No longer for the American dream

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In the past, many Hondurans fled their country for the U.S., in search of “paradise” Now, the two main reasons are fleeing violence with the hopes of pleading asylum, and living in extreme poverty. It has truly become a humanitarian crisis.

Honduras continues to have one of the highest murder rate in the world outside a war zone. Organized crime associated with drug trafficking and illegal weapons has increased since Honduras has become a major transshipment point. Gangs have instituted a “war tax” to extort money from individuals and businesses. People are kidnapped and held for ransom. Non payment results in losing your home or business, and death. Children are forced to join a gang or flee for their lives. Women are exploited in sex trafficking and forced labor.

Over 65% of Hondurans live on less than $2.00 per day. Many lack access to clean water, educational opportunities or medical care. There is no government “safety net” which provides food or housing assistance. Peasant farmers lose their land to international agro-industrial firms. Parents cannot afford to feed or house their children.

Perhaps now you will understand why thousands of desperate Hondurans risk their lives to travel 16,000 miles to the U.S. They are willing to walk many of these miles, along with riding buses through Guatemala, and clinging to the roof of “The Beast” (train) in Mexico, followed by swimming or riding a raft in the Rio Grande. During the journey they are faced with robbery, rape, accidents and murder. The economic and safety situation in Honduras has become intolerable.

Building a wall is not the answer. The Honduran government needs to uncover impunity and address the deep corruption. The United States needs to impose human rights and anti-corruption conditions on their foreign aid. Until the situation is improved in Honduras, no amount of danger and fear of deportation will dissuade immigrants from leaving their daily struggles of facing crime, violence and desperate living conditions.

 

 

 

 

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Accepting my limitations

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Recently I saw the movie “Lion,” a story about a five year old Indian boy who got lost on the streets of Calcutta. As I sat there mesmorized by “Saroo,” my mind wandered to our hometown in Honduras, and a little boy named “Raul.” Although their stories are quite different, they share similarities in being quite charming, resourceful and have the innate ability to survive. Both boys are from impoverished countries, where living day to day is a constant struggle. They wear tattered clothes, are often shoe less and entertainment is playing in feces filled water. Saroo and Raul live with their mothers and siblings in dilapidated structures without the conveniences of running water or electricity.

Since watching the movie I have been thinking of Raul and wondering how he’s surviving and if I will see him next month when we return to Honduras. I’ll always remember the first day he stood outside our gate, looking malnourished and yellow-eyed, yet still with a radiant smile. He looked familiar and then I remembered I had met him and his sister at the one room school house in the nearby mountain area. Raul explained to me that they were no longer attending school because they didn’t have enough money and his sister (12 years old) was now the sole breadwinner for the family of eight.

I accompanied Raul home, met with his mother and received her permission to enroll him in school. His teacher joined me when I bought his school uniform, shoes and books. I was thrilled to get him off the streets, in a structured/nurturing environment where I hoped he’d have the chance to learn the basics. Unfortunately, my dream was short lived.

On one of my following trips, Raul was right back at our door, explaining he hadn’t eaten in days. He was no longer in school and his sister was out of work because she was suffering from an infection in her mouth. My husband, a pediatrician, was able to examine Dania and give her an antibiotic, and soon she was feeling much better and back to her job. I struggled with what to do with Raul…it was easy to give him food but I knew it was a temporary fix.

We met with some leaders from the community to ask their opinions of what could be done for Raul and his family. They explained that although there was an orphanage in our town, the mother would have to agree and give her permission for the children to move in. Unfortunately, she struggles with alcohol abuse, is without a job and relies on her daughter’s income to survive. They do not have access to resources such as soup kitchens, food pantries or insurance and therefore, an orphanage was out of the question.

Sadly, there’s not much I can do to change Raul’s tragic situation. I’m in his life for only short glimpses of time, but I continue to hope that these moments he is felt loved and that he has the strength to hold on, and survive.

 

WATER IS LIFE

 

 

dscn0455Last month we traveled to Honduras for the dedication of the well in Mira Flores. Since we first began our mission work, one of our greatest goals has been to bring clean water to people without access to life’s basic necessity.

It has been an incredible learning process for us as we have lived beside people who spend hours of their days walking with containers, to stand in long lines, waiting at spigots for the water to slowly drip.

The more we learned, the harder it became. Unlike our neighbors, we have read the reports at the local health center which states the “potable” water is filled with e. coli and “not fit for human consumption.”

We witnessed the devastating effects of drinking contaminated water including malnutrition, vomiting, diarrhea, parasites and even death. We tried to educate the community to kill the bacteria by chlorinating or boiling the water only to learn they couldn’t afford chlorine, wood or electricity. And our inner struggle would continue of how unjust it was that we could return to our home which is always stocked with a five gallon jug of purified water.

We have spent years meeting with community leaders, town officials and experts within country and the U.S., and put many of their recommendations into practice. Progress would be made and then another obstacle and set back would occur. We’d struggle with cultural differences and expectations and question ourselves if this project was realistic. Just when we thought we had exhausted all efforts, our eyes were opened to a new opportunity which seemed obtainable.

Last November we met with the folks in the barrio of Mira Flores which had no access to water. At that time, we asked the community if they would be interested, and willing to be involved, in constructing a well. We had the opportunity to see people step forward and assume leadership roles so that their neighborhood could seek independence and legally form their own “Patranato” (governing body) Board.

We were fortunate to contract an engineer with 40 years of experience who kept us informed and involved with every step from selecting the site, deeding the land, obtaining permits, working with the electric company, constructing the platform for the holding tank and digging the ditches for the pipes.

We traveled to Honduras in February and June so we could be directly involved and our presence insured the community that this project was real.

In September, we were invited guests to the dedication of the well. The community took pride in putting on a full affair with dignitaries invited, a mariachi band hired, refreshments served, and a ribbon cutting and ceremonial plaque displayed. After an opening prayer and the church choir performing, the history of Mira Flores’ development was read. This was followed by the Honduran national anthem. As we sat looking out to the crowd, tears welled in our eyes. It was more than just a dream come true.

The people had come to express their appreciation to us, and the people of Pilgrim Church. We looked back at them with the greatest sense of awe knowing the commitment, determination and grueling work they willingly offered to make this happen. They truly valued the importance of clean water and knew their health (and their children’s) would significantly improve, and generations would benefit. Our lives have been so enriched by knowing people who face insurmountable obstacles on a daily basis with such faith, resiliency and gratitude. How true the words are “it is in giving, you receive”…we have received the greatest gift from our work in Honduras, our “purpose in life.”

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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.