A bittersweet Mother’s Day

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The thought of losing a child is unbearable, and if it were your only two that you lost together, just incomprehensible. Today is Mother’s Day and while I’m celebrating with my sons, my thoughts are also with Maria Elena in Honduras. This is the first Mother’s Day she will have to endure without her sons, Hector (8) and Cesar (12), who were struck by a car last September while walking home from school.

The village of Flores is divided by a main highway and people cross it every day to attend school, purchase things at the pulperia, and to collect their water at the spigot. Since this tragedy, the barrio of Mira Flores gathered together to hire a van to transport their children across this dangerous road to school, fearing the loss of another child.

For the past 10 years we have been trying to bring clean water to the entire community of Flores. We have sent experts from the U.S., worked with local officials and organizations within country, and hit one road block after another. It felt as though we had exhausted all our efforts and were ready to give up, and then Hector and Cesar died. We became re-energized and determined to do this project in honor of them, and not have their deaths in vain. The project is also for their mom…wanting her to know that their memories will be kept alive and giving her hope, and something to live for.

Under the leadership of Mita Gomez and many dedicated neighbors, and with the expertise of Antonio Hasbun and others at Inersiones Diversas, the well has been drilled in Mira Flores. Members of the community are in the process of building the platform for the holding tank, and later a transformer will be installed.

We’re thankful for the financial support from Pilgrim Congregational Church U.C.C. in Lexington and many generous supporters of Esperanza in making this dream a reality. I look forward to being in Mira Flores next month, and presenting a plaque to Hector and Cesar’s parents, which will be placed at the well…and having my first taste of clean water.

 

 

Investing in the greatest asset, the children.

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Honduras remains the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 65% of the population living below the poverty line. The government provides public education through the 6th grade, but families are responsible for purchasing uniforms, shoes and books/materials which often prevents children from attending school. Only 51% of the children registered complete primary school.

Esperanza would like to continue fighting poverty through education. During our last trip we were introduced to many children who shared the dream of returning to school. Roxana Nunez, the teacher of a one room school house for grades kindergarten through sixth asked for assistance for two of her students who had recently been orphaned. Struggling in poverty compounded with the loss of both parents felt very hopeless and offered no future. Fortunately, we were able to enroll Natahaly (7) and Mauricion (9) back in her school and also their brother, Jeral (14) into another school. The two older siblings would be expected to work and provide for their family.

One day, little Raul appeared at our front gate. This shoe-less little guy had an adorable smile, and I inquired why he wasn’t in school? He simply said, “we have no money.” Next thing I knew, I was off hand-in-hand to see his house and meet his mother. Although the majority of our village would be considered “poor”, there are certainly degrees, and Raul’s family was near the bottom. Soon I was in their one room home that doesn’t have windows or other basics, listening as his mom described their situation. She was interested in having Raul attend 2nd grade but it wasn’t something she could even consider as she was struggling day to day to buy rice and beans for her family. With her permission, and the assistance of his teacher, Roxana, we were off to the “pulperia” to purchase a uniform, shoes, underwear, books and a backpack for approximately $100.

Word travels fast in Flores…even across the highway, and before I knew it, I had two brothers ( Alex, 10 and Rolando 13) standing at our gate saying, “we heard you put Raul in school, can you help us?” I learned that their family had recently moved to town after their father had an accident and was out of work. Although there are five children in the family, they could only scrape together enough money to send one child to school. I was impressed that this family with limited resources valued education so highly, and agreed to help enroll the boys so they could join their sister.

At the end of this month, Pilgrim Congregational Church in Lexington, MA will be holding their annual book sale. Proceeds from the sale will be given to Esperanza and will be designated to providing financial assistance to future students.

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One young woman’s dream.

 

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Last February, nineteen year old Karla arrived here with her three old son, Ostin. He was here to receive medical treatment for his congenital lymphatic malformation. Karla had to leave her five year old son, Luis, home with his father and extended family in Honduras while she spent four months living with us in the U.S.

This young woman has been through so much in her life time…having her first child at 14, and a child with a serious medical condition two years later. For anyone this would be a stressful situation, but add to it living in poverty in a country with limited medical resources. Although Karla receives emotional support from her in-laws, the majority of childcare falls upon her, and Ostin is a challenge.

Despite it all, Karla constantly expressed her love and patience with Ostin. Although it was difficult to be away from her husband and older son, she remained upbeat and appreciative. Karla is mature beyond her years and is intelligent, personable and devoted in every area of her life. Karla stood out in another way, she had a vision for the future and how she could improve life for herself and her family.

While Karla was here, she earned money cleaning houses and doing lawn care. One day I asked her, “if you had the opportunity to start you own business, what would it be?” She gave it some thought, and said. “I would raise pigs.” It was an original idea and there weren’t others selling in her area. I knew she wasn’t afraid of hard labor and she had a  business plan.

We took part of the proceeds from our annual book sale, and tripled the amount Karla had made during her stay. The day Karla returned home, she purchased two pigs. By the time we visited her six months later, she had 37 pigs and piglets. We’re thrilled with Karla’s success and hope she’ll be able to mentor other women in starting their own businesses and gaining independence.

 

 

 

 

“To Whom Much Is Given…

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…much is expected in return.” Esperanza has BIG plans for 2016! This month we have received some of the largest donations of financial support, and we are dedicated to using these gifts to make a significant impact in the lives of many people in need, living in Honduras.

We are now fully committed to offering financial assistance for two essentially needed projects for the village of Flores. The first will be supporting the Patranato Board’s plans in constructing a community owned building into a police station. If Flores provides the building, the National Police will provide the personnel. Unfortunately, this is truly needed because Honduras continues to be extremely dangerous.

Esperanza is also in the midst of plans with the barrio of Mira Flores in providing their community with access to clean water. This area has no means to obtain water and people have to cross a highway for this basic necessity. It’s a dangerous endeavor,  and tragically two young lives were lost crossing this same road. In memory of Hector Daniel (8) and his brother, Cesar Damien (12) we will complete this project, for their family and their neighbors.

We are so incredibly grateful to our Esperanza supporters for affording us the possibility to continue our efforts in helping the people in Honduras. Thank you for sharing our desire in making a difference in the lives of others.

Wishing you all a joyous and peace filled New Year. Thank you for your continued support.

 

 

 

 

We are the conduits.

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Yesterday, I found myself filled with exhilaration, and kept repeating “this is amazing”, “the doctors will be thrilled”, “this will help so many people” and other similar sentiments. No matter how many times I’m on the receiving end of donations, I always get this “high” feeling, knowing I’m going to be able to pass them along to people in extreme need. Once again, we would like to express our sincere appreciation to Brother’s Brother Foundation (www.brothersbrother.org) who has provided us with thousands of dollars of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals for our work in Honduras.

Next month we will have the opportunity to hand carry several large bags containing everything from pain relievers and antibiotics to braces and IV sets. My mind spins as I picture the people who will come to our house looking to see my husband (a.k.a. “the American doctor”), to helping patients in our town’s Centro de Salud (health clinic) to meeting with our Honduran doctor/friend and sharing these gifts.

Brother’s Brother Foundation gives us the means to help save lives, alleviate discomfort, and enable us to support trustworthy doctors within country. Access to health care in Honduras is extremely limited for many reasons…distance in rural areas, affordability, lack of medicine/supplies etc. Doctors are required by the government to work part time in public hospitals, but often go months without pay. The hospitals are ill equipped and we’ve seen Coke bottles holding used syringes, newborns lying under light bulbs instead of being in incubators, and people turned down for operations because hospitals didn’t have oxygen. How refreshing it will be to offer sterilized gauze, surgical blades, and garments and help reduce the possibilities of infection. How fortunate we are to be able to offer parents medicine to help reduce their children’s fevers or treat their infections, often keeping a more serious problem from developing.

We are the conduits…connecting valuable resources with wonderful people in need.

Our Summer Ritual Continues

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On June 24th, Noel (13 years old) and Astrid (10 years old) returned to our home for nine weeks. In 2006, Noel received life-saving cardiac surgery, and two and half years later Astrid arrived for neurosurgery to correct her “tethered” spinal cord and orthopedic surgery for her “cavus” foot.

Both children were here for their annual check-ups at Tufts Medical Center and Shriners Hospital for Children (Springfield). Adjustments were made to Astrid’s AFO (ankle foot orthosis) which she is required to wear throughout the day. Noel underwent an electrocardiogram, ultrasound and stress test. Doctor’s determined his heart is in worse condition, and he will need another surgery in the near future.

We’re grateful for the free care provided by Dr. David Dvaric and Shriners Hospital, and the token amount paid to Tufts for the services of Dr. Michael deMoore and others. Once again, we received complimentary flights from American Airline’s Miles for Kids in Need program who have helped enable Esperanza to bring many patients from Honduras to Boston.

Although the primary purpose for the visit is medical, it has developed into so much more. Astrid and Noel have become integral parts of our family and we have journeyed with them as they have grown from a toddler and a pre-schooler to a pre-teen and teenager. We have shared our values, goals and traditions, and they have taught us about their beliefs, customs, and the realities of living in the third world. It continues to amaze us how they are able to adjust back and forth between two families, two languages, and two cultures.

Not only do they have the good fortune of coming to the U.S. for medical care, they have been welcomed into the homes of many families. These kind and generous people have afforded them the opportunity to travel to new places, experience different adventures and provide financial assistance for their housing and education. Noel and Astrid certainly are blessed, but with it comes expectations and a sense of obligation to their own families. During the school year, they travel to receive a better education and work long hours to complete their extensive homework. While they are here, they want to earn money to help provide necessities for their families. They have their own inner struggles knowing they have plenty of food to eat, are living in a safer environment and aren’t there to help with chores and their younger siblings.

We enjoy having the chance to shower them with love and attention, encourage them to pursue their dreams, support them through their struggles…and then it’s time to let them go…and return to their other homes.

Little did we know…

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Five months ago we were excited and relieved that Ostin had finally arrived for treatment in the U.S. For the previous year and a half, we had been actively advocating on his behalf for treatment of his lymphatic malformation. Once he was accepted for treatment and we had obtained funding, the next decision to make was whether to bring him alone or with his mother. We have brought many children here to live with us, the youngest being less than a year. And we had only brought one mother in the past. It certainly has it’s trade offs…on the one hand you have a parent in her late teens with her own issues and an additional person living in the house…on the other hand, it allows for more freedom, not having sole responsibility of the child.

We have had a relationship with Ostin’s mom, Karla, for the past three years and have been impressed with her sense of responsibility and deep appreciation for our involvement. But it’s one thing to have brief meetings with a person, and another thing to have someone move into your home for four months. We were not disappointed at all. Karla is mature beyond her years and was respectful, insightful and helpful.

During the course of Ostin’s treatment, Karla told us she was having pain in her mouth. Fortunately, we have a relationship with the kindest, most generous and expertly skilled dentists, Michael Coppe D.M.D. and his daughter, Carolyn Coppe D.M.D.. These two dentists have graciously provided free dental care to all of our Esperanza patients.

X-rays were taken and it was quite understandable that Karla was in pain…she was in need of 15 fillings, 1 crown and four root canals! Dr. Coppe’s office soon became Karla’s “home away from home”, and she spent endless hours there. The entire staff welcomed her, and Erica (who is bilingual) became her constant companion. Karla was referred to Dr. Ali Sarraf, an endodontist in the same building, who generously provided Karla’s root canals.

Karla was absolutely amazed by the dentists “gentle touch” and explained her experience in Honduras where the dentist was “so rough”, and “you had to drink your own blood.” Karla had learned to live with the pain, and eventually she would have had all four (top) front teeth pulled, with no hopes of any replacements. Receiving all the dental care truly was life changing, and her smile is worth more than a thousand words!