Dealing with COVID-19 in Honduras

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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

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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:
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The opportunity to play:
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The opportunity to drink clean water:
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The opportunity to live a long and healthy life:
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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!

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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

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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”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resilience and The Human Spirit

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Fifteen years ago, Josue Martinez’s house caught fire and most of his body was burned. Josue was only five years old and has few memories of the accident. However his mom remembers it clearly and has kept track of his ongoing recovery which has included over 65 operations.

Josue spent the first couple of weeks in a hospital in Comayagua but was then transferred to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras where he and his mother spent six months. Treatment for burns is challenging and excruciating enough in the United States but in the Third World supplies are extremely limited and techniques are often decades behind. Josue’s mother recalls receiving money from a family member and making the decision to purchase Josue’s cream rather than food for herself, and existing on water for weeks.

Fortunately, Josue and his mother were introduced to The Ruth Paz Foundation and they were able to send him for treatment at Shriner’s Hospital for Children. And so began his journey back and forth between two countries.

I’m amazed by Josue’s inner strength and positive attitude and asked him to share his story.  He said he “overcame many obstacles by looking at things from another point of view such as the things he can do, rather than what he can not do.” He gave much credit to his family who he said “raised him as a common child” which made him feel like a “normal boy.” Josue also remembers the time when he was very young and a man told him “what others see as an excuse, you see as a challenge.”

Josue had once dreamed of joining the military, but since he has lost a hand he would not be accepted. He has changed focus and is studying to be an engineer and perhaps one day, an entrepreneur. As a child, he feared he would be discriminated and would not have a girlfriend. He can laugh at it now and acknowledges “that hasn’t been a problem.”

Josue has always believed “God has a purpose for me.” I feel so fortunate to have been introduced to this young man who inspires me and teaches me every time we’re together. As Ogwo David Emenike said, “there are some people who walk into your life and shed a new light into your entire being. Be grateful to such people.” Thank you, Josue.

It’s Time To Go Back

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At the end of the month, we will be returning to our home in Honduras. I’m busy collecting medical supplies, medicine, books, computers, clothes, shoes, and crafts. As I think of all our friends, patients, and students, I’m filled with excitement! I can’t wait to share my love, energy and resources, but I also realize this trip is for me.

Although Honduras is on my mind every single day, life can still get too comfortable here and the intense feelings often fade. We’ve witnessed the harsh realities of living in the third world and the daily struggles people endure. They do not complain the way we do here, are incredibly resilient, and Hondurans have such a strong faith. Truly the experiences have shaped my life and given me a greater perspective of how fortunate I am to have been born in the U.S.A.

I need to go back to see and feel life in Honduras. This is what continues to inspire me to spread the word about Esperanza and the work we are doing to improve the lives of others. With your financial support, we have changed (and saved) lives by offering medical and educational opportunities. We have brought clean water to our village, built a police station and playgrounds, and made improvements to the schools, health and community center. Maybe you’d like to join us and experience this first hand or perhaps you’d like to be involved in a different way. I promise you it will have significant impact on you, as well as, those you help.

“Be nice to people…maybe it’ll be unappreciated, unreciprocated , or ignored, but spread love anyway. We rise by lifting others.” Germany Kent

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.