Notes From Honduras – February 2018

2018 is a year of changes at all our campuses in Honduras. On February 5, the first day of classes, students and their family members gathered in the chapel at the Technical Institute (ITSM) for the beginning of a new phase at El Hogar. With the addition of 10th grade, and the restructuring of the Agricultural School, students from ITSM and the Agricultural School are now together on one campus.

While the 87 students come from all over Honduras, Director Lazaro Juarez spoke of uniting a family; that nobody is from “this place” or “that place,” everyone is from ITSM. “We are ITSM.” While many things have happened to get to this moment, he spoke of the readiness to head into this new phase together and the pride and joy he felt to be a part of it. Lazaro emphasized the important role that the parents play in the success of their children, and the gratitude that he has that the parents trust them to work together to raise respectful young men with strong moral and spiritual values.

Teachers are introduced to the students at ITSM.

Anthony is one of 19 students who joined the ITSM family from the Agricultural School, where he completed the 7th grade. He will start the 8th grade at ITSM. His mother and young brother accompanied him on the five buses they needed to take to get from Talanga to Amarateca, so that he can take advantage of the opportunity he has to continue with his education.

Anthony poses with his mother and younger brother at the ITSM campus.

Last year, some Service Teams visited the home of Gabriel, a student at the Agricultural School. This year, he is heading into 9th grade and his mother and younger sister came to wish him well. His mother expressed that it will be difficult to have him so much farther away, but is grateful for the opportunity he has to be at ITSM. She visited him every weekend while he was at the Agricultural School, and despite the distance, promised Gabriel she would continue doing so while he is at ITSM.

Gabriel poses with his mother and younger sister as he prepares to settle in at ITSM.

The first day of school marks the beginning of exciting changes ahead at all the campuses of El Hogar.

– Erika Skafel, Coordinator of North American Relations

Notes From Honduras – October 2017

As you may have heard, this year is an election year in Honduras. After a string of military governments in the 1960s and 1970s, a democratic government was voted into office in open elections in 1982. That government founded the National Assembly, which approved the new Honduran constitution that same year. Over the next few decades, the democratic system slowly strengthened, being run by eight civilian governments from the two main political parties; el Partido Liberal (Liberal Party) and el Partido Nacional (National Party). Despite its name, the Partido Liberal is not a left-wing party. From a North American point of view, both are relatively conservative in their policies and beliefs.

The Honduran constitution states that a president can only be in power for one four-year term. In 2009, then President Manuel (Mel) Zelaya wanted to consult the population to see if they would support a change in that particular article in the constitution. The opposition declared this unconstitutional and the military, claiming to protect the rights and freedoms of the people of Honduras, ousted Zelaya in a coup d’état. This sparked political unrest in the country and international outrage, a time that many El Hogar supporters may remember, as Service Team trips were suspended during this period. In the end, the constitution did not change and Zelaya, once allowed back into the country, formed the Partido Libre (Free Party) led by him and his wife.

The current President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez. (Photo by Daniel Malpica, Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores from Perú – Visita del presidente de Honduras al Palacio de Torre Tagle)

The next presidential term is from 2018-2022, with national elections on November 26th of this year. This should mean that the tenure of current President Juan Orlando Hernandez is coming to an end. However, in a complicated situation where it is difficult to uncover the facts, Hernandez has secured his candidacy for president for another term. Newly appointed Supreme Court Justices declared the no re-election article inapplicable to Hernandez, allowing him to move forward with his plan to continue occupying the Casa Presidencial (Presidential House). National opinion polls are elusive, but public opinion indicates a close contest meaning Hernandez does not have a significant lead, if any, over the other candidates. However, his party does control the congress, making his re-election likely.

Despite everything, things are pretty quiet around here. With about a month until the election, campaign posters line the streets, advertisements are heard on the television and radio, and the presidential candidates are making their rounds. While not everyone is happy about the situation, there does not seem to be an outcry from either national or international bodies. For better or for worse, there seems to be a relative calm throughout the country, which could lead one to believe that this will not be a repeat of the political upheaval in 2009. Either way, the decision will be made on November 26th with the hope of a better Honduras.

– Erika Skafel, Coordinator of North American Relations

Notes From Honduras – September 2017

Before the Spanish arrived to colonize Honduras, the land was inhabited by a variety of indigenous tribes. Most prominently, the Mayans occupied the western region of Copán. Other indigenous tribes including the Lenca, Miskito, Tawahka, Pech, Tolupan, and Chortis were scattered throughout the country.

After a few “discoveries” in the early 1500s, Honduras was colonized in 1524 and under Spanish rule for the next three centuries.

On September 15, 1821, a declaration of independence was signed in Guatemala City and Honduras, along with the four other Central American countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica) were granted independence from Spain.

In Honduras and across Central America, all of September is celebrated as the Mes de la Patria (Month of National Celebration), beginning with Dia de la Bandera (Day of the Flag) on September 1st and Dia de la Independencia (Independence Day) on September 15th. Schools, office buildings, and stores are decorated in blue and white representing the colors of the national flag of Honduras, and marching bands can be heard every afternoon around the country as they practice for the Independence Day parades.

All four of El Hogar’s centers participated in activities for Independence Day.

(Clockwise from the left) Fernanda, Patric, Estiven Emmanuel, Rony Estiven, Rony Lara, and other students from El Hogar’s Elementary School march in the 2017 parade celebrating Honduran Independence Day.

From the Agricultural School, some of the boys went into Talanga, the town close by, to watch the local parade. They also decorated their campus with the patriotic blue and white, as well as posters and murals of national symbols and heroes of their past.

Students from the Technical Institute participated in a parade with the elementary school in their town. Starting at the main highway, they marched the roads that lead to the Institute with a marching band, a pelotón (marching platoon), and the honor roll students. The streets were muddy from the rain the night before, but the boys toughed it out!

The elementary students marched in the local parade with the other 24 schools in their district. The marching band set the pace for the rest of the kids, which included the pelotón (marching platoon), palillonas (baton twirlers), and pomponeras (cheerleaders). Accompanied by the high school girls, the children marched in the hot morning sun and their band received an honorable mention from the judges.

– Erika Skafel, Coordinator of North American Relations

Notes From Honduras – August 2017

On July 26, El Hogar hosted the science fair for all the schools in their area. Ten schools came to showcase their experiments, and the panel of judges, brought in from various universities, were to decide which projects would advance to the science fair for their school district.

In Honduras, there are four levels of competition for the science fair…

  1. All the schools in the zone (geographical area)
  2. The whole school district (which is comprised of various zones)
  3. The department (which is what we would refer to as the
    state or province)
  4. At a national level

The projects were split into two categories; Group 1 (Grades 1-3) and Group 2 (Grades 4-6). Representing Group 1 were Amy Kimberly (Grade 2), Estiven Emmanuel (Grade 3) and Fernanda (Grade 2), with the support of Profe Karen, Profe Karla and Profe Virginia. Their project was called “Tobacco and its Affect
on Health.” With plastic bottles as the lungs, they filled them up with smoke from a cigarette. As the smoke left the bottle, a yellow film was left on the surface, demonstrating the damage that cigarettes do to your lungs.

Amy, Estiven, and Fernanda – representing Group 1 – prepare to present their science fair project.

Representing Group 2 were Rene Gabriel (Grade 6), Yener (Grade 5) and Cristopher (Grade 4) with the support of Profe Heyser, Profe Siloé and Profe Gladys. Instead of the conventional natural science project, they chose to focus on the social sciences. Their project was called “Impact of the absence of parents in the behavior of children and adolescents at Hogar de Amor y Esperanza.” Designing a survey and choosing a random sample of children and parents, they asked questions related to the relationship with their parents, the frequency to which they received visits or phone calls, and their behavior. The conclusion that the students came up with was that not only is the frequency of visits important, but the quality of the visit as well. They also suggested that the parents should build up their skills so they could find employment to improve their situations at home.

The students from Group 1 presented well, but unfortunately didn’t win because they were one of two schools that demonstrated the same concept. Because of the creativity of their experiment, the students from Group 2 received an honorable mention and represented El Hogar at the science fair for the school district.

After advancing to the school district level science fair, the students from Group 2 won first place and for the first time will represent El Hogar and their school district at the science fair for the Department (State) of Francisco Morazan this month.

Yener, Cristofer, and Rene Gabriel with Profe Heyser and their first place trophy.

– Erika Skafel, Coordinator of North American Relations

Notes From Honduras – July 2017

If you’ve come to El Hogar on a Service Team in the last couple of years, chances are you’ve been to Villa Olimpica. The Autonomous Sports Confederation of Honduras (CONDEPAH) regulates 40 sports disciplines in Honduras, many of which are headquartered at Villa Olimpica. The sports complex was built in the late 1980’s to accommodate the Central American Games and remained a public facility. The Honduran Olympic Committee Headquarters is also located there.

(Left) Julio César practices his pitching, while (Right) Gabriela and Gabriel practice taekwondo.

In 2016, CONDEPAH began a program that supports participation and skill development in sports for students in education centers like El Hogar. Since then, our students have been developing their skills in seven disciplines: taekwondo, judo, kickboxing, lima lama (all martial arts), table tennis, baseball, and of course, soccer. On Monday and Wednesday afternoons, the kids load onto the bus according to their sport and head to Villa Olimpica where their Honduran coaches are waiting for them. They practice martial arts, table tennis, and baseball, while also learning discipline, focus, and fitness. On Saturday mornings, the soccer team, which includes some of the students from the Technical Institute, practices and competes.

Through the collaboration between CONDEPAH and El Hogar, many of the children have had the opportunity to not only develop their skills, but to also develop their confidence by competing in tournaments against other students in Tegucigalpa and other cities, including Comayagua.

– Erika Skafel, Coordinator of North American Relations

Notes From Honduras – June 2017

The students in fourth grade are curious. They ask a lot of questions. They like to investigate things. So Profesora Karla, the fourth-grade teacher, creates opportunities for them to foster their inquisitiveness.  Every two weeks, the kids do experiments in class. Their only instructions are to come up with an experiment with whatever materials they can find on campus. So…

…Roque and Keydi recreated the idea of the candle snuffer, learning that tapping a piece of plastic stretched over a cut soda bottle will be enough to push the air out and extinguish a candle.

…Ander, Cristian, and Darwin discovered that if you hold a balloon over a flame, it would explode easily. However, if you fill the balloon with water and hold it over a flame, it would not explode, nor would it heat up.

…Cristofer and Sergio mixed soda and salt to demonstrate the eruption of a volcano.

…Antony, Patric, and Genesis mixed soda with milk and discovered that, after time, the chemicals in the soda made the milk curdle, explaining that soda was not a good thing to drink!

The creativity and resourcefulness that the fourth-grade students demonstrate is a testament to the quality education that they receive at El Hogar. As the weeks go on, their experiments will only get more and more impressive!

– Erika Skafel, Coordinator of North American Relations

Notes From Honduras – May 2017

Reading offers a great many benefits to the development of children; building knowledge and vocabulary, improving concentration, and developing a sense of empathy and imagination.

Jim & Lynda Martin from Toronto, Canada, know this. They have been supporters of El Hogar since their first visit in 1989. They have made it possible for the children at El Hogar to be able to experience these benefits firsthand, with the construction of a new library.

Located in a shared space with Executive Director Matt Engleby’s office, the library has been open for a little over a month. Equipped with comfy couches, cushions, and books, books, books, the children can come enjoy some quiet time by themselves or with their friends. During their free time (and once they’ve finished with their responsibilities!) the children have the opportunity to lose themselves in a classic like Cienicienta (Cinderella) or laugh along with Diario de Greg (Diary of a Wimpy Kid). Free to come and go whenever they can, the children themselves organize into groups and swap in and out so that the library is often full of children sprawled out amongst the furniture, books in their laps. On the day everything was set up, Matt brought a few children in to show them the library, and an hour and a half later they were still there; books that they had already read scattered on the floor and searching the shelves for something to read next.

Whether they come to explore the world of Charlotte in La Telaraña de Carlota (Charlotte’s Web), learn about El Mundo de Dinosarios (The World of Dinosaurs), or be entertained by Dr. Seuss, the library is one of the many ways that El Hogar works to foster bright young minds of tomorrow.

– Erika Skafel, Coordinator of North American Relations

Notes From Honduras – April 2017

Every year, the eight Episcopal schools in Honduras gather to compete in volleyball and soccer. This year, the 18th Annual Episcopal games were hosted by Holy Trinity School in La Ceiba, on the north coast of Honduras.

In the early hours of Thursday, March 30, the bus departed from the Technical Institute with their volleyball team, soccer team, and the soccer team from the Agricultural School. They arrived in La Ceiba about seven hours later and the volleyball team jumped right into their first game. Their volleyball coach, Gerardo, is the son of the Sub-Director at the Institute, Lazaro Juarez. He trains with the Honduran National team, and is a great asset to the boys. They were against tough competition and, despite playing hard, they did not place in the finals.

Joel (Left) and Kevin (Center Right) faced tough competition as part of the volleyball team during the games.

After a long day of travel and competition, Lazaro took all the boys to the beach. They went about 20 km east to Sambo Creek and enjoyed an afternoon of swimming, beach volleyball, soccer, and dancing “Punta” (a dance done by the local indigenous Garifuna tribe). A few more tourist stops and they were back in La Ceiba for dinner and bedtime.

The boys had an opportunity to relax with some time on the beach and some games of soccer in the sand.

The first soccer game was scheduled for 8 a.m. on Friday morning and each team had three games to play. The boys from the Technical Institute tied their first two games and won their third, advancing to the finals. The boys from the Agricultural School won their first two games and lost their third, advancing to the consolation final.

The Agricultural School boys, while outplaying their competition, lost 1-0. The goal was scored on a penalty; a foul by one of their defenders inside the goalie’s box. They placed fourth overall.

The Technical Institute boys scored first, but the other team quickly came back with a goal. They finished regular time tied 1-1, so they went on to penalties. Lazaro told the boys that they had played well and to try their hardest, but that they needed to accept whatever outcome they got. Josué Isaís, El Hogar alum and goalkeeper for the Institute, set up on the goal line for the first penalty. The other team made three good shots on net and scored each time. When it was the Institute’s turn, they made two good shots, but missed the third. A tough way to lose, but the Institute boys placed second overall.

The soccer teams from the Agricultural School (Top) and the Technical
Institute (Bottom) played hard during their times on the fields.

You could say that the boys from the Technical Institute and the Agricultural School are at a slight disadvantage because every year the games come only two months after they have started classes, while the other schools start their school year in September. However, this doesn’t show on the field. In many cases, the boys match or outplay their opponents despite having less practice time.

The Episcopal Games offer a great opportunity for the boys to compete, meet other students from across the country, see a new place, and enjoy a new type of camaraderie that comes with traveling. Arriving back at home late on Friday night, the boys had a lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to for next year!

– Erika Skafel, Coordinator of North American Relations

Notes From Honduras – March 2017

Since the Middle Ages, Father’s Day has been celebrated on March 19th in many parts of Europe. This custom was brought by the Spanish to Latin America and is observed as the feast day of St. Joseph, who was the father figure to Jesus.

Father’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the father figures at El Hogar. With many children lacking knowledge of and a relationship with their own fathers, the male teachers and staff have a great deal of influence over the growth and maturation of these students. Profe Heyser, a long-time teacher, feels a great deal of responsibility and pride in the work that he does, not only as a teacher, but as a father figure for the students at El Hogar. He was surprised and inspired by the recognition that the students expressed on Father’s Day.

The boys and girls who call El Hogar home have many father figures to look up to. These teachers and staff members strive each day to guide the students in their care through life’s highs and lows.

Rene Gabriel, a sixth grade student at El Hogar, spends a lot of time with Profe Heyser. To him, Profe Heyser is someone he can trust, who counsels him when he is wrong and celebrates with him during his successes.

The staff and children wanted to do something special for the teachers on Father’s Day! The invitations were sent out a week in advance for a special celebratory dinner on Friday evening. The dining room was playfully decorated with moustaches, ties, and photos. Some of the children took turns sharing words of gratitude. Music was playing and everyone enjoyed a “plato typico,” a traditional Honduran dinner with grilled beef, refried beans, salsa, fried plantain and cheese. Dessert was a chocolate cake made from scratch by the students in the baking class.

While there is no replacement for a father, the staff at El Hogar do their best as father figures. They’re positive male role models who demonstrate the caring, love, and toughness that the children need. They help make days like Father’s Day a celebration.

– Erika Skafel, Coordinator of North American Relations

Notes From Honduras – February 2017

Ana Nicole is five years old and is from Montaña de la Flor, an isolated community in central Honduras. She is a happy girl and loves skipping and playing tag. She is also the smallest girl at El Hogar and the other girls enjoy looking after her.

Every experience Ana Nicole has at El Hogar is new and overwhelming. Her first visit to the doctor was no exception. The process started in the dining room, where they were taking measurements. She opened the door and entered reluctantly, unsure of what to expect.

(Top) Ana Nicole (left) laughs with her friend. (Bottom) Ana Nicole (middle) is reassured by her sister, Heydi (left), during her medical check-up.
(Top) Ana Nicole (left) laughs with her friend. (Bottom) Ana Nicole (middle) is reassured by her sister, Heydi (left), during her medical check-up.

They took her height and weight with no problem; the growth chart started at 100 cm and she just barely reached the bottom! The vision test was a little more intimidating. For the younger kids who haven’t learned their letters, they test vision with pictures. The chart on the wall has images that match cards on the floor in front of the child. They cover one eye with a patch and the child uses their foot to point to the matching picture indicated by the tester. Ana Nicole didn’t want to do it. It was complicated and she was with strangers, so they brought in her older sister; her protector and her comforter. With Heydi’s presence and gentle encouragement, Ana Nicole correctly matched all of the images. She has 20/20 vision! Lead by her sister, Ana Nicole continued to the clinic for her check-up.

Doctor Susan greeted her warmly and gently lifted her up on the bed. As the doctor checked her ears, eyes, and mouth and listened to her heart, Heydi was holding Ana Nicole’s hands, reassuring her that although overwhelmed, she wasn’t alone. With her sister’s support, Ana Nicole made it through her first medical check-up. Rewarded with a Twizzler candy, both girls left the clinic and went back to playing with their friends.

With school back in session and medical check-ups complete on all the students at all four centers, the year is off to a great start!

– Erika Skafel, Coordinator of North American Relations