Friday, August 5, 2011

First Nueva Esperanza team

I got back two weeks ago from leading my first team to Nueva Esperanza (and I seem to be having a hard time getting my head in the game!) There are so many things I'd like to say about this trip but I can't figure out a way to do it without babbling.

For a week we spent the mornings painting ceilings (really, really high ceilings!) in an Orphan Helpers project called the Genesis Center. In the next few months, this will become the new school for all of the kids in Nueva Esperanza as well as the hub for community volunteers. In the afternoons we made babies smile and rocked them to sleep, chased toddlers down the hall after yet another attempted breakout, traced dozens of coloring pages, painted fingernails and tried to get the blasted cheap bubbles to blow good bubbles!

And of course, it was so much more than this. Spending consecutive days in Nueva can be hard. So it was also a week of strength, perseverance, growth, stretching and eyes being opened to uncomfortable truths. And I loved every minute of it. One of the things I struggle with the most is how best to communicate to all of you what Nueva Esperanza and Proniño are like, what these kids have been through, what their daily lives consist of and how you can help. And what I'm finding is that I can tell some individual stories (and plan on continuing to do so) but it's really hard to understand unless you've experienced it. And I love the process of walking with people as they're experiencing it. I think my favorite parts of this week were the one-on-one conversations I had with teammates as they wrestled through what they were seeing.

To the team: Thank you for giving your all. Thank you for pushing yourselves to spend time with groups or ages of kids that weren't your first choice. (They grew on you, right?) Thank you for asking tons of questions because it showed me just how much you really wanted to understand. And thank you for your openness and honesty each night as we debriefed the day!

Here's a slideshow of our week!

And if you're interested in experiencing this for yourself, there's still two more trips this year!

September 10-17 ($550 + the cost of airfare) Focusing on Nueva Esperanza
November 5-12 ($650 + the cost of airfare) Focusing on Proniño

Let me know if you're interested!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Today was r.o.u.g.h. For some reason, I've never spent much time with the toddlers at Nueva Esperanza. Yesterday I spent the afternoon there to help out two girls on my team. And I met Angel. All the kids were running around and he was just laying on the floor, staring off into space. I remember my first thought being that I don't think I'll ever be able to understand the depth of his loneliness. I picked him up off the ground and put him in my lap. He stared deep into my eyes and started weeping. He didn't make a single sound. Just had tears leaking out of his eyes as he stared at me warily. I got him to lay his head on my shoulder and we stayed like that for a while.

As soon as I could, I went back to him today and took him out of the toddler room to walk around the center. I was looking at his arms and legs and noticed dozens of little scars all over him. He has 5 brothers and sisters in the center and I made a beeline for one of the brothers. Enrique told me that they were from their mother hitting him with tree branches when he won't go to sleep. Unbelievable. When I saw him staring off yesterday, I assumed he was shell shocked from recently arriving in the center and not having his mom or siblings around to care for him. Now I know that chances are good that he's never, ever had a feeling of safety or security in his life.

He was snuggled close to me for a little over an hour, then the time came that I had to go. I explained to him that I am coming back tomorrow and will get him. Then I put him down. He stared at me as tears filled his eyes. His whole body was stiff as a board, in the same position as when I put him down. Only now had tears streaming down his crumpled little face as he watched me walking away, more tears falling the farther away I got. I felt like I was ripping his little heart out.

Earlier in the week I was talking to my teammate, Lauren, and she said she feels like she's going to spend this week getting the kids to let her in, just to walk away from them at the end of the week. I now fully understand what she meant. I can explain to the older kids when I'm coming back, and they understand the concept of time. But Angel is old enough to get attached specifically to me, but can't grasp 'tomorrow'. What am I going to do when I have to say "I'll see you in two months." In the long run, is getting this precious two year old to trust me going to help him or hurt him?

To quote part of Lauren's amazing and brutally honest blog "Staring back into my eyes, without speaking a word or making a movement, they tell me that their story is more than either of us can bear."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

First Honduras team

Two weeks ago I led my first team to Proniño. And I'm happy to say that it went very well! Thank you to Paula, Randy, Gwen, Katy and Brad for being my guinea pigs. =) I was so impressed and encouraged to see how much the team threw themselves into the work and threw themselves into getting to know the boys. And I'm grateful for the patience shown when we repeatedly heard "The plans have changed..." and "You can get started in just a minute..."

Top 5 moments of the trip for me (in random order):

1. When Jose Luis told Paula to close her eyes and open her mouth, and she actually did it. It ended up being a stick of gum, but it seriously could have been anything...
Jose Luis

2. When Milton whispered to me that he would like to marry Gwen. I blogged a while ago about how your presence, even for a week, really makes an impact on the kids. Case in point.
Milton and Paula

3. Sharing a gigantic meal with various types of meat with the team then finding out that that circular meat with the weird texture that made me gag a little is in fact huevos de toro. I'll let you google that.

4. Seeing how happy the boys were when they each received a stuffed animal donated by my mother-in-law's friend, Alejandra's, children. (That was a mouthful.) Who knew 15 year old boys would like a stuffed animal so much??

Rodolfo and his new friend

5. The moment when we finally received a mini-jackhammer and no longer had to pick ax through the foot and a half of cement we needed to remove. I can still feel the relief wash over me.

Happy Randy

Happy Gwen

And one of my favorite pictures of the week from Nueva Esperanza...

Click here to watch a slideshow of the kids and our work!

I'm hoping that after you watch this you'll be filled with an overwhelming desire to experience this yourself. Never fear! There are 3 more opportunities for you to come!

(This is coming up very, very soon but I thought I'd put it out there anyway...)
July 9-16 (Nueva Esperanza - $550 + the cost of airfare)
July 16-23 (Proniño - $650 + the cost of airfare)

September 10-17 (Nueva Esperanza - $550 + the cost of airfare)

November 5-13 (Proniño - $650 + the cost of airfare)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I love it when 'accidents' happen

I got back from Honduras on Monday and as usual, I have so much to say! I had an incredible team with me working in Proniño and had an incredible day with one of the boys and his family, but I decided to blog about the shortest story first. (I also really need to go to the store. Sean went once in the 15 days I was gone and bought milk, yogurt, buns and orange juice. Our situation is desperate.) But anyway...

There's this kid named Kenneth who I know from Nueva Esperanza. He escaped in October and after worrying about him for a few weeks, my friend Yann happened to bump into on a bus and we've been able to keep in touch ever since. He has a fairly random situation in that he's living with a family that took him in without knowing him at all and he works with the father in the house, driving a little horse and buggy type thing around gathering scraps of metal that they later sell. It's not ideal. He's 13 and in the 2nd grade and not currently going to school. And when he gets sick he's too embarrassed to tell them about it or impose on them by asking for help. But he's not living on the street and he's not using drugs. And it's kind of sad that from other situations I've seen kids in, that means he's doing pretty darn good. But every time I go back, I call the guy he's living with and arrange a time for me to pick Kenneth up for lunch.
Our most recent lunch outing.

This trip was no different and on my first Thursday in Honduras we had plans for lunch at Pizza Hut. We ate and chatted. But for some reason that day, I was really, really tired. And it's hard to understand another language when you're tired. And he doesn't exactly enunciate, which just added to my difficulties. I got to the point where I was just nodding and pretending to understand, telling myself I only had to do it for another 20 minutes or so and then I could take him back home. Out of the blue he suggested that we go to downtown San Pedro and hang out at the square. Now, I had been counting down the minutes for a while and I'm really good at not doing something that I don't want to do, but I sternly told myself that I only get to see him once every 2 months and if the kid wants to hang out at the park, then that's the least I can do for him. So I agreed.

And man am I thankful I did. About 2 blocks from the park I noticed a kid walking down the street with a familiar gait. I did a double take and realized it was Victor. Victor is a kid who has lived in Proniño (40 minutes away by car) for about 4 years. I hadn't been in Proniño for a few days so I had no idea he had run away. I swung my car into a parking spot and quickly got out. I said his name, told him I had no idea he had run away and immediately sat down on the curb to let him know I wasn't planning on physically grabbing him and forcing him back to Proniño. I asked him some questions about why he left, when he left, where he's been and if he's hungry. Yes. So we headed to Pollo Campero. I called Kevin to try to get more info on why he ran and he asked me to pass the phone to Victor. Kevin asked when he was coming back to the foundation (Never). Kevin asked again and he said "I'll probably come back with Jenny." Phew.

Kenneth and Victor on my way back to Progreso

But the thing that gets me and what I just can't shake is how random and coincidental this was. I really, really didn't want to go downtown. But if I hadn't gone, Victor would probably still be on the street. Makes me shiver to think about. Victor is NOT a street smart kid. I'm so, so thankful I stumbled upon him.

A week after he ran away, Victor's back in the foundation and returning to school.

In the 3 trips I've taken to Honduras this year I've 'stumbled upon' 3 kids. I don't know. Maybe it's because it's a 'small' country. Maybe it's because there are so many out there on the street that I'm bound to find a few. But it feels like more than that. I'm so thankful Victor's safe. And I'm so thankful that I'm able to be used in this way.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Richar!

It's been a while since I've given any updates on Richar. And since today is his birthday I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to talk about him!

He says that he's 15 today, but I have my doubts. . . His birthday is also close to the one year mark of when we first met. (Read about it here. You have to scroll down a little!)

I can't believe that it's been almost a year since I first met him. I remember blogging about him last May and writing about what he was going through. I remember being filled with such determination that I have to do something and yet fear that as time went on, this boy and his story was going to find a comfy place in my long term memory to be thought of once a year when I looked at pictures. I remember finding out his birthday had just passed and being disappointed, thinking, what are the chances I'll still be in contact with him a year from now? I am so thankful that a year later I can still write about him as I sit in a coffeeshop, waiting for my phone to ring with a call from Honduras so I can wish him a happy birthday. (To which I know he will respond "Thanks. Is Sean there?" Why, oh, why does he like Sean more than me!?!) And I'm so thankful that we were in Nueva Esperanza that day last year because I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing if it wasn't for this fierce and protective love I have developed for him, that has blossomed into love for so many. And I can't think of anything in the world that I'd want to do more than work and fight for these kids.

But back to Richar... I had hoped that when he was moved to Proniño in August, his angry outbursts involving tearing his clothes to shreds would cease immediately. No such luck. Then he ran away in December. He was found 2 weeks later but the whole ordeal made me realize that he could get mad one day, run away and I could literally never see him again. This terrifies me. It was so hard for me to leave in January because I knew that no amount of promises from him would actually mean that he'd definitely still be there in March. But, thankfully, he was. And multiple Proniño employees said that he's improving. I talked to him about it one day and told him what the staff was saying. He hung his head a little bit and said "I got angry last week." I asked if he had to go to "the box". (The box is a room that the kids go to when they are a danger to themselves or to other kids. And when he loses it, he seriously develops nearly super human strength!) He looked up quickly and said no. That in itself is an improvement! One day when I arrived at Proniño in the morning, one of the employees told me that Richar is improving and he wanted Richar to sing a song dedicated to me. So cute. I sneakily recorded it. I had my camera in my lap, so that's why it's at such a weird angle. At around the 32 second mark you can see Richar look directly into the camera and then up at me as he realizes I'm videoing him. =)

A birthday request. I've realized that Richar being moved to a safer location simply isn't enough. He's an amazing child that has experienced various traumas in his short life. The only way that he'll become a stable, healthy and productive adult is if he receives some professional help. Proniño used to have a psychologist on staff but due to financial difficulties she was let go last year. One of the goals for The Children's Home Project is to raise funds for a psychologist. This is probably the biggest and most expensive goal, but it will also produce some incredible, long term positive results for many kids. I need to raise $600 a month to meet this goal. This would cover the cost of a full-time psychologist working with 20 children. The reality is that we could probably use five psychologists! But we'll start with one. This goal could be met by the monthly donations of an individual, church, organization or a combination of sources! Please let me know if you can help the project and the kids in this way. Or let me know if you think your church or organization would be interested and I will follow up with them! With YOUR help I'll be able to write a post on his "16th" birthday about how the box and his anger is a distant memory. And you'll be helping numerous kids in such a significant way!

And once again...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Trip dates finalized!

I was reading my friend Allison's blog yesterday when I ran across a quote that I absolutely love from 'Irresistible Revolution'.

“Over and over when I ask God why all of these injustices are allowed to exist in the world, I can feel the Spirit whisper to me, “You tell me why we allow this to happen. You are my body, my hands, my feet.” - Shane Claiborne

I remember being stilled and convicted by this when I read it the first time. And it had the same effect this time. I spend so much time begging him to do something about this. To protect these children. To make them feel loved. To bring people into my life and theirs that will make both small and large differences in their lives. And I always feel like the responsibility is gently nudged back my way. We are his hands and feet. No matter how much I pray, he's not going to snap his fingers and make everything alright for them. He will give us strength, wisdom, passion or endurance for our journey. But we have to take the first steps down that path. And I'm nudging you to take this journey with me.

My best friend, Jen, with Tania, Magdiel and Juan at Nueva Esperanza in March

The trip dates and costs have been finalized for the rest of this year. I hope that if you've been moved by the stories of these kids that you'll seriously consider participating and getting to know them personally, and that you'll tell others. Lots of others!

I was reading my friend Jess' blog this morning and something she said really resonated with me.

But God does His work with smallness. It is our lack that He desires. Our limitations, our fear, our inability. He takes these few small loaves, the widow's mite, this ordinary life, and this is where he chooses to do His work.

Trip Dates...

May 28 - June 4
July 9-23
September 10-17
November 5-13

Trip Info...
Proniño trips
The trips in May and November will be focused only on Proniño (the center for former street boys ages 8-18). Our main project will be to build a portion of the center's perimeter fence. And being with the kids! (There may be some break dancing involved...) Here's a little video of the kids. Please ignore the information at the end!
Cost for May 28 - June 4 is $724 + the cost of airfare. I realize this trip is coming very soon, but my goal was to have 10 people on the team and it has recently dropped down to 6! A little bit of encouragement - I recently checked the cost of tickets and they were $100 less than they were a month ago. =)
Cost for November 5-13 is $650 + the cost of airfare.

Nueva Esperanza trip
The trip in September will be focused only on Nueva Esperanza (the government center with boys and girls ages 0-14). Our work project will happen in conjunction with another organization called Orphan Helpers. They will soon be reopening an abandoned center adjacent to Nueva Esperanza. This center will be a school and mentoring location for the kids in NE. Then the center can use the current classrooms as additional dorms. This will enable them to separate the sleeping quarters of the typical kids from the special needs kids, giving those with special needs some much needed safety and protection. We'll be sprucing up the place and helping to get this center ready to be utilized. We'll also be helping in the nursery, and playing with the kids!
Cost for September 10-17 is $550 + the cost of airfare.

Nueva Esperanza AND Proniño
The July 9-23 trip will be two weeks long and we'll be working in both centers. So, if you just can't decide in which place you'd rather invest, why not both? =) Or you can choose to participate in only the first (Nueva Esperanza) or second (Proniño) week.
Cost for both weeks is $1000 + the cost of airfare
Cost for July 9-16 only (NE) is $550 + the cost of airfare
Cost for July 16-23 only (Proniño) is $650 + the cost of airfare

Friday, April 1, 2011

And he's back

I told myself that today was going to be a day of hours of reading and journaling. I'm reading a book called "Permission to Speak Freely" by Anne Jackson and it's excellent. But I just read this:

"How many times have you been encouraged by reading a story in the Scriptures or hearing a story of how God has been faithful in someone's life? Doesn't that kind of confession move your heart along to search for the same kind of hope?"

I immediately put the book down so I could share my stories with you because man do I have some stories of hope. Sometimes it feels like feast or famine. Sometimes it seems like nothing is working out for these kids and I feel so overwhelmed (last week). Other times the joy just keeps building as I hear one thing after the other that makes my heart want to burst with happiness. I have three for you today.

#1 WILMER'S BACK!!! Kevin found him on Wednesday. I figured when Kevin found him it would go something like this: Wilmer sees Kevin and hangs his head sheepishly. Kevin says "Come on, man, I've been looking for you everywhere. Everyone's worried about you and they all want you to come back." Wilmer says "Really? [Because the only reason that made sense to me for him still being on the street was that he must feel like he's messed up too bad to be let back in the center.] And with a huge smile plastered on his face he skips over to Kevin's truck and they happily drive back to Proniño. Here's what actually happened. He was found in a sewage canal, high as a kite on glue and belligerent. Kevin, 2 older boys from Proniño and a helpful homeless man each grabbed an arm or a leg and carried the struggling and furious Wilmer to the truck. He didn't calm down once he was in the truck so they headed for a police station to see if they could put him in a holding cell until some of the drugs had gotten through his system and he wasn't a danger to any of the other kids. Thankfully, it ended up not being necessary. He calmed down at the police station. Still fuming, but calmer. Then Kevin, the 2 older Proniño boys, Wilmer and the 4 other kids they found on the street headed back to the center. 24 hours later Wilmer was asking Kevin when he was going to be able to move back to his old room and if Kevin could get him some drawing materials. He's back. I'm sad that he apparently had no intention of coming back on his own and I'm sad that he went back to drugs so quickly. This has blown a lot of my theories about why the kids do what they do and I'm dying to have have a long conversation with him in May about what was going through his head. But at this point the important thing is that I CAN have that conversation with him, because we know where he is. And we know that he's safe.

#2 One of the other kids that Kevin found on Wednesday is my friend Edgar. I knew him when he lived in Nueva Esperanza, found him on the street a few weeks after he escaped from NE and brought him to Proniño. Then he ran away in December. And was found 2 weeks later. Then he ran away 3 days before I got there in March. When I was there in January I told him that I was planning on selling our truck in December, but decided to wait because if he and Richar were still on the street in January I was going to need a vehicle to look for them. He spent much of that day asking me over and over "Why didn't you sell your truck?" (So I could look for you.) "Tell me again why you didn't sell you truck?" I sent him a letter telling him when I was coming in March, so when he ran away 3 days before I arrived I had a hopeful theory that he wanted to be looked for. But Jen and I went to the gas station where he usually begs at least 20 times. No Edgar. It was so weird being in Honduras and not seeing him. When I opened my computer on Wednesday afternoon I had an email from Kevin and all it said was "Got Edgar". Woohoo! I called him to get more info but by that point he had also found Wilmer, and things were pretty chaotic, so one of the kids answered. Once he figured out it was me he said "Jenny, I've got a friend of yours here." And he passed the phone to Edgar. It was so, so good to hear his little voice! I told him how happy I was and how worried I had been. I asked him why he ran - "Because of some boys." I thought that meant that some kids had been picking on him and I asked him who it was and he said "Robert wanted to run away so I left with him." That's kinda the problem with Edgar. He's always up for an adventure. If only someone could figure out a way to make him always be up for being safe and cared for then it would be great to stop these little adventures every 2 months!

#3 Final awesome story of this blog. (Keep in mind that I found out about these 3 things in a 20 minute window. Again I say, feast or famine.) I started chatting with a guy on Facebook as soon as I got off the phone with Edgar. He said that he had sent a picture of Richar to me from when he visited Proniño last week. After a few minutes I went to my hotmail account to check it out, saw this and gasped:
That's Richar and that's definitely Proniño, but do you recognize the other kid from my last post. It's Moises!!! He's been transferred from Nueva Esperanza!!! I couldn't believe no one had told me. But I was happy that at least I knew! I talked to Kevin about it on Friday and he didn't know the details of how he got there but he said that Nelson was grinning ear to ear and the two of them walked all over the center with their arms around each other all day long. My heart has been hurting so much for Moises, just thinking about what he's going through every day at Nueva. I'm so so thankful to know that he's finally reunited with his brother and that he's in a place where he can learn and grow as a kid and not have to live in survival mode.

I still don't understand why it didn't work out for me to bring him to Proniño 3 weeks ago, but it feels like maybe that wall in front of my face is crumbling a little bit...

Only 53 more days til I get to see them! Ugh, way too long. Now back to Permission to Speak Freely. Seriously, I highly recommend it.