By Mike Tenbusch | September 9, 2022

Roberto Contreras grew up in a small neighborhood near San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  The El Ocotillo dump reached the edge of their town and after school some of the kids would go there to pick through the mountains of garbage and see if they could find Cracker Jacks, cookies, and other sweets that richer folks had thrown out.
 
“I was one of those kids,” Roberto recalls.  “My best friend and I knew all the best days to go to the dump.  He used to say that one day he was going to grow up to be the watchman over our school.  I told him that I was going to be the mayor of San Pedro Sula.”
 
Turns out both of them were right.
 
Contreras was elected mayor of San Pedro Sula last fall. It’s a long rise from his humble beginnings. He’s determined to give the young people of Honduras a chance to carve out a better future for themselves, just as he was able to grow from selling chicken on the street, to founding the Power Chicken franchise, to becoming mayor.  His best friend achieved his dream, too, and has worked as the watchman of his school for years.

A boy on top of the garbage mounds in the same dump that Contreras and his best friend frequented after school.

It’s these success stories that we share with all of our scholars as they strive to grow beyond the garbage dump communities they’ve grown up in.  We, like Mayor Contreras and his best friend, want the youth of San Pedro Sula to see that there is real hope for a better life.  This shared vision is the reason Mayor Contreras and his wife met with Andrew Pawuk last week in El Ocotillo.

Mayor Contreras, his wife, and Andrew Pawuk meeting in San Pedro Sula this past week.

As Andrew and the Mayor talked during their meeting, the Mayor and his wife realized that two of their daughters served as translators for a medical mission trip that Andrew led at the Richard Flasck Medical Center before the pandemic.  They left that meeting determined to find ways for the city of San Pedro Sula to help our scholars in El Ocotillo discover and achieve their dreams. 

I love this story about the Mayor and his friend.  But the story wouldn’t be complete if not for Andrew, who said “yes” to the idea of going on a service trip when he was a student at St. John’s Jesuit High School in Toledo and has been leading trips like that since, including the medical mission that Contreras’ daughters served on.  Andrew started with international Samaritan 15 years ago this month.  In that time, he has become a well-recognized, well-loved face in San Pedro Sula and our other communities due to his steady leadership and thoughtful compassion on countless trips through the years.  Andrew took that leadership and compassion with him into his role as Vice President of Operations, where he has stewarded all of our programs to achieve new heights, including this most recent project in San Pedro Sula.  He has indelibly strengthened the foundation of our organization across six nations.

I’m excited to see what the Mayor, his best friend, Andrew, and our team on the ground will accomplish together in the year ahead through their shared mission and friendship.  I’m also intrigued to see what our scholars will accomplish in the decades ahead as a result, especially hand in hand with the young people who will return to serving on immersion trips with us from schools across the United States this school year.

Then to now: A snapshot of Andrew’s earliest trips to San Pedro Sula next to his most recent work in the community.  Thank you for your faithful service and leadership.  Congratulations on 15 years!

IntSam Scholars Take a Stand

By Mike Tenbusch | July 1, 2022 As we come together with family and friends this weekend to celebrate the courage that our founders had in 1776, our children may also want to give thanks for the wisdom of the leaders who passed laws in 1938 forbidding child labor in...

Family Matters

By Mike Tenbusch | May 6, 2022 This past Friday, our board of trustees made a huge commitment to build a “family life center” in Honduras as one of our four goals this year.  We want to give our scholars a safe and nurturing place they can go to after school to be...

Letting Go of Our Nets

By Mike Tenbusch | April 8, 2022 This past Wednesday morning, I was surrounded by a room of truly amazing women while on a Zoom call with equally amazing women in Ethiopia in a quest to bring the jewelry they make to market here in the United States. It was a unique...