School Year begins at Marantha Adventist Bilingual School

Noel, Astrid, Daniela, Wesly at school

Today marks the beginning of the school year at Marantha in Comayagua, Honduras. Esperanza-Hope for the Children, Inc. is committed to providing financial assistance for four students: Lisbeth Daniela Mejia Leon (5th grade), Noel Edgardo Solano Gomez (4th grade), Wessly Hernandez (2nd grade) and Astrid Virginia Mejia Ordonez (1st grade). Special thanks to Charlie and Nancy Morrison for providing Astrid’s educational expenses for another year.

Marantha’s mission is to “provide a comprehensive education including mind, body and spirit.” Their curriculum is difficult and students take classes in Spanish, English, Math, Science, Social Studies, Bible, Art, Music, Computer and Physical Education.  “Our” students face the additional challenges of commuting each day, and not having resources available in their towns for homework projects. In addition, their families are often ill equipped to assist with homework because they have only completed the first few years of primary education.

Attending a private school offers students a smaller teacher/student ratio and also offers a consistent schedule where teachers aren’t forced to strike because of poor working conditions. It has been a rewarding experience watching the growth in Daniela, Noel, Wessly and Astrid and we wish them an enjoyable and successful school year!

Through The Eyes of a Child

This summer Noel (10) and Astrid (7) are here in the Boston area to receive continued medical check-ups (cardiac and orthopedic) and to spend their summer vacation with us. Both children attend a bilingual school in Honduras which operates on the American school calendar. The pubic schools in Honduras are open from February to November.

Their school curriculum is a rigorous one and they have endured a great deal of physical and emotional pain with their medical issues. So that makes summer time especially sweet and it’s always a wonder to experience it through the eyes of a child.

This summer Noel and Astrid have spent a great deal of time on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont. This has been their favorite spot where they are showered with love from our family and have met many new friends. Their days are filled with activities: swimming, boating, fishing, jet skiing and tubing. We often wonder how these experiences will translate when they are describing it back home to their families and friends…they are “foreign concepts” only to be imagined.

The children have certainly enriched our lives and many others who they have met. We can only hope the summer has offered their bodies a chance to relax and their minds to have been enlightened, and hopefully this will help give them the inspiration when they return back home to Flores where they will once again be working hard at school and home.

They’re coming back!!!

It’s official…their tickets are booked…Noel (10) and Astrid (7) will be returning to Concord, MA on June 14th and spending their summer vacation in the States. Special thanks to Charlie and Nancy Morrison for providing Astrid’s transportation so that she will have the opportunity for follow- up medical care at Shriners Hospital in Springfield. And thanks to many of you who have befriended them over the years and continue to be actively involved. Your relationships are so valuable, and are truly shaping their lives in a positive way.

Our Home Has Become Their Sanctuary

For the past week, three children have been staying at our home. Astrid (7 years old) loves staying at our home because of the “calmness”…a break from her chaotic house which is located in the barrio referred to as ” punta caliente” (hot point because it’s dangerous and drugs are prevelant). Noel (10 years old) loves being at our home because there’s always plenty of food. His family  scrapes by on next to nothing….the previous day, they had butter (from their cow) and beans. Jairo (14 years old) loves being at our home because he craves the sense of family. Before going to bed, he will call from one room to the other “good night Mother.” Jairo’s mother went to the USA when he was a little boy, leaving him and his brother with an aunt, for several of their formative years. She met her husband there, and they are now living in Guatemala. Jairo didn’t feel like he belonged and returned to Flores and is living alone.

We will never be able to replace their families or their upbringings but we do hope our love and attention will give them a sense of worth and hope for a brighter future.

Lessons From Children

This evening, I called Berencie Elizabeth’s family in La Lima, Honduras. Berenice has been living in our home for one week. Although, I have talked with her extended family in the States and our pastor/friend, Martha Garzon, has  has been in direct contact with the family, I thought it would be nice for the family to hear from Berenice’s temporary foster family, in the home she has been entrusted.

Berenice’s mother, Sara, answered the phone and I attempted to introduce myself. At best, my Spanish is limited and I will struggle through, if there is nobody there to “bail me out.” However, tonight, Astrid (6 years old), a fellow Honduran, could hear my struggling attempt, and quickly grabbed the phone to intercede, explaining “mi madrina no habla mucho espanol.” (my Godmother doesn’t speak much Spanish).

Astrid continued a half an hour conversation with Berenice’s mother, updating her about Berenice’s every day happenings…what she was eating, how she was sleeping and when she was going to the hospital. Berenice’s mother proceeded to teach Astrid a lullaby she sings to Berenice, which Astrid taught to us, and I sang Berenice to sleep tonight.

Astrid has been in our lives for the past four and half years, and has truly become a member of our family. She is an incredibly bright, engaging and empathetic child. It is such a rewarding feeling watching Astrid’s physical, emotional, and educational development, and witnessing her use the gifts to aid another child, and her family. “Our” children truly can be our greatest teachers.

Astrid’s recovery continues…

Astrid at Shriners

In January, 2007, four year old Astrid Ordonez was operated on at Shriners Hospital for Children (Springfield, MA) for a “tethered cord.” Astrid was born with this neurological disorder, which is caused by tissue attachment that limits the movement of the spinal cord.

Astrid has returned for treatment of her left “cavus” foot, a condition of her neurological disorder, which results in a very high arch. The doctors at Shriners have now completed two sureries on her foot. The first one was a tendon release, and the second one required them to insert a wedge of bone into a cut in one of Astrid’s bones, in the middle of her foot.

Astrid is now wearing a full-length cast for six weeks. She will then be x-rayed and it will be determined whether she will require additional casting or if she will be fitted for an AFO(ankle-foot orthosis), a plastic brace which will be inserted into her shoe.

We are grateful Astrid has been given this opportunity for treatment because without it, the disorder is progressive causing sensory and motor problems, as well as, loss of bowel and bladder control.

On April 13th, Astrid will return home to her family in Flores, Honduras.

Visiting Flores in December 2010

At the beginning of last month, Tom and I spent 10 days in Honduras. Our main objective was completing the process of obtaining Astrid Ordonez’ medical visa. Ana Hernandez had already started the process by obtaining Astrid’s passport and visiting the lawyer with Astrid’s parents (to give temporary legal custody to us). We needed to complete the new online application (a more taxing process)  for the U.S. Embassy interview. Peggy Kipps (Ruth Paz Foundation) assisted us with arranging the appointment and writing a letter of support.With their help, we were able to have Astrid’s visa expedited.

During our time in Honduras, we spent time at the Centro de Salud (Health Center) and donated our generous supplies provided by Brother’s Brother Foundation. The medications were primarily antibiotics, and were so enthusiastically received by this clinic which exists on very limited means.

There were many new cases anxiously awaiting Tom’s arrival. Two of the children had cerebral palsy, and were hoping for a “cure” so that their children would walk. Sadly, families are often given very limited information from the doctors, and Tom spent a long time with each mother, compassionately describing their conditions and what to expect for their future development. He strongly encouraged them to have their children involved with physical therapy, and also told them that children with C.P. are often not effected (negatively) intellectually. On a brighter note, one of our patients, 12 year old, “Iris Maria” , who has C.P. has made dramatic improvement! Maria had stopped attending school, and was confined to her home and carried from her bed to the living room. Through therapy and hard work, she is now up walking and attending school. One afternoon, she and her family walked to our home and proudly presented us with a letter of gratitude and told us her dream is to study to become a lawyer! Tom and I were filled with tears of joy.

One evening, Ana arrived with a young couple and their 6 month old baby. The family had just been told that their baby was in need of cardiac surgery and they were consumed by fear and helplessness. Tom reviewed the medical reports and assured them he would talk with Hector Fonseca, a trusted cardiologist in San Pedro Sula. We feel very fortunate that our network has grown and we have professionals to refer patients locally. Dr. Fonseca was extremely accommodating and saw this child the following day. It was a great relief when he told the parents that “Adrianna’s” condition could be treated with medication and the child did not need surgery. Since then, the child has returned to Dr. Fonsecaand made dramatic improvement. Dr. Fonseca expressed his frustration about incompetent Honduran doctors who dispense incorrect diagnosis/treatment.

Unfortunately, our village of Flores has become more dangerous. In the past, it was the cities where you needed to be very cautious, but it is now seeping into the little barrios.

Flores is divided by a two-lane highway, and on one side there is a real discrepancy of services…the public school located there does not have electricity, the classes are over crowded, and there is no playground. There is no access to clean water.

Astrid’s mother and little brother live in the heart of the worst area. For several years, it has been on our “wish list” for Esperanza to help this desperately poor family. who live in squalor conditions, to improve their living situation. Astrid’s grandfather has donated a tiny piece of land for us to begin building a new home for this family. Construction is under way for the first phase of building two bedrooms and an indoor bathroom.

Astrid’s life is being positively effected in many ways. Besides having a new place to live, she has been sponsored by Charlie and Nancy Morrison of Concord, to attend a bilingual school in Comayagua. This would be an incredible opportunity for any child, but is even more important for Astrid because her neighborhood school is located in the drug area. It is so dangerous, we were not allowed to visit it, even during the day light hours. Astrid’s teacher is thoroughly impressed by Astrid’s rapid learning and her future is looking brighter!

Astrid was admitted to Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield, MA. on December 28th and had surgery the following day. Four years ago, Astrid was operated there for a “tethered” (spinal) cord. She had her first of two operations on her left, “cavus” foot. Currently, Astrid’s mobility is impaired by this foot deformity. The next surgery is scheduled for January 11th, when they will cut through the bone and re-shape her foot. Following surgery, she will be non-weight bearing for eight weeks (wheelchair and walker). It will be a long winter, but we are so grateful for this opportunity and very thankful to David Dvaric, M.D. and all the wonderful doctors/staff for providing her care.