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Evans’ Dos Rios Elementary and Greeley-area Rotary Clubs pitch in pennies and dollars for Honduras schools 

September 23, 2018 


Terry Frei 


 Students near Tela, Honduras display notebooks they received in a shipment from Dos Rios Elementary in Evans. (Photo courtesy Eva Serrano.)

Eva Serrano’s voice caught. She managed to fight off tears as she continued, but it was touch and go for a second.

“I was given the opportunity to give back to kids over there,” she said at Dos Rios Elementary School in Evans last week.  “It’s priceless. A lot of kids can’t go to school because of clothing, and that’s so unfair because every child should have an opportunity of education, so it’s personal to me.”

Serrano, 41, is a Spanish teacher at Dos Rios.

She came to northern Colorado — Pierce, to be exact — from her native Honduras when she was 15, then came to Greeley and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Northern Colorado. She has been teaching in Greeley-Evans School District 6 for 18 years and at Dos Rios for 10.



Since 2014, she has been at the forefront of Dos Rios’ sister school relationships with four isolated schools in Honduras, in the vast Lancetilla Botanical Garden area adjacent to the seaside resort town of Tela. That’s near the Caribbean coast on the north side of the Central American nation. In that area, electrical power in homes isn’t rare; it’s non-existent. Many who live there have some sort of family employment connection to the botanical garden and research center, but the pay is meager.

Teaching materials and student supplies are scant. It’s difficult to learn when it’s difficult to find anything to write with … or on.

Yet to attend the schools, students must wear uniforms, which means someone must purchase them. They are nothing fancy, but in many  cases, they are unaffordable. Rather than admit the simple uniform is beyond their means, many families keep their kids away.

In 2014, Serrano and her Dos Rios teaching partner, Lynn Perrich, traveled to the Tela area, visited several schools and returned to northern Colorado determined do something to aid the schools and the kids who attend them. Or would attend them, if they could.

“We decided to get donated school supplies,” Serrano said.

“We thought we could do that as a staff,” said Perrich, now retired from the district and working as a supervisor in the UNC school of teacher education. “We could use some leftover materials, things that were no longer relevant in our teaching but could be useful for them. Books, picture books, pens, markers, crayons, folders, notebooks, binders … all of the above.”


Eva Serrano talks to a third-grade class Friday about her time in Honduras and how she hopes to help Dos Rios’ sister school in the future. (Joshua Polson)

This also became a personalized learning exercise for the Dos Rios students who compared their experience to that of the kids in Central America. Dos Rios students and their parents also made contributions.

“Eva explained it to the kids, what we could do to help others and showed the picture of area,” Perrich said. “The kids were excited and it transferred to the teachers on our staff. The students helped with rounding up the material.”

Serrano stored the contributed materials until they could fill a pallet-sized box, which could weigh more than 1,000 pounds. Then she packed the box and shipped it, through Miami and at the cost of about $325 per box.

The Dos Rios kids, many of whom qualify for the free lunch program, raised the shipping costs, both through depositing loose change into boxes — the coins add up — and being a part of fundraisers, including at Buffalo Wild Wings.

“We call it ‘Pennies for Honduras,'” said Serrano. “We turn those pennies into dollars to ship the boxes.”

The bank tellers see her coming and have the coin-counting machine ready.

“Then Eva comes back and tells the kids how much there was,” Perrich said.

And how much more they need.


Principal Matt Thompson, former Dos Rios teacher Lynn Perrich and Spanish teacher Eva Serrano stand in front of a display giving details of the Honduras sister school projects. (Terry Frei)

“Many at Dos Rios don’t have a lot,” said principal Matt Thompson. “But they give all they can.”

About 15 boxes have gone to the Tela-area schools and the kids at Dos Rios — who raised nearly $5,000 for the shipping — have been able to smile over seeing pictures of the kids in Honduras triumphantly holding up spiral notebooks and other donated supplies.

They have learned about their sister schools and continued the project for four years, as many students at the K-through-5 Dos Rios have moved on to Brentwood Middle School — and in many cases, stayed involved.

The donations expanded beyond school supplies, soon including such things as shoes, clothing, soccer balls and other sports equipment.

Serrano and Perrich, plus Thompson and teachers Lindsey Mieras and Christina Condon, traveled to the Tela area in 2017 to visit the schools, and another trip is scheduled for next spring. To date, the Dos Rios personnel have paid their own way on the trips.

The project kicked up a notch when Rotary clubs — primarily the Greeley Centennial club, but also the Greeley Downtown club and the Craig club in northwest Colorado — became involved. Determined to network and represent the school in the community, Thompson joined the Greeley Centennial Rotary and shared details of the project. He’s a member of the Rotary World Community Service Committee, which includes members of the Greeley Centennial, Greeley Downtown, Greeley Red Eye and Greeley After-Hours clubs.


Local workers install a roof on a classroom building with supplies purchased through a grant spearheaded by the Greeley Centennial Rotary. (Photo courtesy Eva Serrrano.)

Soon, Rotary was funding additional projects at the Dos Rios sister schools through funds raised at the local level and, through grants, matched at the Rotary district level. Roofs on two of the four schools were in horrible condition and were replaced. Furniture, solar panels and ceiling fans were added and a second room was added on a middle-school building. Parents, enthusiastic to receive the aid, jumped in to contribute labor to the projects. One goal is to bring internet to the schools, a necessity in today’s educational environment, but that’s believed to be at least a year off. Another proposed Rotary and SSKIDS (Simple Suppers for Kids in Desperate Situations) project for the schools is to build a vocational center, where — among other things — parents and kids could make their own uniforms.

“A classroom was built last year with the Rotary money to house middle schoolers,” Thompson said. “Before that, they were being taught out in the play area.”

Plus, Rotary contributions helped fund the purchase of school uniforms.

Thompson said he considers the linkage with the Honduras schools and the projects to be aligned with the International Baccalaureate school philosophy, which involves action, service and peace, both locally and beyond.


Eva Serrano stands Friday in front of a projected photo from one of her trips to Honduras. That year she helped bring students uniforms for class. (Joshua Polson)

Serrano’s father, Justo Oliva, lives off the Honduran coast, on the island of Roatan, and periodically journeys to Tela to monitor the projects.

“He’s the checks and balances,” Thompson said. “To hire the workers, to go to the bank, to check on the work, making sure that the money is going to the right place for everything. He doesn’t draw a salary. He does it because it’s what he wants to do.”