As things move forward with Project 541, I have the opportunity more and more often to talk with people about how all of this started. Sometimes it’s hard to sum it up in a quick conversation, so I figured it might be beneficial to explain on here. The following are answers to the questions it seems people to want to know most.
Where is Puerto Lempira? Northeast Honduras along the Mosquito Coast. It is a region of tropical rainforest accessible primarily by water and air.
How did Project 541 start? I had been serving at the House of Hope, a children’s home in Puerto Lempira, for some time when I realized what I would be doing for the rest of my life in Puerto Lempira. Often there would be people at the gate asking for food, shoes, school supplies, and wheelchairs, among other things. After serving for an extended period of time, things can get so routine that you don’t even realize what you’re dealing with. It becomes life. So there I was in this routine of hearing one horrible story after another, and finally I got to the point where in my head, as soon as I saw a woman that wanted to talk to me, I knew the story. Her husband beat her, her kids are sick, she never finished elementary school, she can’t work, and so on and so forth. I got sick of hearing the same story again and again. Things needed changing. This was when the dream of Project 541 was really born. The goal is not to make fast change. The goal is to raise girls to be independent, self-sufficient women, and for them to raise their daughters the same way.
How many girls will live in the house? One of the main goals for the house, when built, is to have a family setting. Project 541 wants to change the stigmatism of women in the community forever. This means extreme dedication to the girls who receive the assistance of the project. That being said, we will focus on a few girls, most likely between 12-16 girls at a time living in the house, in hope that our efforts multiply!
How will you support yourself? 100% fundraising… which is daunting to say as a baby ministry. We will need your help. We hope to foster relationships now, in the beginning stages, with people who will be long term supporters of Project 541. We want you to be a part of this family, growing and developing with us. This can be your story, too. We want you to see our girls grow up, reach goals, and celebrate with us. Come and be a part of this!
Where does Esteven fit into this plan? The short answer is… he’s a part of the family! If you do not know, Esteven is a handsome, joyful, determined young man with cerebral palsy that is living with me in the United States as we prepare to launch this ministry. I first started caring for Esteven in February of 2012. He was 12 years old and around 23 lbs. He was severely malnourished and neglected at home, as the common belief in the area is that people with disabilities such as Esteven’s are cursed. He is in the US on a medical visa, receiving occupation, physical, and speech therapy, and improving every day! He will remain under my care in Honduras, as his family is not properly suited to care for him, but will continue to have them as an important part of his life. I won’t say that I will never take in another special needs child. There are some things I just can’t promise, especially when they tug at a special place in my heart. Who knows what’s in store for us!
When are you moving? May 2014! I will graduate from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a bachelor’s of science degree in Public Administration and Non-Profit Management in April of 2014, and will make the move sometime in May. When we arrive we will rent a house and settle into life as a new family.
How can I help? In the following year we are specifically asking for prayers of wisdom. We will be making big decisions about the future of Project 541, and desire to the best of our ability to do what is good, and make wise choices. We also need your financial support for the various fees that add up when becoming a certified 501(c)3 organization, which gives our donors the benefit of tax exemption. We are also building a fund for living expenses for the first year in Puerto Lempira that would cover things such as food, rent, hospital fees, school supplies, and diapers among other things. Thank you for all of your support!
Recently it has seemed like things are going by very slow. I am so eager to move, so eager to start this journey. I've got so many plans and dreams running through my head all day it's hard to have patience. Some days I think I can't do this. I can't stay in the States, finish school, raise support, and THEN go. I want to go NOW! That is what I find myself screaming at God like a disgruntled child. I remember when I was about 8 years old I wanted an Aaron Carter CD called "Aaron's Party Come and Get It" so desperately that I couldn't stop talking about it. If you don't remember Aaron Carter, he was the quintessential 90's bleach blonde tween singer that had stolen the hearts of every American girl, including me. I woke up singing "I Want Candy" and went to sleep singing "That's How I Beat Shaq". Anyways, you get my point. I was obsessed. I nagged my mom daily about the CD, and she kept telling me to be patient, and that yes I was going to get the CD. But that wasn't good enough for me. I wanted it NOW. So after a few days of being so completely obnoxious about it, my mom took me into her room, opened the door of her closet, reached behind some clothes and pulled out the CD. "Here," she said, "It was going to be a present for your birthday, but here ya go." Oh man. As I held the CD in my hands that I had so desperately desired for what seemed like so long, I was crushed. I had ruined my birthday surprise. Now I wouldn't get to rip the wrapping paper off, or pop it in my new Walkman on my birthday. I sat cross legged with my chin in my hands in front of my sister's boombox and listened, NOT on my birthday, and with no friends around to enjoy it with me. What a bummer. It would have been so much more exciting, so much more fulfilling if I had been patient and waited. Fast forward to present day, I am a single mom, 1 child living with me, and 3 living half way around the world, with a dream to minister and love the people of La Moskitia and I find myself back to the place I was when I was 8. I don't want to be patient. I don't want to wait. I want to go NOW. But I realize that if I were to pick up tomorrow and move back to Honduras without completing my degree, without fulfilling my promises and commitments here in the States, it wouldn't be quite as sweet. Sure, it would be good, just like having that Aaron Carter CD was good, but it won't be AS good as stepping off of that plane in May 2014 in Puerto Lempira, raising my hands high and knowing that I did it! After all of the hard work, I will be able pick up my girls and tell them that I will NEVER have to leave them again. Oh, how I long for that day! Alas, I learn daily lessons in patience (something that I will definitely need as a missionary), and take comfort in the fact that the girls, until I can be with them, are well fed and happy with people that I trust will care for them.
Project 541 was established by Kayla Austin in 2013 as an organization geared toward empowering girls and women in La Moskitia, Honduras.
Tegucigalpa serves as the capital for the Republic of Honduras. Honduras is the 2nd largest Central American country but is also the 6th poorest. The average gross domestic product (GDP) per person is $5,500 USD. More than half of the population of Honduras lives in poverty. (worldscapitalcities.com)