Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in cold sweats, my body shaking and pulse racing, when the memory of the event makes its way into my unconscious mind. It was just a bad dream, I reassure myself, and I nestle back down into the safety of my duvet. Yet the memory persists, lying in wait as I fall asleep, ready to pounce to the forefront of my mind and scare me witless. It is my hope that by setting down my recollection of the event, by placing it in the public domain, I may somehow exorcise that dreadful occurrence from my memory.
Picture the scene: I stand at the front of a room with my fellow detainee - my only source of companionship and comfort, as we await our fate. The room has been purpose-built for the efficient enactment of the sadistic ceremony. As I anxiously gaze around the room I catch sight of various implements scattered around which, with a chilling realisation, I come to understand are meant for us. Rows of seats are laid out before us, designed specifically for the occasion, where our tormentors will sit to observe the ghastly spectacle. Our eyes fall upon the clock, counting down the minutes until the ritual is due to commence. After what feels like an eternity, the door opens and they file in, taking their seats with a familiarity that suggests they have witnessed such a spectacle many times before. Paralysed with fear, I look upon them, the few sheets of paper clutched in my quivering hands my only source of protection. It is worse than I had imagined. They toy with us, joking amongst themselves and jeering at us, joyously basking in our distress. They know what is coming. My companion, with a bravery which I will admire to the end of my days, steps forward and begins the English lesson.
Joking aside, delivering an English lesson to a class of twenty-four rowdy year sevens is not an experience I will soon forget. When the hour and twenty minutes was up, I was physically and mentally exhausted, more than ready for a lie down in a darkened room for a good few hours. I have a whole new sense of appreciation for my teachers who managed to do this day in, day out. Along with English lessons, we are also giving lessons in the use of Microsoft Office to the children at CETIIN, which is challenging in its own way. Believe me, trying to convince 12-17 year olds that they would much rather practice word processing than play Spider Solitaire is a much harder sell than you might imagine.
Yet teaching the children is also rewarding in equal measure. We gained an insight into the standard of the education that the Honduran students normally receive when we met with the English teacher. Thinking that for once we would be able to relax and converse in our mother tongue, we were alarmed to discover that the person tasked with instructing these students in English had an extremely limited grasp of the language. Speaking with one Honduran mother, I found out that the quality of education, along with healthcare, is the principal concern many Hondurans have about their public services. These two factors were fuelling her desire to leave the country of her birth, in order to secure a better future for her young daughter.
Our time here may be brief and our impact may be limited, but I can confidently say that by teaching these students we are doing something good.
Written by ICS volunteer Mark Normington. Photos by Edward Da Silva Ali