By Mike Tenbusch | December 09, 2022

The safety and security of our team leaders have long been a concern of mine.  They walk hand-in-hand with people living in some of the most difficult places on earth—and then make life-altering decisions to award holistic scholarships to only some of their children.  At our best, we are able to give scholarships to only about 20% of the children in these communities, and our team members work hard to ensure these precious resources go to those kids with the most needs or the most promise.
That’s a whole lot of responsibility to put on our team leaders’ shoulders, especially in light of the fact that gang activity, extortion and corruption surround the communities in which we work.  How then are our team members able to walk and work in these communities so safely day after day?  The answer became crystal clear to me during my trip to Honduras last month, and it caught me by surprise, in part because of how obvious it should have been.
It’s the women.
Strong, compassionate, funny, honest, tough-as-nails women who have earned their reputations as leaders in their community.  Sometimes they are mothers.  Sometimes they are nuns.  They are grandmothers raising children.  And single women who built nurseries or lead schools to give kids from these communities a better chance.
I’m not talking about our team members here.  I’m talking about the handful of women each of them relies on to figure out who needs these scholarships the most and then support our team in their efforts to train those children to become leaders in their community.  They were holding their families and these communities together long before our team showed up, and they are able to make both stronger working closely with us.
Our team members are safe because the reputation and character of these women is stronger than the toughest man or the most notorious criminal in their community.  That’s confounding to me.  It’s been said that the pen is mightier than the sword.  In my time here, I’ve come to see that these women are too. 

Yesterday we in the Catholic Church celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, honoring a women who was confronted by an angel and told that she would give birth to the son of God.  Instead of running away or being too busy to listen, Mary’s response was, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May your word to me be fulfilled.”  Luke 1:37.  Today we celebrate those women who, like Mary, continue to “go and do likewise.”  Luke 10:37.

Maritza leads city officials in Tegucigalpa last month on a tour of the new water system we are building together in her community.

Our team leader in Guatemala, Angelica, honoring mothers this past week for their support.

Gloria, Florentina, and Nelly resting after the IntSam 5K in Tegucigalpa.

My wife, Maritza (center left), with three of our original community leaders in Ethiopia, Mulu, Yeshi, and Leyla.

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