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Whitworth alumni serve at Honduran orphanage

May 31, 2013

For the past year, Whitworth alums James and Ashley (McFarland) Bettis, both ’07, have put their skills in teaching and nursing into service at Montana de Luz orphanage, in Honduras.

Montana de Luz is a faith-based organization that provides comprehensive care for 32 children and adolescents who have been affected by HIV/AIDS. Many of the children have parents or family members that are still living, but because of the current economic situation in the country they are unable to care for their children.

“I really saw a unique opportunity to work with youth who have been marginalized in society and I thought I could help with the educational part of their lives,” says James, an elementary school teacher. “I think it is valuable living in a culture different from your own for some period of time in order to empathize with others who live outside our culture.”

At Montana de Luz, the Bettises each found their niche for service. James, who graduated from Whitworth with a degree in Spanish and elementary education, helps the children with their homework and reading instruction. He works primarily with the home-school program that was started this year to help some of the most challenged kids succeed in school. He has also been able to help with maintenance around the orphanage.

Ashley earned a nursing degree from Whitworth. At Montana de Luz, she prepares and administers the children’s antiretroviral medications while also serving as a school nurse and instructing the children in health education.

“My professors at Whitworth always encouraged me to pursue my calling, not just a career,” Ashley says. “That played a big role in my decision to come to Honduras and in the way I view the work I do here.”

“Whitworth planted the seed in my mind to consider living abroad in order to serve,” James says. “While at Whitworth I was exposed to so many different opportunities for going abroad. I was able to work and study abroad during Jan Term through the education program and it really solidified my desire to live and work abroad in the future.”

The Bettises will return to Seattle in August. James will work for the Northshore School District in a dual language program, and Ashley will return to her career in pediatric nursing.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.