One Family’s Profound Impact

The George family has been actively involved with Esperanza since its inception. In fact it was three years prior, when we brought our first two patients to Boston for medical treatment. Our families are very close and there is nobody I trust more with “our” Honduran children. Their entire family engaged with and were entertained by, 17 month old Stefany. 

In 2006 Melissa accompanied me on her first trip to Honduras. She was concerned I would have a difficult time emotionally leaving 4 year old Noel. I remember one of her first days when she said, “you have talked about Honduras so often and shown me tons of pictures, but it wasn’t until I actually came in person, did I really understand.” And on the last day when we were saying goodbye to Noel and his family, it was Melissa who was in tears. 

Our next patient to arrive was 14 month old Astrid. She (along with Noel) returned every year for evaluations and surgeries. The children simply became a part of the George family. They often slept at their house, went camping and to amusement parks together, visited “Grandma Kay” in Ohio, taught manners, encouraged them educationally, helped them envision and aspire to their life goals, took them to dentist and doctor appointments, moved Astrid in/out of boarding school and the list goes on.  

Their children, Michael, Kyle and Katherine have all been to Honduras and shared their experiences with friends, became involved with the water project and built a house for someone in need. They have held fundraisers, book and clothing drives, designed Esperanza brochures, become donors and created a video presentation.

Esperanza’s main fundraiser was established by Melissa. She developed the team EspeRUNza which has become one of the non profits supported by The Genesis Battlegreen Run. Every year she spearheads our team in recruiting runners and sponsors. The Georges are a family of runners who place at the top of the their divisions and have received many awards on behalf of EspeRUNza..

Over the years the Georges have been involved with every aspect of Esperanza. Paul has requested and received donations from his employer, Acadian Assets. We appreciate all their financial support but more importantly, we are thankful for all their direct involvement, especially with “their” Honduran children.

The repercussions from the hurricanes.

“Solo el pueblo salva al pueblo.” (Only the people save the people.) This is a common saying among the people of Honduras. They cannot rely on the government’s support. There are doubts that the government has the ability to reconstruct the country’s infrastructure, and restore the delivery of public services such as water, housing and electricity. There is some foreign aid being sent in, and the most reliable help comes from NGOs, including Esperanza-Hope for the Children, Inc.

It’s been more than a month since Hurricane Iota hit Honduras, and two weeks prior was Hurricane Eta. There were 94 deaths and the storms affected four million people causing the level of poverty to rise 10%, surpassing 70% of the population. Almost one third of the population has been displaced, leaving behind their homes, animals and livelihoods. 

One of the greatest concerns is water. There are 3,800 water supplies serving 2.9 million people which were affected. People are bathing in rainwater, relieving in sewers and drinking from rivers which contain dead animals. The next crises will be outbreaks of dengue, malaria, leptospirosis and/or cholera. Although there are treatments, few can afford them and will have no choice but to continue drinking contaminated water.

There is also a big concern about P.T.S.D. having suffered multiple traumas in succession. Some feel as though an entire generation of progress has been set back. They’ve lost all their possessions, there are very few sustainable economic opportunities and many feel their only choice is to join a caravan heading to the U.S. Others remain behind, relying on their faith and joining others’ spontaneous mobilization of solidarity. Despite the extreme poverty, somehow they still manage to help their fellow neighbor. 

Although there are now more people in severe need, the outpouring of support from Esperanza supporters has been profound. We express our sincere gratitude to all of you and want our Honduran brothers and sisters to know “no estan solos.” (You are not alone.)

“We’ve lost everything”

Honduras, the second poorest country in Central America and one of the most violent countries in the World has recently suffered from two catastrophic hurricanes (Eta & Iota) in two weeks. Life threatening storms hovered for days with heavy rains creating flooding and landslides wiping out entire communities. The last time Honduras suffered a natural disaster of this scale was Hurricane Mitch in 1998. The International Community rushed in with billions in aid, but they’re now focused on the Covid-19 Pandemic crisis, and lack U.S. leadership to mobilize support.

One of the hardest-hit areas was Honduras’ north, the most productive agricultural region. Massive crop losses raising fears of long term food shortages. Widespread flooding has forced hundreds of thousands from their homes. People choosing between overcrowded shelters with newly orphaned children being raped or living on the streets in makeshift tents made out of plastic tarps. It was absolutely heartbreaking to hear one of our young patient’s say “we lost everything and are living on the street.”

Covid-19 is no longer their biggest concern, now it’s finding food to survive and not being one of the victims of starvation. There is a huge shortage of food, water and medicine. Thieves are ransacking homes and businesses. The MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs are charging a “tax” to boats trying to rescue people from flooded neighborhoods. The sanitary conditions are inadequate forcing people to defecate/urinate on the side of the road, offering a breeding ground for spreading disease.

One of Esperanza’s partners, Blanca Castellano, is “on the ground” providing assistance. She and her friends in Siguatepeque made 1,000 tortillas among other food with the intention of delivering the food to hard hit San Pedro Sula. Sadly, she was unable to make it because along the route people were climbing into her car begging for food, and she passed it all out. This won’t stop Blanca, she returned home and started making food for her next delivery.

Dealing with COVID-19 in Honduras

IMG_1588

It is challenging enough to be coping with the reality of COVID-19 in the U.S., but can you imagine what it would be like in a third world country? Honduras has one of the worst healthcare systems in the world and before the pandemic even arrived hospitals would run out of oxygen and PPE was often reused.

Right now the country is in lockdown and grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and gas stations only open three days a week. Depending on your national identification number, you are able to shop one specific day a week. The government is spraying houses with disinfectants and residents can pay to be sprayed down with bleach and water.
Corruption always runs rampant in this country and even more so during a crisis. The gangs and police are clashing over who enforces curfews and demands payment from violators.
“Social distancing” is impossible when you’re traveling to one of the few places of employment and you’re packed like cattle in the back of the truck. Hand sanitizer is rare to come by, and too costly for the majority of people. Homes don’t have running hot water to wash their hands.
God forbid you actually do get the virus it will be impossible to self isolate when many family members live under one roof and you don’t have the luxury of having your own bedroom and bathroom. If someone spikes a fever, he/she might just need to ride it out without medicine. For the fortunate ones who can afford medicine, the price has increased substantially.
Although this virus hits anyone, with no regard to socioeconomic status, certainly poor people suffer all the more. We wait and watch Honduras just as we do here.

A season to be thankful.

Our heartfelt gratitude to Melissa George and team EspeRUNza for their recent participation in the Genesis’ Battlegreen Run. For the past several years, Melissa has spearheaded the team and has been instrumental in its growth and success. She, and her family, are also actively involved with the children in Honduras and when they come to the Boston area for medical treatment or school.
This year EspeRUNza had fifty walkers and runners and over $6,000 was raised through generous donors. We’re also thankful to the Battlegreen Run Foundation who will be making an additional donation to Esperanza-Hope for the Children, Inc. These funds will have a profound impact in our continuing work in Honduras.

A Dream Becomes Reality

daniela
My name is Daniela and my story starts in nursery school when Esperanza began to pay my education at a bilingual school. My family and I never imagined that I’d have the opportunity to study because the economy in my country is so hard, and to have an opportunity is a dream! Esperanza continued paying my education through high school. 

On September 10th I will be attending university where I will be studying Business Administration thanks to a wonderful woman named Jessica Rubinstein. You can never imagine how wonderful God is and how he sends special people to change your life.

I thank God, Esperanza, Emily and her family, Jessica Rubinstein, and my family for supporting me, and making my dream possible! I’ll be thankful for my entire life with all these special people and make them proud of me!

Esperanza is certainly proud of Daniela who embraces education and has been on the honor roll every year. We’re thankful for Jessica Rubinstein who has been one of Esperanza’s greatest supporters over the years. Daniela, we’re wishing you all the best as you embark on this new adventure.

Changing Lives by Investing in Education

Yeni and Pancho

Honduras is divided into 18 different departments, each with it’s own governor. In 10 out of 18 departments, 90% of students must repeat a grade in primary school. There are numerous reasons why this happens including illness, having to leave school to help bring income into the home, or families lacking the funds for the uniform or books. The average time to complete sixth grade is 9.4 years. Only 30% of students attend high school.

“Yeni” and “Pancho” both fell within the statistics of students who had to drop out of school. They come from loving families who value education but their situations in life didn’t allow them the opportunity. Yeni had completed primary school but needed to leave school to work and help support her family. Pancho was diagnosed with brain cancer and the priority for him became receiving medical treatment.

Two of Esperanza’s generous supporters, Suzanne Giles and Jeanne DeSanto have befriended these students and are changing their lives by offering them the gift of an education. They’re now enrolled in a private school and afforded the opportunity to pursue their dreams of attending school and allowing them to dream for a brighter future, for themselves and their families.

Whether you would like to be directly involved with an individual or offer assistance to the community at large, Esperanza has various ways to be involved. 100% of your donations will be directly given to those in need.

Thank you for the lives you’ve changed and those who will be changed in the future.

 

 

 

Give the gift of opportunity this holiday season

Our mission has always been to help improve the lives of children living in Honduras, but how we do that is by providing opportunities. For those of us who have opportunities readily available, it’s easy to take them for granted. However, when opportunities are hard to come by, it’s all you can think about.

The opportunities that we are able to help bring to Honduras are only made possible by the generous donations made to our organization each year. This Giving Tuesday please consider donating to Esperanza – Hope For The Children, Inc. and you can provide…

The opportunity to go to school:
Ostin_School

The opportunity to play:
Jungle Gym

The opportunity to drink clean water:
Clean Water

The opportunity to live a long and healthy life:
Noel

100% of all the money we receive goes directly to helping the people of Honduras. If there is a specific opportunity you’d like to help make possible, please feel free to reach out to emily@esperanzahftc.com and we can figure out a way to bring it to life. We really appreciate your support and generosity!

button-PayPal-donate

Persevering through the visa application process.

Astrid, Tristan, and Gil

Last week Astrid Ordonez and I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Tristan Takos, Constituent Service Director for Senator Ed Markey and Mr. Gilbert Calderin, Immigration Caseworker for Senator Elizabeth Warren.

This past June Astrid had an appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras to apply for a F-1 (student) visa. Unfortunately, her application was denied and the opportunity to attend the prestigious Fay School in Southborough, MA was in peril. Astrid had successfully passed the TOEFL and SSAT exams, completed her interview and written application, been accepted and granted a large financial scholarship, and had received the additional financial commitment to offset her tuition costs. The thought of her losing this opportunity and crushing her dreams for a brighter future was heartbreaking.

Esperanza-Hope for the Children, Inc. had successfully obtained B1/B2 (medical visas) for several patients but this was the first time we were involved with a student visa. There was no time to waste with school starting in 10 weeks and so I immersed myself in the political process and began networking in the Boston area and Honduras.   After contacting the Visa Chief in Tegucigalpa he agreed to have the same Office Consular conduct a phone interview with both Astrid and her mother. Once again, Astrid’s application was denied under Section 214 (b) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.

Many people took interest and became involved with Astrid’s journey as we solicited the U.S. Embassy to learn what additional documentation was needed to obtain approval. Our friends, Heidi Black reached out to Senator Markey’s office and Bob Burbidge contacted Senator Warren and Congresswoman Katherine Clark’s offices. My college classmate Kate Brandeis, a former U.S. Officer Consular, advised and enlightened me about the application process.

All perspective students must demonstrate their strong ties oversees and that they will return to their foreign countries, but this would prove more challenging for Astrid. Unlike her other perspective classmates who would be returning to their wealthy homes, Astrid would be returning to the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. As she was in the midst of applying, thousands of Hondurans were fleeing violence and corruption and attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. The daily news was filled with images of families being separated at the Mexican border.

My frustration built as I struggled with all the obstacles and set backs of helping someone apply legally. Not only was I thinking of Astrid, I thought of all the others who were desperately in need of assistance, many fleeing violence or starvation without the support of somebody advocating for them.

Fortunately, Astrid received another appointment at the U.S. Embassy on July 16, 2018. In preparation for the appointment, Tristan Takos communicated with Gil Calderin and Ms. Katie Worley, Constituent Services Representative and Immigration Coordinator for Congresswoman Katherine Clark. They all felt Astrid had a compelling story and decided to take the unusual approach to write a joint letter of support. Rick Lania coordinated the additional letters from Esperanza, Fay School, Charles Morrison (financial supporter), and Shriner’s Hospital for Children. In addition, he provided legal and school documentation and compelling photos of Astrid’s ties to her family and community.

Thankfully, persistence paid off and Astrid was granted a student visa and has now settled in smoothly at Fay School. I reflect on Fay’s application essay about everyone experiencing obstacles in life, facing challenges, and explaining what you learned. Astrid described her physical challenges and said, “I have not let this obstacle stop me and I won’t let other ones either.” Now she has first hand knowledge of the obstacles immigrants endure and it will be interesting to watch her put those experiences into action.

It was an emotional experience meeting Tristan and Gil and listening to Astrid describe how her life has been changed and her mother “doesn’t have to worry about her safety now that she is here.” She proudly pinned them with flags of the U.S. and Honduras. Our hope is for other children to have this same opportunity.

 

 

Dreams, Goals, & Perseverance

astrid

Congratulations to Astrid Ordonez for being accepted into the 7th grade class of the Fay School in Southborough, MA. Astrid has “demonstrated the qualities Fay seeks in the admissions process including academic excellence; honorable conduct; dedicated service; earnest effort; and wellness of the mind, body and spirit.” This is a huge accomplishment for any student applying to this prestigious boarding school but Astrid has overcome insurmountable obstacles to earn this honor.

Astrid, born in Honduras, into a life of poverty where education is not a “given” and often considered a privilege. Only 64% of students attend school past the sixth grade due to economic hardship. Although her family lacks financial resources, they have qualities money doesn’t provide…commitment and drive. Astrid’s mother, Angelina, is an intelligent woman who values education. Although she wasn’t able to attend school past the 6th grade, she has ingrained the importance and supported Astrid in her pursuit of learning.

Astrid has been attending a bilingual school in Comayagua since kindergarten. Marantha Adventist Bilingual School offers a very challenging curriculum and many of the teachers have been important role models in Astrid’s life. One teacher in particular, Ms. Mayla Ebanks, has been a part of Astrid’s journey since she taught her in 2nd grade and now as Primary School Coordinator was the person responsible for obtaining all of her transcripts and recommendations for the Fay School. Ms. Mayla knew Astrid was an academic standout from a very young age and couldn’t be more proud of her acceptance to a middle school in the United States, an accomplishment never previously done.

It has been a pleasure witnessing Astrid’s growth emotionally, physically and academically since she first arrived in our house at age two. Astrid was born with some physical problems but never complained. Instead, she focused on the bright side and knows being born this way is what led her to us and the opportunity to travel to the United States for medical care.

Since then, she has been welcomed into the home of Charlie and Nancy Morrison (and family) who have not only showered her with love and attention but shared their value of the importance of education, and financially supporting Astrid’s. This opportunity of a lifetime (and dream come true for Astrid) to attend Fay would not be possible without them.

Along with the Morrisons, many other family members and friends have welcomed Astrid into their lives. We’re thankful they’ll continue to be a part of her support system as she straddles her two worlds, moving from an impoverished village to a wealthy community. She’s managed this well over the years but we know this will be more intense because adolescence is naturally a time of self discovery and she will be dealing with many significant changes. We are confident Fay School will provide the academic, social and emotional support needed. And now it’s time to free her potential and watch her “fly”.