About Us

We are the University of Maryland's chapter of One Thousand Schools (OTS), an international non-governmental organization (NGO) that aims to alleviate violence and extreme poverty in Honduras through education and youth empowerment.

The OTS Story

In 2004, 20 year-old University of Mary Washington student Shin Fujiyama traveled to Honduras for a volunteer trip over his winter break. He immediately fell in love with the country and its children, returning during subsequent breaks to learn more about the country, its challenges, and its people.

In 2006, Shin started One Thousand Schools, formerly known as Students Helping Honduras, with his sister, Cosmo. He established a makeshift office in his dorm room closet for the 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization and began attempting to fundraise. 

Watch Shin's 2010 TED Talk to hear about the origins of SHH and his efforts to meet Doris's challenge in his own words.

Many of the organization’s initial fundraising attempts failed miserably—including a penny drive that only made $23. Their first big breakthrough came when Shin knocked on the door of Doris Buffet, a wealthy philanthropist living close to Shin's university. She gave him a challenge: if he could raise $33,000 in the two months before the semester ended, she would donate the remaining $67,000.

Shin eagerly accepted the challenge and promised Doris that he would meet her goal. Although his team worked hard over the coming weeks to raise money, they still found themselves well short of the 33K mark with the deadline drawing near. Needing to get more people involved, Shin began organizing a walk-a-thon for the end of the semester. He and his team's hard work promoting the event ultimately paid offover 2,000 people showed up to walk for Honduras. It turned out they had not only met Doris's goal but more than doubled it, raising $82,000 in two months.

Upon graduation in 2007, Shin and Cosmo moved down to Honduras to build up the organization. Together with the people of Honduras, the organization built the village of Villa Soleada, the Villa Soleada Children’s Home, and the Villa Soleada Bilingual School.

At the same time, the team began building towards a goal of 1,000 new schools throughout Honduras. Nearly one hundred campuses and schools throughout the world got behind the campaign. By 2019, more than 7,000 people had volunteered with the organization in Honduras, 50 school projects had been completed, more than $5 million had been raised, and the organization had grown to employ more than 70 staff members—most of whom are Honduran nationals.

What OTS Does

Honduras is currently battling high levels of economic inequality and widespread gang activity, with 66% of Hondurans living in poverty and 62% of children in the poorest quintile dropping out of school by 16. OTS is driven by the belief that this can change. However, we understand that the Honduran people are the heroes in this story of change - not us. We embrace our role as sidekicks and do our best to assist the Honduran people in their fight.

OTS works directly with Honduran leaders and local communities on projects dedicated to addressing the root causes of poverty and gang violence in Honduras.

School Builds

OTS partners with local communities and local governments to build schools where they're needed. We have completed 63 schools so far, impacting over 14,000 students. It is our mission to build 1,000.  This project is the main focus of our chapter's fundraising efforts. Our goal is to completely fund one new school every yearthis comes out to roughly $35,000.

Villa Soleada

The result of a partnership with members of a shanty slum community in Northern Honduras, Villa Soleada was designed to give former residents of Siete de Abril the ability to lift themselves out of generational poverty by comprehensively addressing all of their challenges. 44 families initially moved into the village when construction finished in 2009—gaining access to a water well, electricity, land titles, adequate housing, and a sewage system for the first time. Whereas originally no one from the community was a high school graduate, now almost 100% of children in the community are on track to graduate.

Villa Soleada Bilingual School

The Villa Soleada Bilingual School (VSBS) provides the children of Villa Soleada with access to a quality bilingual education that is typically only available to the wealthy elite. All children from the village are able to attend the school on full scholarships in exchange for sweat equity from their families. Meanwhile, wealthier students from nearby areas can pay approximately $40/month in tuition to attend. The VSBS promises that every one of its graduates will be fully fluent in English, opening the doors for much higher paying jobs.

Learn more about OTS's other projects: 

Our Values

We believe in creating change. However, we want to do so in a responsible, sustainable way that respects the dignity of the communities we work with. We understand that we are the sidekicks, not the heroes, in the story of poverty's end. We follow Dr. Shawn Humphrey's Sidekick Manifesto to remind us of our role in developmental aid.

A few important principles help us adhere to our values as we work towards our mission:

Our Chapter

Started in 2010, we are now one of over 25 official OTS chapters across the United States.  Like the others, we fundraise throughout the year, spread awareness for our mission, and take an annual trip to Honduras to help build the very schools we are fundraising for. University and high school chapters remain an integral part of OTS and are the primary support for the organization's school building efforts. In fact, 100% of the funds raised by chapters go toward this specific project.

Not to brag, but we're not like just any of the other 25+ chapters. Our chapter has consistently been one of the largest, most passionate, and highest-raising chapters in all of OTS. Oh, and did we mention we've won Chapter of the Year three of the past four years?

During the COVID pandemic, our chapter took a big hit as we lost one of our greatest fundraising partners. Since then, we've been working hard to rebuild our club stronger than ever. This school year, our chapter's goal is to raise at least $7,500. Thanks to the dedication of our members and the generosity of all those who give, we are hopeful we'll reach that goal this year! If you're currently a student at UMD, we invite you to join us in being a part of something special!