Stefany & Gael

In November 2003, Nora Leon and Nelson Mejia placed their 17 month old daughter into my arms at the airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. With tears streaming down their faces, they said “goodbye” to Stefany, who was heading to the U.S. for medical treatment. This was Stefany’s one hope for a brighter future, and they relied on their strong faith and trust in us, who they had only met a few times in the previous year. As a parent, I cannot imagine the desperation and fear that they felt, and the love it took in letting her go.

We had met Stefany and her family several months before when we were holding a medical clinic in one of the homes in Flores, Honduras. Stefany was born with bilateral clubfeet and had no access to treatment. By the time we met, she was now standing on the outsides of her feet, with her toes pointing inward. Her future was very bleak, having a severe physical impairment and trying to survive in a third world country. Often the disabled are considered castoffs from society.

Fortunately, Stefany had been accepted to Shriners Hospital for Children, in Springfield, MA. We’ll never forget the hospital asking for the parents’ signatures prior to her operation, and we hoped they truly understood what they were signing and didn’t think we were taking their daughter away. Stefany became part of our family for the next five months while we took weekly trips to the hospital for new casts. After serial castings, she was ready for surgery, followed by months in special shoes attached to a bar that kept her feet rotated outward.

It was all a grand success and then it was time to take Stefany back home and reunite her with her family. This was harder than expected because Stefany had been calling me “Mama” and every time I went to leave, her arms would be stretched out to me as she screamed for me to return. I just had to walk away, shielding my own tears from her. We’ve had a special bond ever since, and saying “goodbye” was difficult for years.

Last June, we were in Honduras and I was able to attend Stefany’s baby shower and we were there for the birth of her son, Gael. It was a very bittersweet day because Stefany was thrilled to become a mother but saddened to see Gael had a clubfoot himself. We tried our best to reassure Stefany that we would find treatment for Gael, and he would one day run and play soccer just like all the other children.

Over the past 20 years, we have built a trustworthy support system within the country. We turned to our good friend Enrique Tome M.D. for a referral to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. Gael was seen within two weeks of his birth and like his mom, went through months of castings. Last month, Ruben Villeda M.D. and his team operated on Gael. As Stefany anxiously waited through the long hours of surgery, her mom was by her side, and she was comforted knowing her son would soon be in her arms instead of 3,600 miles apart, as her mom had experienced.

A day of reflection.

Yesterday was a day of remembrance for Martha Kimball, an amazing woman who was deeply involved with Esperanza. “Abuela” (Grandma) the children lovingly called her, and she certainly treated them as her own grandchildren. Martha traveled to Honduras in November 2006 with the desire to learn about the culture and in particular, get to know the people. Certainly, they welcomed her into their homes with great respect as is culturally expected. Abuela dove into any opportunity that presented itself and was often seen walking around the village hand in hand with whichever children got to her first. I have vivid memories of little Lissi being wrapped in her arms.

When we traveled back to Boston, we brought two year old Astrid who was in need of medical treatment. This is such an emotional time to take a child away from her mother, and once again I remember Abuela, comforting Astrid in her warm embrace. The children all loved playing at Abuela’s house and camp on Lake Champlain. She was the ultimate hands on grandmother who played any game, made cookies together and took them to the playground. Noel, who was part of Abuela’s life for the past 16 years recalls his favorite memory of her “making pancakes with my name.”

Martha visited the children when they were hospitalized and shared birthdays and holidays together. In her later years, when Abuela slowed down a bit, I watched as Astrid held her arm accompanying her into the pool. And the next moment it would be Abuela, sitting beside Astrid, teaching her how to knit.

Astrid matter of factly told me, “Abuela has taken care of you her whole life. It is your turn to take care of her.” She was absolutely right. Both Astrid and Noel made it one of their priorities to spend time with their adopted Grandmother. In the last months of her life, the calls and prayers were flowing in from Honduras. One of my most treasured gifts is a drawing Astrid made of Abuela, in her final days.

Abuela would have turned 90 yesterday. We all look back with such fond memories and will certainly keep her spirit alive and honor her, by following the lessons she taught us including kindness for all, and love is love.

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

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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

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!

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