Posted by: bartandannie | December 12, 2008

A quick update…

It’s been a wild few weeks since we returned from the States. We really enjoyed our time in Kansas and Iowa visiting with family and celebrating Annie’s sister, Emily’s wedding to Steven. Congratulations to the newlyweds!

The reason we haven’t written in so long is becuase we’ve been very busy at the newly opened Casa Hogar. With much anticipation on November 20th, 18 children and 5 aging entered the home with luggage in tow. Since it’s opening, we have added 6 new children for a grand total of 24 kids. We wake up at 5:45 each morning and after a quick shower, head over to Casa Hogar to get the kids bathed and ready for the day. Then it’s non-stop until 9 p.m. when the kids go to sleep. Needless to say, our days our very full. At the end of the night, updating our blog has taken a back seat to crawling into bed to rest before another day begins.

The kids are easy to love–they are all so cute and affectionate. But they also need a lot of attention and special care. Please pray for all the kids, employees, and families involved with Casa Hogar.

We recently returned from another Mission Awareness Trip to El Salvador where we served as translators. The video below is from our first trip to El Salvador in October. On that trip we had the pleasure of meeting CFCA sponsor, Tori, and her sponsored child, Miriam. Enjoy their story!

Posted by: bartandannie | October 24, 2008

Our El Salvador Experience…

From October 11th through the 18th we participated in another Mission Awareness Trip, this time to El Salvador. There were 20 people in our group and we had a fantastic time getting to know each of them. Of course, it was wonderful to meet more CFCA staff members and to interact on a daily basis with sponsored children and elderly. Please enjoy the following photo diary of some of our favorite sights and moments on the trip.

There are more palm trees in El Salvador since most of the country sits at a lower elevation than Ocotepeque.

There are more palm trees in El Salvador since most of the country sits at a lower elevation than Ocotepeque. All of the trees were full of coconuts.

 

Bart enjoys a few moments of rest before sponsors arrive at the airport.

Bart enjoys a few moments of rest before sponsors arrive at the airport.

Annie follows Bart's lead.

Annie enjoys a hammock, too.

We saw this sad monkey in a park near the airport while we waited for sponsors to arrive.

We saw this sad monkey in a park near the airport while we waited for sponsors to arrive.

Bart speaks with Santiago, a community organizer and father of a sponsored family in La Realidad.

Bart speaks with Santiago, a community organizer and father of a sponsored family in La Realidad.

Annie shows off the bag given to her by a sponsored mother in the community of La Realidad. The mothers there learn to sew and then sell their products to help support their families.

Annie shows off the bag given to her by a sponsored mother in the community of La Realidad. The mothers there learn to sew and then sell their products to help support their families.

We attended Mass with hundreds of sponsored children and their parents at this beautiful church in Tacuba.

We attended Mass with hundreds of sponsored children and their parents at this beautiful church in Tacuba.

A bunch of bananas hangs from a tree. Once again, there are more banana trees in El Salvador than in our area of Honduras due to the lower elevation and warmer climate.

A bunch of bananas hangs from a tree. Once again, there are more banana trees in El Salvador than in our area of Honduras due to the lower elevation and warmer climate.

The band that welcomed us to the community of Tacuba.

The band that welcomed us to the community of Tacuba.

A few dancers pose for a picture before taking the stage in Tacuba.

A few dancers pose for a picture before taking the stage in Tacuba.

A typical rural home in El Salvador and Honduras.

A typical rural home in El Salvador and Honduras.

Sponsors applaud as Tacuba dancers exit the stage.

Sponsors applaud as Tacuba dancers exit the stage.

Sponsored children perform the dance of the viejitos, or little old men, in Tacuba.

Sponsored children perform the dance of the viejitos, or little old men, in Tacuba.

Annie and Alma, a little sponsored girl in San Jacinto. She's only four and she can already write her name. She said that her and Annie had the same color hair.

Annie and Alma, a little sponsored girl in San Jacinto. She said that Annie and her had the same hair color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caninus Latin Americanus

Caninus Latin Americanus

Volcan Izalco as seen from Cerro Verde Park.

Volcan Izalco as seen from Cerro Verde Park.

 

A perfect calla lily grows in the forests of Cerro Verde Park.

A perfect calla lily grows in the forests of Cerro Verde Park.

At the foot of a Mayan pyramid at the Tazumal ruins.

At the foot of a Mayan pyramid at the Tazumal ruins.

We enjoy a few drinks towards the end of the MAT.

We enjoy a few drinks towards the end of the MAT.

The altar where Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed while celebrating Mass.

The altar where Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed while celebrating Mass.

We had the chance to visit the beach on the last day of the MAT. A rainstorm was blowing in from the ocean.

We had the chance to visit the beach on the last day of the MAT. A rainstorm was blowing in from the ocean.

Early morning clouds over the Pacific Ocean.

Early morning clouds over the Pacific Ocean.

A beautiful Ocotepeque sunset.

A beautiful Ocotepeque sunset.

 

From October 26th through November 11th, we will be in the States to celebrate the wedding of Annie’s sister, Emily, and her fiance Steven. We are excited to spend a week with each of our families and can’t wait to eat some Kansas City BBQ and Sioux City pizza. We will begin blogging again upon our return. Thanks for all your prayers and support!

Posted by: bartandannie | October 14, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty

Today, October 15, is Blog Action Day 2008 and blogs around the world are joining together to bring attention to the issues of poverty. We encourage you to check out the CFCA blog at http://cfca.wordpress.com/, which focuses on the many ways in which CFCA is working to understand and eradicate poverty throughout the developing world, one relationship at at time through sponsorship.

We are in El Salvador today, participating in another Mission Awareness Trip (MAT) and have been very busy during the last few weeks. We hope to post some interesting stories from this MAT when we return during the week of October 19-25th.

Enjoy the video below “Glimpses of Poverty”. We did not produce this video but it offers excellent information on poverty throughout the world.

Posted by: bartandannie | September 24, 2008

Stories for thought…

“Humanity can be divided into two groups: those who take life for granted (the non-poor) and those who cannot take life for granted (the poor).”  

– Jon Sobrino, No Salvation Outside of the Poor


We hope the following stories shed light on the quote above. Though poverty in Honduras is complex, the experiences we’ve had during the past few months have helped us to put a human face on the multiple factors that influence the lives of the poor.

 Marisol

No one can make Marisol’s two year-old brother laugh like she can. If he starts to cry, she’s the first one at his side–tickling, hugging, and comforting him. If he’s hungry, she finds a tortilla or some rice for him to eat. If he’s tired, she holds him and talks to him in a soothing voice. If he’s restless, she chases him around and plays games with him.

Marisol

Marisol

Marisol, who is only nine years old and is sponsored through CFCA, has assumed this mothering role out of love for her little brother and out of necessity. Their father abandoned the family and their mother is a resistolera, a drug addict who huffs glue to get high. Their grandmother takes care of Marisol and her little brother in the evenings, after a full day of selling vegetables at the market. Marisol’s life is full of violence-particularly when her father returns to bully her grandmother and mother. He is a drunk and, in Marisol’s presence, has tried to machetear (use a machete on) her grandmother. Marisol tells stories of life in her house calmly, not holding back any details, as if she doesn’t know that these things aren’t normal.

Upon receipt of the news that she and her brother could live in
Casa Hogar, Marisol jumped up and down with excitement. She told us how thrilled she was to have her own bed for the first time in her life. She also loved that the girls’ room is painted pink–her favorite color. She was relieved to hear that her little brother would live just across the hallway and that her grandmother could visit often. Moving into Casa Hogar will represent a great change in Marisol’s life. Not only will she have her own bed for the first time, but she’ll also be able to enjoy her childhood for the first time.

Nilson

Nilson, a thirteen year-old sponsored boy with considerable soccer skills, is our next-door neighbor. Yesterday, he told us that he hasn’t attended school for over three weeks due to a teachers’ strike.

Nilson

Nilson

In Ocotepeque, the teachers’ strike, or huelga, began in the public elementary schools before progressing to the colegios, which are roughly equivalent to a combined middle and high school. Before the colegio teachers mobilized, however, their students decided to walk out of the classrooms in support of their instructors. According to the teachers, the national government has yet to adequately pay all teachers in Honduran schools. As the national teachers union and government negotiate, the children wait.

A minor casualty of this ongoing dispute was the Independence Day celebration on September 15th. As the Ocotepeque public schools were closed due to the strike, only the private schools participated in the annual parade. The parade lasted a brief 20 minutes. This impact, however, pales in comparison to the toll such strikes have on the education of Honduran youth, such as Nilson, who wish to study, but soon learn that factors outside of their control prevent them from doing so.

Melvin and Elmer

For three days, Melvin, father of a sponsored child, lay sick in the Arizona desert without water or food. When he heard the border patrol driving nearby, he walked towards their truck with his hands in the air, turning himself in for deportation. For three years prior to those painful days in the desert, Melvin had worked the dangerous job of nighttime bank security guard in order to save the money necessary to make the month-long journey to the U.S. He paid a coyote, a human smuggler, to guide him across the border and through the desert. The coyote took his money and abandoned Melvin. Those three days in the desert cost $6,000, three years of savings for Melvin and his family.

When he left for the U.S., his wife had just given birth to their son, Elmer. The family lives in a remote, mountain village where there are very few jobs available. Melvin wanted to provide his young wife and son with a more dignified life than he would be able to provide working as a day laborer in and around Ocotepeque. He is disappointed that couldn’t hold out longer in the desert, that he couldn’t seguir adelante (continue on) for his family’s sake.

After attending a reunión (a meeting for families of sponsored children) in Melvin’s community, he invited us and two other project staff members into his simple, adobe home for dinner. They set the small plastic table and laid out a delicious meal of roast chicken, vegetable soup, and tortillas and even bought each of us a Coke to drink. During our meal, two year-old Elmer chased baby chicks around the dirt floor. As we left that afternoon, Melvin gave us a bunch of about 20 bananas and invited us to visit them again soon.

Thanks for letting us share these stories with you.

Posted by: bartandannie | September 19, 2008

Un feliz cumpleaños…

Hi everyone,

I really enjoyed receiving your birthday messages yesterday (notes on our blog, emails, phone calls, and even a special birthday video from friends and family in Kansas City). Thanks for remembering me as I turned 31…one year older and one year wiser 🙂

Though Annie and I could not celebrate with family and friends in the U.S., the project staff and our neighbors ensured that this birthday would be memorable for many years to come. For example, by 5:30 a.m. yesterday, the project staff had already serenaded us, set off two dozen fireworks, and doused me with cold water as if my team had just won the Super Bowl. I think that everyone was still in a very festive mood since they had just celebrated their national independence day on September 15th.

 Thanks once again for remembering my birthday. Enjoy the pictures and video below.

 Mil gracias,
Bart

Our friend, Santos, brought Bart a birthday cake. It was delicious!

Our friend, Santos, brought Bart a birthday cake. It was delicious!

 

Miriam and Jesus serenade Bart at 5 a.m.

Miriam and Jesus serenade Bart at 5 a.m.

Luis tries to get Bart with a bucket of cold water (a Honduran tradition).

Luis tries to get Bart with a bucket of cold water (a Honduran tradition).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rosie, project sewing instructor, gives Bart a bouquet of wild flowers for this birthday.

Rosie, project sewing instructor, gave Bart a bouquet of wild flowers for his birthday.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Students from the project sewing class gave Bart a leather wallet.

Students from the project sewing class gave Bart a leather wallet.

 
Project staff put icing on Bart's face as he tried to cut the cake.

Bart gets icing on his face while cutting the cake. (Another Honduran tradition!)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Annie cut the cake after receiving an icing-laden kiss from Bart.

Annie cut the cake after receiving an icing-laden kiss from Bart.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Bart thanks Antonia, the project cook, for her gift.

Bart thanks Antonia, the project cook, for her gift.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Miriam, her son, Angel Enrique, Bart, Annie, Santos, and Cindy share an italian-style spaghetti dinner to finish out the birthday celebrations.

Miriam, her son, Angel Enrique, Bart, Annie, Santos, and Cindy share an italian-style spaghetti dinner to finish out the birthday celebrations.

 
 
 
 
(Above) A video of Bart’s traditional Honduran birthday party.
(Below) The Happy Birthday video from Annie’s family and the Kansas City CFCA office.
Posted by: bartandannie | September 5, 2008

Top Ten Mission Awareness Trip Moments

Right now, we are sitting in the project’s meeting hall. It is 95 degrees, we are sipping coffee, and our jeans are clinging to our legs. Despite all of this, we now know why many people remark that Ocotepeque enjoys a más fresco (cooler) climate than much of Honduras. Last week, we visited two other CFCA projects – El Progreso and Santa Barbara – and over the course of eight days, we lost a combined total of 25 pounds in water weight. OK, so that’s an exaggeration, but it was really hot…

From Aug. 23-30th, we interpreted for 21 CFCA sponsors who were visiting Honduras through a Mission Awareness Trip (MAT). The trip offered the group an opportunity to meet their sponsored friends and families as well as learn more about CFCA programs in the field. We enjoyed seeing more of Honduras and meeting the sponsors, who had traveled from states such as Arkansas, Wyoming, Montana, Wisconsin, and Texas.

Instead of giving you the “play-by-play” on our trip, we’d rather just share a few highlights with you and encourage you to take a MAT -no two trips are the same. Click here for more information on CFCA Mission Awareness Trips. 

Below, you can watch a video of our group’s arrival in the community of Los Naranjos in Santa Bárbara. The children are all holding up heart-shaped signs with their sponsor’s name. They welcomed us as representatives of all CFCA sponsors. You can hear fireworks and marimbas in the background.

 

Top Ten Mission Awareness Trip Moments

 10. Copan Ruins in 60 minutes or less Unfortunately, both of us could not visit the ruins since Annie helped translate for sponsors who wanted to go shopping instead. So, Bart offered to accompany the group going to the ruins (poor guy-he so wanted to shop). Upon arrival, the group obtained a guide fluent in four languages and eager to share every last detail about the history of the ruins-which would have been fine if there had been more time. After spending the first 45 minutes discussing native vegetation, the group had to speed-walk through the rest of Mayan city in about an hour. We’re already planning a return visit so that we can give this archaeological treasure the time it deserves.

A view of the Mayan ruins at Copan.

A view of the Mayan ruins at Copan.

 9. “Francisco” Sinatra sighting in San Pedro Sula Though our hotel in San Pedro was very nice, each night during dinner, we became an unwilling audience for a “battle of the bands” between a Honduran lounge singer doing Frank Sinatra covers and a local marimba duo pounding out traditional Honduran tunes. We sought refuge in the slightly quieter lobby where Jingle Bell Rock shared air time on the hotel radio with Kenny G.

 8.  Buy! Sell! Trade! In the subproject of Guajoco (Santa Barbara GJ), we enjoyed our first opportunity to buy authentic souvenirs from some “crafty” sponsored mothers. They weave everything from baskets to purses to sombreros out of dried palm leaves. Consider our Christmas shopping done.

 7. Honduran Idol While in Santa Barbara, we were treated to performances by CFCA sponsored children, their families, and the project staff. What a talented bunch! Despite the sweltering temperature and a crowd of around 300 people, the performers kept everyone entertained with their songs, skits, and dances. Even Simon Cowell would be hard pressed to criticize those brave performances. Enjoy the video below of two of the many performances that night.

 6. Honduran History (the unabridged version) Throughout the MAT, we translated various presentations for the sponsors. One evening before dinner, we translated a presentation on Honduran history which began with the voyages of Christopher Columbus and ended with a discussion of current political events. Annie’s voice gave out sometime during the War for Independence and it still hasn’t fully returned.

 5. Bob Sing-A-Long During the trip, we really enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time with Bob, Annie’s great uncle and CFCA president, and his wife, Cristina. They are a fun couple whose example inspired us to volunteer. Bob is a talented musician and it’s always fun to hear his latest songs. He never fails to get everyone singing.

 4. Splish-Splash On the second to last day of the trip, everyone had the chance to cool off at a water park not far from the Copan Ruins. There were water slides, fountains, and diving boards. Our language skills were not in high demand since play doesn’t require any translation. It was a special day for sponsored children and sponsors alike. Everyone left the park as happy as they were sunburned.

A view of the water park near the ruins at Copan.

A view of the water park near the ruins at Copan.

 3. Green Eggs and Ham OK, so this didn’t exactly happen during the trip, but it’s still worth mentioning. On the drive back to Ocotepeque from San Pedro Sula, Luis pulled over to a roadside stand advertising Huevos de Tortuga (Turtle eggs). Apparently, it is a sign of manhood in Honduras to drink raw turtle eggs from time to time. Bart, of course, was up for the challenge. After first sipping at the eggs, which were swimming in a spicy, green salsa, he downed the remainder. He swears that the salsa tasted worse than the eggs. No negative side effects to report so far.

 2. There’s no place like home One of the most powerful experiences during a Mission Awareness Trip, and during our time as volunteers, is the opportunity to visit with sponsored families in their homes. Their houses are made of either cement block, mud bricks, or adobe and often contain only one or two rooms. Roofs are made of tin or clay tile and floors are either dirt or concrete. The kitchens consist of a cement pila (sink and washboard) and a wood-fired oven. The bathrooms are often located in a wooden latrine behind the house. These are humble homes. However, during a visit with these sponsored families, we find that the surroundings will often fade to the background as the mothers and children share their powerful stories with us. As we translated during these home visits, sponsors shared their new appreciation for their own homes and their new understanding of how many of the world’s families live each and every day.

 1. Bookstores with BOOKS! We have mixed feelings about putting this as our number one experience during the MAT, and, to be fair, it actually occurred just after all the sponsors had left. However, we’ve found that here in Honduras, simple things are often the most pleasing. As many of you know, we both like to read quite a bit and we’ve had the tradition of picking up books as we travel. Here in Ocotepeque, however, this has proven to be quite a challenge. Every time we enter a store marked librería (bookstore), we have been sorely disappointed to discover that librería appears to be the term here for paper warehouse. So, instead of poetry and politics, we find the shelves filled with Dora the Explorer wrapping paper and Coca Cola stationery. So, imagine our joy when we entered a librería in San Pedro Sula and found that it actually contained libros (books)! Bart soon found a few paperbacks on Honduran history and Annie selected the works of a Honduran poet. Now that our bedside stands are stacked with a few books, our little room here in Ocotepeque feels a lot more like home.

  

We hope that everyone had a great Labor Day Weekend and is enjoying the transition into the Fall season. We can hardly believe that football season has begun…updates on KU and Mizzou will be welcomed. Here in Ocotepeque, the schools are preparing for Independence Day celebrations, which begin on September 13th and run through the actual holiday, September 15th. We look forward to a day or two off from work.

 P.S. While the internet made a brief appearance for two weeks, it is once again on the fritz. So, we are updating our blog from the internet café in town. In addition, the power has been off and on due to some storms caused by Hurricane Gustav. If you are trying to email us or are hoping for a response to your comment, please be patient. We’ll try to check our email once a week until the internet returns to the project.

Bart makes a new friend in the community of Los Naranjos, a subproject of Santa Barbara.

Bart makes a new friend in the community of Los Naranjos, a subproject of Santa Barbara.

Sponsor, Darryl Rezak, distributes food provisions to mothers of sponsored families.

Sponsor, Darryl Rezak, distributes food provisions to mothers of sponsored families.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Annie translates during a presentation by sponsored fathers and mothers at the Santa Barbara project.

Annie translates during a presentation by sponsored fathers and mothers at the Santa Barbara project.

 

Posted by: bartandannie | August 22, 2008

A “glimpse” of Honduras…

 

We hear that a picture says a thousand words, so…we’ll let these photos and videos do the talking this week. Next week, we’ll be travelling to a different project here in Honduras for a CFCA Mission Awareness Trip so we won’t be able to update the blog. Expect to hear from us after the trip. Thanks again for your kind comments.

 

We climbed the church bell tower in Antigua Ocotepeque for this picture. The tower is REALLY tall. So much for being afraid of heights!

We climbed the church bell tower in Antigua Ocotepeque for this picture. The tower is REALLY tall. So much for being afraid of heights!

 

Bart heads back down the tiny spiral staircase that leads to the bell tower.

Bart heads back down the tiny spiral staircase that leads to the bell tower.

Annie rests during the hike to a waterfall and some hot springs nearby Ocotepeque.

Annie rests during the hike to a waterfall and some hot springs nearby Ocotepeque.

Living the dream...

Living the dream...

Bart and Luis conquer the waterfall.
Bart and Luis conquer the waterfall.

 

Bart and his soccer team at their first Saturday afternoon practice. They play on a field just behind the project.

Bart and his soccer team at their first Saturday afternoon practice. They play on a field just behind the project.

 

 

 
Posted by: bartandannie | August 16, 2008

It’s been a while…

Hi everyone. Sorry for the delay. Two weeks ago, we lost internet service and we don’t know when it will be back. So, this afternoon we tried out the local internet cafe. Fortunately, it only costs $.80 an hour–what a deal! We’ll try to keep updating once a week now that we know of a good place to go–look for new photos and video(!) soon.

 

As you know, over the past few weeks we’ve been able to meet many sponsored children and aging in and around Ocotepeque. On Wednesday, however, we had the pleasure of meeting Hunter, a CFCA sponsor. Hunter was in Honduras as part of a medical mission team working in Tela, a coastal resort town. Prior to his arrival, he had contacted CFCA Kansas to arrange a meeting with his sponsored child, Rony, who is 11 years old. We finalized the details here at the project and began preparations for the trip. 

Since only five people are able to ride in the cabin of the truck and eight people were going on the trip (Luis, Miriam, us, Rony, his mother, and another sponsored child and her mother), we decided to construct a shelter to protect those riding in the bed of the truck from the rain and wind. The end result was a Toyota “covered wagon.”

Our "Toyota Covered Wagon" the night before the journey to Tela.

Our Toyota "covered wagon" the night before the journey to Tela.

Our alarm clock went off at 3 a.m. Wednesday, and after a quick shower and some Dramamine to fight carsickness, we began the seven-hour trip to the coast. For breakfast, we stopped at a roadside restaurant with an all-you-can-eat-buffet for only $2 per person! As we approached Tela, the mountains gave way to sprawling banana and African palm plantations. The temperature seemed to skyrocket as the elevation dropped.

Throughout the journey, Rony was very excited to meet his sponsor for the first time. Hunter and his family began sponsoring Rony when he was 9 years old. Through sponsorship, Rony was finally able to attend school. (He is currently in 2nd grade). Also, Hunter and his family have funded improvements to Rony’s home, buying them 16 bags of cement and enough corrugated tin to build a small addition to the current adobe structure.

As we pulled into the hotel, Rony spotted Hunter, and before Luis had even parked, Rony had jumped out of the car and into Hunter’s arms. We quickly followed to help sort out the flurry of greetings in Spanish and English.

Rosa (Rony's mother), Hunter, and Rony meet for the first time.

Rosa, Hunter, and Rony meet for the first time.

 The excitement and emotion of that initial meeting never waned throughout the afternoon. Hunter was eager to learn more about Rony, his family, and his community. Rony happily provided answers to the questions, obviously thrilled to finally be chatting with his sponsor face to face. To us, it was clear that Rony and Hunter shared a special bond, a relationship forged through the exchange of letters, photos, and drawings over the years. In treating Rony to a banana split, challenging him to a game of soccer on the beach, and offering him advice on how to respect others, Hunter treated Rony as if he were another of his own children. He made sure Rony received medicine for his cough and that he did not go home empty handed. For all that Rony’s life has been enriched through sponsorship, we witnessed how Hunter’s life, and that of his family, will be forever changed as well.

Hunter shares some gifts he brought for Rony and his family. The gifts ranged from new shoes to a soccer ball.

Hunter shares some gifts he brought for Rony and his family. The gifts ranged from new shoes to a soccer ball.

            As a storm rolled in off the Caribbean Sea, we said our goodbyes. There were some tears, many hugs, and dozens of thank-you’s exchanged. The next day Hunter left for the U.S. and Rony returned to his village outside of Ocotepeque, but neither of them (nor us) will forget their afternoon together in Tela.

Posted by: bartandannie | August 4, 2008

Thanks for the comments…

We want to tell everyone how much we appreciate and look forward to receiving your comments. We’ll try to respond to them either with a direct email or a comment on this site. Keep them coming! We’ll talk to you soon…

Posted by: bartandannie | August 1, 2008

Has anyone seen our siesta?

Despite what many guidebooks tell you, not everyone in Latin America takes a siesta (an afternoon nap or rest period). Over the past two and a half weeks, we’ve discovered that the project staff not only works right through the siesta, but that they often work beyond their scheduled hours without taking any breaks. Though we are volunteers, we’ve essentially adopted their work schedule, and since there is always plenty to do here, we’ve been busy since day one. Here are some of the highlights so far…
 

Benefits Distribution

On our third day here, we travelled with Luis and Adolfo, one of the project social workers, to the remote, mountain community of San José for the monthly food distribution. Though the trip offered us incredible views of towering pine forests and rock-strewn hillsides, our eyes rarely left the road. (Think of the commercials advertising four-wheel drive trucks scaling impossibly rugged terrain.)

A view of the countryside on the way to San José.

A view of the countryside on the way to San José.

Upon arriving at the meeting site, which consisted of a sheet metal shelter with a dirt floor, we were greeted by two-dozen sponsored families. Sprinkled amongst the women, children, and cowboy-hat clad men, were several horses, a half dozen skinny chickens, and the requisite three or four dogs (or chuchos, as they call them here). We unloaded all the food provisions for that month from the truck and stacked them along one side of the shelter. After a brief introduction from Luis and a warm welcome from the crowd, we began to help families sign for receipt of their benefits. Several of the parents were unable to write, and instead, had to place their thumbprint on the signature line. Next, Luis called out each family’s name to receive their monthly provisions of coffee, sugar, rice, powdered milk, corn flakes, margarine, crisco, soup, noodles, tomato paste, and soap. (These items are meant to supplement the family’s food needs rather than provide for an entire month of meals.) Afterwards, the families loaded the bulging sacks onto horses or onto their backs for the return trip to their individual homes, which could be anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours away. The sponsored family’s physical and emotional strength continues to impress us.

Two sponsored elderly men carry their monthly provisions back to their homes.

Two sponsored elderly men carry their monthly provisions back to their homes.

A Birthday Celebration

One of the benefits that the Ocotepeque project provides for sponsored children is a birthday celebration. We were lucky enough to attend one of these parties on our first Saturday in town (yes, the project staff works Saturdays, too!). This particular celebration was for sponsored children with a birthday in April, May, or June, which added up to about 200 children, their mothers, and their younger siblings. For these special celebrations, the project rents out a local water park for the day and gives everyone a fried-chicken dinner (complete with french fries and soda, of course). Needless to say, the kids are elated for a day of swimming and soccer. The kids swam in anything they had, very few of them had an actual swimsuit. Bart played soccer with some of the older boys and upon realizing that he was outmatched (despite the fact that they were barefoot), soon convinced them to play basketball instead. He’s enjoying his height advantage here. During a game of Around-the-World, Carmen, an 11 year-old sponsored girl, beat the pants off of all the boys present (including Bart!). Does the WNBA have scouts in Honduras?

A Shopping Trip

Sometimes there are supplies that the project needs that aren’t available here in Ocotepeque. For example, there are no stores here that sell anything related to computers. So, if you need ink or a new mouse, you have to travel to San Pedro Sula, the industrial capital of Honduras. Now that we are nearing completion of the Casa Hogar (the home for neglected elderly and children), there were a few things that the project needed from San Pedro: a computer, a chalkboard, enough fabric to make 90 sets of sheets, and a large power generator. (Just a few every-day items.) So, at the bright and cheery hour of 4a.m. we began the four-hour journey so that we could beat the traffic.

To say that the highways here are dangerous just doesn’t express the multitude of hazards one encounters. There are potholes. There are rockslides. There are thousands of speedbumps. There are winding mountain passes. There are dogs, horses, bikes, and children crossing the highway with little concern for their own safety. At night, there is fog and rain and the occasional garrobo (an iguana-like creature). We’ve noticed that each time Luis and Miriam begin a journey on the highway here that they say a quick prayer asking for God to keep us safe. We’ve decided a few prayers along the way don’t hurt either. Besides being dangerous, the highways make it nearly impossible to avoid carsickness. Unfortunately, Bart had a taste of this yesterday. Of course, the “Salchi-bite” (a pizza with crust made out of pigs-in-a-blanket) that we had for lunch at the San Pedro Pizza Hut probably didn’t help either.

Despite all these challenges, we arrived safely to our destination. The climate in San Pedro is significantly warmer than what we’ve become accustomed to in Ocotepeque. For example, in Ocotepeque it’s usually no warmer than 85 degrees and every afternoon a rain storm moves in, bringing cool mountain breezes. In San Pedro, it must have been 90 degrees by 8:30 in the morning and the heat just kept rising all day. For about an hour there was a hurricane-like downpour, which flooded the downtown market and turned the city streets into rushing rivers. However, it brought no relief from the heat. Thank God that Luis and Miriam’s car has air-conditioning!

After a long day of shopping, we finally arrived back in Ocotepeque at midnight. Though we were happy to see more of the country, we’ve decided that we prefer our quiet, border town over the hustle and bustle of San Pedro.

 Adventures galore…

Before coming to Honduras, we told everyone that part of why we wanted to volunteer, was to have an adventure. We now know that every activity, every day will be an adventure–but we’re up for the challenge!

 

Here are a few pictures of our everyday activities and friends. Enjoy!

Bart, Luis, and Juan Ramón eating "pupusas" at a little cafe.

Bart, Luis, and Juan Ramón eating "pupusas" at a little neighborhood cafe.

 
Bart moving some construction materials at the Casa Hogar.

Bart moving some construction materials at the Casa Hogar.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Annie with a tree frog she found in the hallway.

Annie with a tree frog she found in the hallway.

Annie with our "ferocious" guard dog, Tigre.

Annie with our "ferocious" guard dog, Tigre.

Bart and our friend, Santos, the night watchman.

Bart and our friend, Santos, the night watchman.

 

 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 

 

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