What Broke Your Heart?

Submitted by: Kathleen Duncan, Esperança Board member & Founder of Educarte

In March of 2019 I had the tremendous privilege of spending time with a hero of mine who Oprah named her “all-time favorite guest”. Dr. Terarai Trent is an amazing woman who managed to escape a life of poverty and abuse in Zimbabwe to go on to earn multiple degrees. She has used her firm belief that education is the pathway out of poverty to help thousands of young people in her country access education. Her story inspired me to start the work Educarte is doing in Mexico.

Kathleen, Carolina (Director of Educarte), & Dr. Trent

During our visit, Dr. Trent wanted to know about the program I founded to provide kids in Rocky Point with a path out of poverty through education.  Anyone who knows me is aware that I am incredibly passionate about this work and when I talk about the program and the kids and families we support, I tend to become very emotional. After listening to me Dr. Trent grabbed both of my hands, looked into my eyes and asked:

“What broke your heart?”

I was confused by the question and told her I didn’t understand. She explained that it was very clear to her that I am extremely passionate about this program and care very much about the kids and families we support. She said that, in her experience, when a person is so passionate about and committed to something it means their heart has been broken. She shared that her early years of living in violence and poverty broke her heart and inspired the work she is now doing. She went on to share examples of several others who have overcome tremendous hardship and adversity in their lives and used their ‘heartbreak’ as inspiration to help others. She then asked me again what it was that broke my heart and led me to this work in Mexico.

I told her I was at a loss. I was blessed to be born into a wonderful, loving family in a country where I was able to get a free education through high school and receive a scholarship to attend college. I explained that, unlike her and others she had talked about, I have not suffered severe hardship or had to overcome extreme adversity in my life. I told her I didn’t think that my work in Mexico was inspired by heartbreak. She looked at me and said, “For the past seven years you have devoted your life to improving the lives of children living in a country that is not your own. You just cried while sharing with me the stories of some of the children and families your program supports. Clearly, your heart has been broken.”

She then went on to explain that she believes that to develop great passion and commitment for something, your heart does not have to break for yourself. Your heart can break for others.

Kathleen & a student in the Educarte program.

At that moment I realized that I did start this program because my heart has been broken.

It began to break on my first visit to Rocky Point in 1989 when I saw so many kids and families living with little or no hope for a better future. It broke a little more during every vacation my family took there over the next 25+ years.

It broke further in 2012 when I started spending three days a week volunteering at a children’s shelter in Rocky Point and saw kids filled with so much potential not having had the chance to realize that potential.

It broke even more in 2015 when I began preparing to launch a program to provide kids in this community with the resources and support they need to go to school. I spent weeks listening to hard-working parents share how a lack of resources had left them having to choose between meeting their children’s basic needs and sending them to school.  Many of these parents cried as they shared with me how badly they wanted their children to be able to get an education so they could have a better life.

Today, only 5 ½ years after launching Educarte, we are supporting more than 800 students. My amazing local team operates seven homework clubs throughout the community to provide hundreds of students with the daily academic support and resources they need to succeed in the classroom. We have helped dozens of our students go on to college and a few now have their college degrees.

My heart is full thinking about so many amazing, resilient young people having access to the educational opportunities they need to transform their lives. Yet, my heart continues to break knowing that there are so many more waiting for our support.

The good news is that your heart doesn’t have to break to help us give young people in Rocky Point hope for a better life through education. You can simply make a tax-deductible one-time gift or recurring donation to support our program at Esperanca/Mexico