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!
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.
There are so many meaningful reasons for being involved with Esperanza…for me, the most important one has been to help save (or change) a life. Yet there are numerous other reasons as well, and one which quickly comes to mind is the incredible people you meet along the way. Today I am thinking of Mrs. Ina Melen, an airline ambassador with American Airlines who generously volunteers her time transporting children for medical treatment, and over the past few years has become our admired friend.
Recently, I was scheduled to travel to Honduras to bring Noel to Boston for his annual cardiac evaluation. However, life took me on a different journey and I needed to be home with my family for a medical crisis. I quickly thought of Ina and hoped she would have the time to travel to Honduras to accompany Noel to Boston. I contacted Mrs. Margaret Whitehead (director of American Airlines’ Children’s Escort Program), explained our situation and inquired about Ina’s availability. She quickly reassured me that there were many volunteers available, but when she confirmed Ina would be the one to help, I was immediately reassured.
I cannot adequately describe what is involved with Ina’s journey to assist with a child’s trip to the United States. She is up at the crack of dawn to complete a round trip from Boston, MA to Tegucigalpa, Honduras….involving many hours, several connections and trips through Customs. It is never an easy process and there are always complications, yet Ina handles herself with grace and determination. The children in need are her motivation and we are her beneficiaries. We have always appreciated Ina’s service, but now in our time of special need, we realize her gift of “healing hearts.”
-This post is written by Rick Lania
Something I have had a hard time articulating when describing my experiences with the children in Honduras is how the kids pay you back so much more than the work and effort that goes into providing them with medical treatments. Statements like, “they can always put a smile on my face” do not mean nearly as much to the person I am speaking with when they are out of context. This is why I thought I would share an example of one of the many ways Noel has gone well beyond “paying back” my family.
Recently, my Grandfather has been in the hospital, which hasn’t been easy on anyone in my family. In Honduras, Noel learned this information from Ana and decided he was going to check how “Abuelo” was doing on his own. Throughout this week he has tried to call each night. One night I spoke with him, others he couldn’t reach anyone, and last night he spoke with my mom. For a 10 year old, he was very persistent and extremely caring, with each phone call asking “How is Grandpa doing?” It definitely meant a lot to me and showed just how much he cares about the 2nd family he has become a part of. I can’t wait to see him in a few weeks!
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.
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.
For the past five years Noel has spent significant periods of time in the Boston area while receiving medical treatment and follow-up care. Although he lives at our home in Concord, he can often be found two houses away, at the Andonians. Most days Noel would ask me, ” can I go see who is home? and how long can I stay?” Then off he’d go in his “Escalade!” That little car soon became a fixture at their house.
Noel loved hanging out with Nick, Haley and Grace, spending hours playing Halo, swimming in the pool and eating as many special treats as he could. The Andonians truly became his extended family and showered him with so much love and attention.
Dave, Kris Ann and their children have been involved with “our” kids for years, and we’re hoping they’ll take the opportunity to visit Noel at his home in Honduras. Esperanza is grateful for their financial support, as well, which will be designated for Noel’s education.
We have just returned from North Carolina, after sending our youngest child off to college for the first time. Everyone keeps asking, “how do you feel?”, “what are you going to do now?” At the moment, I am “at peace”…Bobby is content, and therefore I am, as well. It is reassuring knowing he is in a great environment, surrounded by many friends and that I will see him in a month.
It has been a big week… Noel returning to Honduras, Bobby leaving for North Carolina and Tony headed to Vermont. This is the time in your life you speculate about far into the future, and it is here. I am so thankful for having the opportunity to have been home full time with my three sons. I will certainly miss them (and all their friends) hanging out at our house and watching their sporting events and other activities. But, I also think we won’t be “child free” for too long…just 2 days after sending Noel home to Honduras I received a call from Shriners Hospital asking if we could host a 7 year old girl.
For now, we’ll take a quiet respite from “Sponge Bob Square Pants” and playing games, and spend some time rejuvenating…however, I know the longing will be back to have another child enter our lives, and our hearts…our home will not be empty too long.
This past Friday night, Noel received a call from home, just before bedtime. This is a fairly routine time of the day when his family checks in with him. I happened to pick up another extension at the same time and could hear his mother crying. I immediately went into Noel’s room and found him crouched on the floor, sobbing into the phone. He quickly shared that his beloved pet deer, “Bambi” had run away. Last summer, Noel had spent two months working and saving for his own deer. After returning from the States, he bought baby Bambi and quickly learned how to bottle feed him. Even though Noel had been raised in a family that has to hunt for survival, he bought this deer to be his special pet, and was the only child around who had one. Noel was so proud of Bambi, and happily showed him off to others. This summer he was once again working and saving with the hopes of buying a female deer (to be named “Princessa”) who could mate with Bambi.
It took a while to console Noel…telling him that maybe Bambi found his way back home. Unfortunately, it didn’t have a happy ending. The next day Noel’s parents called to say they had found Bambi, but someone had thrown a knife at him and he was dead. Ofcourse this news was heart breaking to Noel. Thankfully, Ricky was home to cheer him up and in time Noel was able to move on. Noel told me that “one day he would become president of Honduras and there would be no more killing animals!” A wonderful dream from an innocent child.
Noel returned home early this morning with new plans for the future. He has decided that it will be too hard to buy another deer and nobody will replace “Bambi.” Now his goal is to buy a cow, which will provide milk for his family…this little guy is growing up, and we couldn’t be more proud.
In five days, Noel will be returning to his family in Honduras after spending nine weeks with our family. I am trying to “stay in the moment” and enjoy each day, but saying “goodbye” does linger in the back of my mind. We have been through this countless times, having fostered many children in the past several years, but having Noel leave is always more difficult for me. This little boy captured my heart over five years ago when his mom first introduced us and explained his need for a life saving operation. Since then, he’s traveled here more times than any other patient and spent extended periods with our family…we’ve shared his hospital experiences, holidays and regular day happenings.
I love children of all ages, and there’s a certain beauty in meeting them at a young age and watching their development. We met Noel when he was four years old, and he was absolutely adorable. He had big brown eyes, and a smile that just radiated. We loved watching him play…one day turning a cardboard box into his own toy, and another day teaching us the art of marbles.
In the past two months, my husband and I have spent nearly every evening hanging out with Noel. Now that he is almost ten years old and fluent in Engligh, he enjoys sharing stories about his home life and community. I really look forward to his stories each night and learning more about the people and country we have come to love. Although we have a home in Honduras and many friends there, we are limited in communicating with them because of the language barrier. Noel, and the other children attending bilingual school, are often our “key” to this other culture.
This summer we have learned about the different animals eaten in Honduras including squirrel, snake, and rats. We have learned about various home remedies…everything from curing illnesses to preventing perspiration. Noel has taught us how his family lives with the most basic supplies and how they improvise when they don’t have a certain tool that we would use. We have a greater understanding of the daily struggles his family (and most others) face each and every day, and a deeper sense of admiration of their survival instincts.
I am grateful Noel is looking forward to returning home to a family who loves him, and is willing to share their son with our family. It is also helpful knowing that we will be seeing him in two months, when we return to the same village as Noel’s, for a month long visit. We will have the opportunity to share some of the experiences Noel has told us about, and for that, we are grateful. Be safe, my friend.