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  • Samantha Patschke

June 6, 2024 – Day 10 – En Honduras, hablamos español.

Actualizado: 10 jul

My family came to Honduras in 1993. San Pedro Sula was a small industrious city back then. Now, it is the industrial capital. As we landed, I remember looking down at all the banana plantations and thinking they were pineapples. I was 6 at the time.

Our house was not ready yet, so we stayed in a hotel for a few months. Today, that hotel is a little run down, but it still brings back memories.

We moved to Honduras because my parents got a once in a lifetime opportunity to be managers at a sewing plant. My mom was the big boss lady of a sewing factory, and my dad ran the cutting plant. I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me over the years and shared their experiences with my parents.

They used to celebrate every holiday possible with the operators. Cupcakes on Valentines. Christmas baskets around the holidays. They fought for fair wages and a safe working environment for their operators. They brought in singers for concerts and even had a carnival once a year to make sure the employees felt appreciated.

After school, I would head to the factory. I loved to learn a bit about each department. I would sew in lines that asked for my help to reach their goal. I would wand in the pay tickets in the accounting department. I would answer calls in the front office. I would go back to the cafeteria and serve food and drink to the employees at lunch. Sometimes, I would do all this on my roller skates. I loved it!

As I got older, I got more involved. Eventually, after college in the USA, I returned to Honduras to work in the same industry. I worked in “maquila” for 6 years. As I worked, I learned more and got more and more responsibility. At the end of my time in the industry I was running an entire sewing plant. The plant had over 800 employees.

I was forced away from my interactions with my operators into executive meetings. I was young so I didn’t talk or give my opinion. These meetings were conducted in English. It was the sewing plant managers, of which I was one, the top executives from our factories and the visiting clients, like Nike, UA, Adidas.

These meetings were awful. None of these people knew how an operator felt or how they lived, but they were clear as to what they should do. The only people who knew what was going on was a young girl, me, and my co-workers who only spoke Spanish. For the client’s well-being the meetings were conducted in English.

I had so many out of body experiences in those meetings. Watching these know-it-alls from “who knows where” try to tell the people running the plant “how it is”. The criticism fell on non-bilingual ears. There were a lot of yes’s and no’s coming form our side of the table.

As time went on, it became less entertaining and more infuriating. The meeting should have been run in Spanish. The people who needed to be talking were silenced by a language barrier. The cultural and lingual obstacles kept the two sides of the table from understanding each other. It became clear quickly that in Honduras it was not race or wealth that differentiated people. It was English!

It was then and there that I decided that I would open a non-profit organization bringing English to everyone, breaking through the cycle of abuse and poverty. Proyecto Proposito.

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