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From Poverty to Practicing Dentistry

Bessy Rivera is the first generation in her family to graduate high school and university. Hear her Hearts for Honduras Story.

My name is Bessy Rivera and I am 27 years old. I was the first member of my family to not only graduate from high school but also to complete university.

My educational journey was a collaborative effort: my family’s loving support was my primary inspiration to become who I am today; the Hearts for Honduras Foundation supported me from my first day of primary school through my graduation from dental school, empowering me to transform my life and that of my family.

I was raised in a family of seven children. Three of my siblings are older, but I was the first to finish elementary school. My parents lacked a steady profession or trade, forcing our large family to live one day at a time.

At 15 years old my father was recruited into compulsory military service for those who had never enrolled in school. Through that experience he had the opportunity to learn how to read and write. My mother attended school for only one year to learn to read and write. Learning to read and write were the highest educational goals that my parents had for their children.

In 1999, our family moved to La Entrada, Copan, not knowing that God had life-changing plans for our futures.

The Hearts for Honduras School opened in 2000. At that time, our neighborhood was a very marginalized place controlled by gangs and drugs. As a young child, I was awakened by sounds of gunshots and drunken fights in the middle of the night. It was nearly impossible to dream of a life different than what we saw around us every day.

My father was a pastor of a small church and he led us in our faith journeys but he feared the danger that surrounded us. He became extremely overprotective, so much so that we couldn’t have friends or leave the house often. While many of the neighborhood children were enrolling in the new Hearts for Honduras school, my father would not permit us to attend.

I feared that I would never receive an education, as I was already too old to enroll in 1st grade at the other local schools.

The Hearts for Honduras school welcomed older children and offered them the opportunity to begin their education.

Convinced by this, my father was persuaded to allow me to attend school. In 2001, my first year at school, I was already 8 years old. I still remember the smell of new books; it's a scent that I will never forget. I took great care of my uniform and anxiously awaited the time when I could put it on and walk to school. It was another world, so different from my reality at home. But while I enjoyed learning, relationships with my classmates were strained.

Children are keenly aware of differences. At two years old, I was caught in a fire and part of my face and my left arm were marked with scars. In my house I wasn’t given special treatment because of my scars, but at school I felt discouraged by rejections, insults, and cruel nicknames.

Gradually, the other students began to accept me but I had trouble trusting in these new relationships. I spent most of my time concentrating on my studies, which became my refuge. The teachers rewarded high achieving students with medals. That motivated me to work hard to pursue my goals. I learned the perseverance necessary to take advantage of every opportunity for growth even in the face of impossibility.

I never imagined that university would be within my reach. It seemed to be an unattainable dream. I simply wanted to help my family and spend more time studying without adding to my family's financial burdens. Finishing high school was the greatest achievement I could envision, but God's plans were greater.

I had never left my house, not even on school trips, but my father reluctantly agreed to let me leave home to attend university. God used Paty Villanueva, the founder and director of Hearts for Honduras, to convince my parents of the importance of continuing my education. She invested time helping us understand the endless possibilities that exist when we desire to overcome our situation. She was committed to hundreds of children, like me, who couldn't see that change was possible. I will be forever grateful to Paty who continues to be a mentor to me.

I am grateful to God and the people He has used to create The Hearts For Honduras School because not only did it change the lives of countless children, but entire families have been impacted. Particularly because of what Hearts for Honduras has done for me, all of my younger siblings had the opportunity to pursue their education. Today, each one has completed high school education and desires to continue to university.

Today, I can confidently say that education changes us radically and makes us conscientious, responsible, and generous citizens. Presently, I have the privilege to serve the current students and staff at Hearts for Honduras as their dentist. These students would not have access to dental care without my services. It is one way that I can show my gratitude for what Hearts for Honduras has helped me accomplish in my life. I see myself in these children and encourage each one to continue their studies no matter the challenges.

The Hearts for Honduras School must continue to exist to support generations of children who see no opportunities for a future but have a desire to overcome.

Please consider sponsoring a student to equip the next generation of children in order for them to achieve their seemingly unattainable dreams.

Forever grateful for Hearts for Honduras School,

Bessy Rivera


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