In 2010, following a mission trip to the country, Bethany Wentz and her soon-to-be husband, Brad, made a commitment to help improve the quality of life for the people of Pinalejo, Honduras. Over the course of the last eight years, the couple partnered with Bakerstown Alliance Church in Gibsonia, Pa. to provide meals, shoes, school supplies and other basic necessities that most people here take for granted. They called their initiative “Dream Big Honduras.”
Dream Big Honduras has accomplished many things since its inception, most recently being granted nonprofit status. With the approval of its nonprofit standing, Mrs. Wentz said Dream Big Honduras is able to continue to pursue its mission fervently.
And dreaming big is certainly on the agenda.
Mrs. Wentz said Dream Big Honduras has always supported education for the children of Pinalejo, recognizing that education is the foundation for which future security is built. For those unfamiliar with the education system in Honduras, the statistics are sobering. While the Honduran constitution states that a free, primary education is “obligatory” for children between the ages of 7 and 14, the reality is, fewer than half of all Honduran children complete their education at the primary level. Lack of schools, adequate professional staff and the exorbitant cost of educational materials all contribute to these sobering statistics. (Source: U.S. Library of Congress)
Essentially, many children were not making it beyond grade six under the current system. Even those who desire to go on beyond grade six are required to pay up to $400 per year for the privilege. “That might not sound like much, but considering the average Honduran lives on $2 a day, and is trying to pay for food and electricity and other necessities, $400 a year for schooling per child is a lot of money,” said Mrs. Wentz. “And paying for schooling beyond grade six under these circumstances unfortunately isn’t a priority for most families.”
Without a proper education, some of those children found themselves in less than desirable situations. “It was hard to see children we’ve invested in ending up in street gangs, or pregnant at 12,” said Mrs. Wentz. “We were running into so many situations with kids we had grown attached to ending up in a bad place because they couldn’t afford to go on to 7th grade. We wanted to change that.”
The realization that the public education system in Honduras is not working for the majority of its children prompted Dream Big Honduras to launch the DBH Tutorial Academy – a place where the children the nonprofit has been supporting can go after school each day to receive tutoring and other educational assistance. The academy opened its doors in February 2018 and houses two, full-time staff members who are able to assist students with homework and other educational needs. It also provides access to computers and the Internet and a library. “They basically have all the tools they need, because these kids are going home to a one-room house with nowhere to do their homework.”
Between 30 to 40 children use the academy for support purposes. Of those children, Dream Big Honduras also is sponsoring education beyond grade six for 10 of them. The academy costs $1,200 per month to operate. It is a huge undertaking for the nonprofit, which works hard to drum up financial support to keep its missions going.
Moving forward, Mrs. Wentz said Dream Big Honduras would like to fund its own school in Honduras for students in grades seven and eight, as well as vocational training. “We want our children to have options for their future, and we think this is the best way to make that happen.”
In order to begin the next phase of their journey, Mrs. Wentz said the nonprofit will be required to start a sister nonprofit in Honduras, as required by the Honduran government. She and some Dream Big Honduras board members have planned a trip to the country in January 2019 to begin the process. “Ideally, we’d like to pull it off by 2020, but we’re not sure how financially possible it will be to make it happen that quickly.”
How to Donate
Inspired to help Dream Big Honduras on its mission to provide quality education to the children of Pinalejo?
Monetary donations can be sent to:
Dream Big Honduras
11269 Babcock Blvd
Valencia, PA 16059
*Please make checks payable to Dream Big Honduras*
Online donations also are accepted via paypal. To learn more, visit the Dream Big Honduras website.
As a former journalist, I’m sure some of you will find what I am about to say very bizarre, but here goes: reading the news is bad for you.
There is study upon study suggesting that reading the news on a regular basis – or worse yet, saturating yourself with 24/7 news coverage – is bad for your mental and physical well-being.
For longer than I was a journalist, there was a saying: “if it bleeds, it leads.” And sadly, there is a lot of bleeding going on in local and national media outlets. If you are among the consumers who feels that there is nothing but negativity when you turn on the news or open the paper or a favorite magazine, what do you do? Being informed is important, but so is our sanity.
As I’ve been thinking about how to combat this dilemma, I decided that asking people to totally ignore the news is unrealistic. As a community and a nation, we need to be informed about what is happening around us and across the globe. And asking newspapers and TV stations to cover more positive news also is a bit unrealistic. Both outlets only have so much space and so much airtime, and of course they are going to report on the “big-ticket” items before anything else.
So, I’ve decided to use my Write Reflection blog to help spread some good news. I’ve admittedly been struggling for awhile to keep the blog populated with fresh content. Blogging only about my business seems not only boring, but also a waste of my writing abilities. Moving forward, I plan to feature “good news” stories on my blog. This might include features on startups, non-profits doing great things or even the guy down the street who might have an amazing story waiting to be told. As the saying goes, everyone has a story to tell. I would like to tell those stories.
If you have a business, a nonprofit or know an unsung hero just waiting for the world to hear his or her story, please contact me today to help me share a lot of good news, one blog post at a time.
Have you heard? The U.S. Supreme Court revoked the Church of Scientology’s tax-exempt status in 2016. Didn’t know that? There have been several stories about it. Quick! Find one and share it on your social media and email it to everyone you know.
If you think that bit of news was juicy, how about the fact that Pope Francis openly supported Donald Trump during his bid for the presidency? The Daily Presser was first to break the news of Pope Francis’ strong support for Trump and the story quickly went viral on Facebook.
How about that story about Glen Eagles hospital issuing an urgent warning after seven women died after sniffing perfume samples that were delivered in the mail? Several outlets were reporting that the killer perfume is the latest attempt by terrorists to hit us on our home turf.
Most shocking of all is the news that Ted Nugent, beloved conservative icon, was killed in a hunting accident in April. TheLastLineofDefense.org reported on Nugent’s untimely demise on April 28, with the news quickly being shared all over social media.
Fake News by the Numbers
Before you open Facebook and share any this dreadful news, you might want to read on a bit. None of the above stories are legitimate, but you’d never know it based on the number of hits they’ve received on social media sites.
Fake news is not a new thing, but it certainly has gained in popularity over the last year, particularly during the presidential election cycle. In fact, fake news has become so prevalent that Fortune.com has a “Top Fake News Stories of the Week” section dedicated to exposing it.
Facebook – where the spreading of fake news is rampant due to the ease of which you can like and share – announced it is testing a tool designed to help its users identify fake news sites and posts. The educational tool will pop up at the top of your news feed and provide information about how to determine if the items you are seeing in your feed are legitimate and flag items known to be fake.
Google, one of the most popular search engines in the world, has banned fake news sites from its advertising network. Like Facebook, Google also is incorporating a fact-checking tool that places fact check tags on snippets of articles generated by its news results search function.
Even though search engines and social media sites are doing more to help combat the fake news epidemic, ultimately it is up to consumers to decide whether what they are reading is fact or fiction.
According to this report on the Pew Media and Research Center’s Journalism and Media website, 64 percent of Americans polled said they believe fake news is causing confusion about basic facts. Another 23 percent said they had shared fake news themselves, both knowingly and unknowingly.
Age does not seem to play a factor in the ability to spot fake news. In November 2016, Stanford University researchers discovered that many students were unable to discern the difference between a news article, a persuasive opinion piece and a corporate advertisement. The researchers warned that this inability to vet information made this age group particularly vulnerable to falling victim to fake news.
Real vs. Fake
As a trained journalist, I can easily spot a fake news site or article. Sadly, this is not a skill that a majority of Americans seem to possess. Let’s take a look at some of the easiest ways to spot whether that article you’re reading is legitimate news, based on a truth with some misleading facts or an outright fabrication.
I’m not even going to address the argument about conservative versus liberal media outlets. While it is true that some outlets lean one way or another, that doesn’t automatically mean they are producing fake news. The suggestion that because something came from MSNBC or Fox News makes it fake is one of my biggest pet peeves. Slanted, maybe. But outright fake? No.
One of the first ways to assess if an article is real or fake news is to look at who wrote it. Is there a byline from a real journalist from a real news outlet on the story? If so, then you can be fairly certain the story is reporting real facts. Once you have sorted whether the story is by a real journalist, the next thing you’ll want to do is to look at the writer’s bio. Most media outlets include bios for their professional staff members on their websites. Looking at a writer’s bio will help to determine if the article is a news piece, an opinion piece or a corporate advertisement disguised to look like an article (otherwise known as an advertorial or sponsored content).
Among the biggest mistake most novices make when reading an article is failing to recognize under which classification it falls. A news article, by its very definition, is an article written with the intent to inform readers and contains facts that easily can be verified. News stories are never written in the first person, so if you are seeing an article that uses the words I or me in it, chances are, it’s not a news article, but rather an opinion piece.
Real news stories include multiple sources, especially if discussing a controversial claim. Sources are almost always identified by name and title. While anonymous sources have their place in reputable journalism, any publication that is always citing anonymous sources and no one else is probably not trustworthy. Keep in mind that facts can always be verified. So, if you read a story and find yourself doubting it, take time to research the facts to see if they are accurate, especially before hitting that share button and spreading misinformation.
Opinion pieces take any number of subjects, and present them from the writer’s point of view. An editorial, for example, is the opinion of the media outlet in which it appears. Most media outlets separate opinion pieces from news and features, so they are easily identifiable. Columnists also are a form of opinion writer. Some of the more well-known current columnists include Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, David Brooks and George Will. While these columnists are basing their pieces on actual current events, they include their opinion on those current events. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve seen someone post a column or editorial on social media, mistaking it as a news article. It is a pretty common mistake.
Advertorials – also known as sponsored content – generally are identified as sponsored content or an advertorial with a special notation on the article. Reputable media outlets take great pains to properly identify these story-like advertisements. Sponsored content is just one more way for advertisers to reach their targeted audience, and has a better overall return on investment than native advertising, especially where social media and online outlets are concerned. Just keep in mind that they are written from the advertisers POV.
As if all of this wasn’t confusing enough, we also have satire sites like The Onion, The Daily Currant and The Daily Mash. These sites are intended to be utter farces and make little attempt to hide that fact from readers. However, that doesn’t mean that readers don’t occasionally confuse them with real news sites. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was a recent victim of The Onion, retweeting an article titled “5 Things to Know About Sean Spicer,” which assured readers Spicer would provide the American public with “robust and clearly articulated misinformation.” Spicer commented “You nailed it. Period!” when retweeting the article. It is unclear if he realized the article was satire.
Some online outlets go to great lengths to disguise the fact that they are not legitimate sources of information.
ABC News – a longtime reputable news reporting media outlet – found itself in the middle of a spoofing incident with a fake news provider recently. A spoof site, with the website URL ABCnews.com.co, was being cited by other organizations and social media outlets under the misguided assumption that it was the official ABC news website. Fox News was among the legitimate news outlets that mistakenly used information published on the site, and then later had to retract the story and apologize to its viewers.
The spoof site, according to the Whois database, is registered to Paul Horner, an Arizona resident who has made a career out of impersonating legitimate sources online. Horner reportedly makes up to $10,000 annually just from this one spoof site alone.
One of the best tools readers have in verifying whether news is real or fake is to examine the website domain on which an article is hosted. Even when a site looks professional – complete with official-looking logos – it may not be trustworthy. In addition to using Whois, it also is helpful to check the country codes for the URL of the site. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is the agency responsible for the global coordination of the DNS Root, IP addressing and other Internet protocol resources. Between these two sources, it can be fairly easy to determine if a site is legitimate or a spoof.
If you’re like most people, all of this is enough to make your head hurt. Sadly, it’s a sign of the times in which we live, and consumers can no longer assume that just because it’s online, that it must be legitimate.
Have you ever knowingly or unknowingly shared fake news on social media? What methods do you use to decide if something is legitimate? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.
Photo Courtesy Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay
A special note from The Write Reflection: April is Autism Awareness Month. In an effort to spread awareness about autism, The Write Reflection will feature guest bloggers this month on the subject of autism. The third and final post in our series is written by Marcy Dadich.
Shari L. Berg is the owner/operator of The Write Reflection, and a writing professional for over 20 years.