. “Pray for the kids of Honduras. They are the future of this country and I think it’s our responsibility as Christians to come out of our four walls and go help our community,” she says softly.
“In La Paz, this area is at that point that if we Christians don’t get out there into these poor communities, soon those people from big cities will start coming and recruiting them for their gang members. So this is our time. We need help to expand NiCo. We need a bigger place where we can take care of more kids and we can teach them the Word and we can help them.”
Learn more about Orphan Outreach’s ministry work with NiCo, and join them on a mission trip to Honduras to visit the children and serve the community of La Paz.