Below is the 2nd part to my eye-opening interview with Hannah Bryant, our inspiring and driven Executive Director at Leadership Mission International. If you have not yet read Hannah Testimonial Part 1, I encourage you to click here.
TLC has grown by 25% this school year. This massive growth in students attributes to the long-term vision TLC maintains – to keep growing Leadership Mission International across Honduras, impacting more and more women to implement ethical change throughout their communities. What strengths did you see in TLC that allowed you to feel confident in accepting 25% more students this year? What weaknesses did you feel TLC had to overcome to reach this new growth?
“I would say that both the staff here on the ground and board members and sponsors up in the US have felt passionate for a long time about continuing to see growth in LMI. We have seen growth incrementally over the 10 years that we’ve existed. But this year was a big growth point, like you said, 25% increase in our student body. I think some of the biggest strengths that our organization has identified is having long-term, very strong staff members. Instead of quarterly turn-over in teachers and staff, we have long-term teachers staying for a year or longer. This creates so much strength on the ground in terms of curriculum and student support systems. Not only do we have a stable staff but we also have an incredibly strong and dynamic campus leadership team that is primarily Honduran. Between our strengths of student recruitment and on-the-ground staff – it allowed us to think ‘Okay we are ready for this. It’s going to be a challenge, and we are going to learn things along the way, but I think we are really ready to partner with and empower more women.’ A big part of it was just thinking ‘Let’s use the resources we have available to us.’
“Some of the challenges have been getting the buildings and facilities prepared for additional growth. Other things that have arisen as we’ve gone through this growth, is the question of what other support and admin staff positions do we need to make sure that we have, in order to be sustainable and make sure we are supporting students’ growth. We just hired an Agricultural Director to help us with campus sustainability and resources for food. We also have somebody who is now focusing on alumni – our first year ever having this. We also just hired a person to take over communications which we have never had before. All three of those staff positions have been hugely beneficial to our growth. We hired a psychologist as well, because as we have more students on campus, we recognize that a lot of the women are coming from pretty challenging, traumatic spaces. We saw more and more of a need for a Honduran from a similar context as our students who can really relate to their stories, and who is trained specifically in psychology and mental health. We are also looking at expanding different administrative positions that are going to help us carry the additional load of having more students on campus – not just this year but next year also. We are constantly thinking about how we can make things more efficient and really be reaching the holistic needs of the student body.”
After having lived in Honduras for three years, if you could describe your experience/emotions when coming back to campus with one word, what would it be and why?
“If I chose one word it would be grateful. Having lived in Honduras for several years, and getting to see the incredible growth in TLC since 2014 – has been such a blessing. When I first took this job, it seemed like a big risk for me in a lot of ways because it was a new position to work for LMI on the US-side of things, and I didn’t really know what it was going to look like. But I knew that I loved this organization, that I loved the women here, and that I really wanted to see ongoing growth. It’s been such a gift to still be a part of that, even from more of a behind the scenes kind of way. It really does fill me with gratitude – a gratitude hard to even express – to still be able to be a part of that growth and the gift that it is to do this work.’
“It’s been interesting over time to find meaningful ways to bring the two worlds together, which is basically my whole job. To figure out ‘How are we building bridges between the US and Honduras?’ This challenge even comes down to my own individual life. I am often thinking about what it means for me to have one foot living in Seattle, a booming urban area, and another foot in extremely rural Honduras, 45 minutes down a dirt road. It allows me to consider ‘What does it mean to build bridges, what does it mean for us to create pathways for neighborliness between the two, and how am I doing a good job for creating educational opportunities on both sides that can help those neighbors to feel more connected?’ It also challenges me in my own values on a regular basis. It really makes me question how I am thinking about money. How I am thinking about the ways that I spend my time. How I am thinking about food and resources. How I need to be calling myself, before anyone else, into a more equitable and just way of living.”
I would like to give a huge thanks to Hannah, who inspires us all on campus to live our lives everyday with grace. If you would like to learn more about Leadership Mission International please check out the rest of our website and follow & like us on instagram, facebook, and linkedin.