Notes From Honduras – May 2018

Every April, El Hogar has student council elections to vote in a new student body president. The elections are regulated and observed by delegates from the Ministry of Education, and are run on the same day in every school district across the country.

At the beginning of the year, each grade votes on a class president, among other delegates. When it came time for the school election, the presidents of each class and their delegates got together and selected two candidates for school president: Eduin and Lizzi. The week before the election, Eduin and Lizzi presented their platforms and held two debates, in which all of the students attended.

Jafeth casts his vote during the recent student council elections at El Hogar. (Photo courtesy of Erika Skafel)

On Election Day, the voting public was assigned a voting area alphabetically by first name. The ballot is a full page with a photo of each candidate so young voters who can’t yet read are able to cast their vote. Once all the votes are cast, delegates for each voting station count the votes, under the supervision of a teacher and the representative from the Ministry of Education, and fill out the corresponding forms. The votes from all stations are tallied and the new president is voted in.

For the first time at El Hogar, the students voted in a female president. Lizzi wanted to be president because she believes that the students of El Hogar have an opinion and she wants to facilitate changes so that all of the students are happy. A strong statement for a quiet fifth grade girl, proving that anyone can be a leader.

When called on stage to accept her new role, Lizzi addressed her peers with confidence and conviction. She thanked them for voting her into this position, welcoming them to approach her if they want to see changes, and promising that she would do her best to make them happen. She expressed her appreciation to the teachers that educate and counsel her, and gratitude for the opportunity to be at El Hogar; a place, she stated, where she can receive an education and can focus on studying, not on helping her parents earn money or worry about how she could get school supplies. Lizzi is very keen to make a difference and has a lot of personal drive to succeed and have a good future.

(Upper Left Clockwise) Eduin congratulates Lizzi on her win; Lizzi giving her acceptance speech; the new student government is sworn in; the members of the new student government. (Photos courtesy of Erika Skafel)

Lizzi is an example of the confidence that the teachers and staff foster in the children at El Hogar. Voting in a female school council president is a small step in the progression that El Hogar is working towards as the program evolves.

– Erika Skafel, Coordinator of North American Relations

To learn more about El Hogar, please visit our website at www.elhogar.org.

Notes From Honduras – April 2018

Every spring, the eight Episcopal Schools in Honduras take turns hosting a volleyball and soccer tournament. This year, the 19th Annual Episcopal Games were hosted by St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Tegucigalpa on Thursday, April 12th and Friday, April 13th, 2018.

A change from the last few years, the boys from the Technical Institute (ITSM) did not get to travel to the north coast of Honduras where they have previously played. From their point of view, it was a disadvantage because they did not get to go to the beach after the tournament! The advantage, however, was having the support of all of their peers and teachers who came out for the two days to watch them.

Jose, Angel, and Rony cheer on their classmates during the volleyball tournament.

The other seven Episcopal schools are private schools, and this year only four were able to make the trip to Tegucigalpa. After a brief opening ceremony, the volleyball tournament began on Thursday afternoon in gymnasium #2 at the Villa Olimpica – a public sports complex in the city. The boys’ coaching team was Profe Juan José – physical education teacher at ITSM – and Profe Gerardo – national volleyball player and son of Profe Norma, the sub-director at ITSM.

The ITSM boys played hard and won some matches, but finished in last place after six games.

Under a blanket of clouds on Friday morning, the soccer tournament began at 8:30 am at the Estadio Olímpico (Olympic Stadium) at the Villa Olimpica. The group of Folk Dancers from St. Mary’s performed, and all participants sang the National Anthem before taking the field. The clouds disappeared at the perfect time and made way for a hot, but beautiful day for soccer.

With three other teams to play, the ITSM boys hit the field in their brand new cleats, designed and fabricated by a company in Tegucigalpa. In the first two games, they tied 0-0, but in the last game they lost 1-0 on a penalty shot. Unfortunately, this eliminated them from advancing further in the tournament. However, with the amalgamation of ITSM and the Agricultural School, their players had incredible skill and played as a cohesive team.

(Top) The ITSM soccer team and (Bottom) volleyball team represented El Hogar well during the 2018 Episcopal Games.

One student participating in his first Episcopal Games, commented on the fact that their skills were well matched with those of their opponents, despite the differences in resources that each school and individual student has access to. He felt like the competition was fair and these differences were not noticeable on the field. All of the players had comments about their experience, including some of the referees’ calls, and some challenges they ran into with opponents. But despite this, they all said that their overall experience was positive. A student taking part in his second Episcopal Games commented on the excitement of participating in a competition; a feeling, he remarked, that was much different than the pick-up soccer they play in their free time.

Despite the losses in the tournament, the boys gained competitive experience that will help push them to work hard for next year. They’re hoping to win, but also hoping that they’ll get to go back to the beach!

– Erika Skafel, Coordinator of North American Relations

To learn more about El Hogar, please visit our website at www.elhogar.org.

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