Looking back on our 10 plus years of work with and visits to The Leadership Center (TLC), it sometimes astonishes us. From an initial group of 4 students, a couple part time teachers, a tiny kitchen with a wood stove and no electricity – many things have certainly changed and progressed over the years.
It all began for us when retired pastor, Glen Evans, visited our home church in McLean, Virginia in 2008 to collect used shoes for needy families in Honduras. He mentioned to us “I have an idea for a school for women in Honduras; I want to teach them English and business”. Glen and his ministry, Art for Humanity, purchased a parcel of mountain land and TLC opened a school in 2010 with 4 students.
Our first visit to campus came in 2012. We met Ira and Sarah Lucia, then campus directors, and the 6 students which then represented the first 2 cohorts. The campus had 6 modest buildings, the director’s casita, a tiny kitchen, a comedor, a bodega, and a staff house which doubled as the classroom and a dormitory. The teaching staff was composed of several short-term volunteers. The educational program was then three years and our curriculum was not yet developed. TLC’s financial support came entirely from Art for Humanity.
Chris and Dan with Cohort 1 in 2012
For most of 2012 and 2013, TLC had no electricity and water came from the river with a little filtration. The tubing to obtain the water developed frequent leaks which interrupted our water supply. All of the food for campus was brought in and prepared by our local cook – Candida. The first foray into solar electricity supplied enough power for a few lightbulbs and outlets, providing the sun was shining that day.
Leadership Mission International was formed to support TLC in 2013 by Joseph Rahm and Ira Lucia and the first board of directors was appointed. We began raising financial support, independently of Art for Humanity, to develop the ministry and school.
Over the next few years TLC did develop and grow. With the arrival of Joseph and Hailey Rahm as campus directors, class sizes were increased to about 10 students and our program of study became more fixed – the first year was all English language study and the second year was a combination of leadership, community development and business. Teachers were asked to commit to 3-6 months or longer and we began to provide modest stipends to attract teachers. We added more Honduran employees from the local community to support building and farming efforts. Campus sustainability projects began with greatly increasing the size of the coffee farm, planting vegetable gardens, raising a few chickens for eggs and meat, and purchasing a cow for milk which was made into cheese. An enterprising student from Cohort 3 sold chips and coca cola from her room. Upon her graduation, her entrepreneurial business became the TLC Minimart.
Mrs. Chris on her most recent visit to campus in January of 2022 with students Camila and Idania .
During the 2014 / 2015-time frame, significant strides were made with the quality of our educational program. A more defined curriculum was developed and class syllabi were prepared to help ensure some consistency in the educational offerings.
Another infrastructure milestone during this time was the building of “Ryan’s Bridge” in 2014. Before this project, the last river crossing to TLC was very challenging and sometimes not possible. A civil engineering major, Ryan, had joined us on a mission trip to TLC in and he later returned to design and manage this project.
In 2015, TLC funded its first start up business loan to a graduate who opened a school supplies store in her rural community. Over the last 6 years, LMI has made 20 business loans to our graduates.
After trying a 2-and-a-half-year educational program, TLC settled on a 2-year program and worked diligently for over a year to receive accreditation from the Honduran Department of Education.
Initial attempts to bring the internet to campus were challenging. A satellite dish was installed next to the kitchen to service our remote location. Bandwidth was very limited and restricted to a few hundred megabytes per 24 hours. Exceeding this amount shut down the system completely for another 24 hours. The service was often interrupted and although difficult, it was progress.
In 2016, we were proud to graduate our first “double digit” group of 10 students. Three Cohort 5 alumni went on to start businesses, three joined other NGOs as employees, and 3 become teachers in community schools.
Additional classrooms and a library were soon built to accommodate more students. The solar power station was expanded to provide more power as teachers used laptops for instruction and students needed to study at night. Evening programs developed with this increased access to electricity.
Chris and Dan with Cohort 10 in 2021
A next major milestone for TLC was bringing municipal electricity to campus in 2017. This huge undertaking, which was funded by two generous donors, took almost a year and was spearheaded by Joseph Rahm with support of the local community. Los Valles, our closest neighboring village, also received municipal electricity as a part of this project. Refrigerators and freezers could store more food, laptops could be charged, evening activities flourished and campus security lights were installed.
The next phase of growth brought cohorts of 15 students, an expansion to the library and a salon/large gathering space. A new dormitory was built for our larger cohorts. Our new salon allowed us to accommodate large groups for graduation, community events and a designated place for Sunday worship service. The library expansion, called the “Relaxation Room” provided our students a place to unwind, watch movies and a comfortable spot for bible study groups.
In 2018 we focused on organizing our growing Alumni into a network. We began to apply resources to support them in various ways, recognizing that the changes that Honduras needs may be driven by our TLC graduates.
In 2019, TLC completed a Team House, as we continued to increase the number of mission teams that visited TLC from churches and colleges. We also added a covered sports facility, which allowed the students to play soccer and other sports in a safer and better way.
The next major change on campus came in mid-2019 when the Rahm family announced their return to the US. After 7 years of Joseph leading the organization as Executive Director and Campus Director, the board faced a leadership challenge. A diligent search provided Mizriam Tovar and his family to lead the TLC campus. Cohort 5 graduate Karla Mendoza stepped into the position of Director of Students. LMI hired our first full time U.S. employee, Hannah Bryant, as Executive Director.
2020 brought some challenges with Covid impacts, but we graduated 14 terrific students in Cohort 9 to join our accomplished Alumni. 2020 also brought much better internet as a local provider brought fiber to campus.
In the summer of 2021, TLC accepted its largest cohort to date, 28 students. We now strive to accept, and ultimately graduate, 30 students each year. We are adding staff and housing to support our growing family. Regional Alumni groups help to fulfill our mission across Honduras. We now have almost 100 alumni.
So – that is a brief, and somewhat rough recap, of the changes we have been a part of at TLC and with this wonderful educational ministry over the last 10 years.
Throughout all these years at TLC, the one constant has been the courage, hard work, kindness and gratitude of our students. They all come from very challenging circumstances – they come to TLC to learn and to have an opportunity to improve their lives. They pour out their blessings of love, kindness and appreciation to everyone who is privileged to be a part of their journey. From Cohort 1 – “then”, to Cohort 12- “now”, their love has remained the same through all the years.
Throughout all these years at TLC, the one constant has been the courage, hard work, kindness and gratitude of our students.
~ Chris Moore
Mr. Dan with his Business 2 students, Cohort 11 in 2022
After more than 20 visits to campus over the last 11 years – when we arrive at TLC the experience is always the same – loving, wonderful young women embrace us as we return “home”. We always cherish and celebrate these young women.
So yes, The More Things Change…. The More They Stay the Same!