The Season of Generosity

The holidays are busy. From family visits to gift shopping, it’s easy for the spirit behind those celebrations to be lost. The spirit of generosity.

El Hogar exists because of the generosity that’s present within people’s hearts, not just during this season, but all year long. That generosity takes its form in a variety of ways.

For some, it means becoming a monthly or yearly sponsor who supports the daily costs of our work. For others, it can take the form of being a member of one of the many Service Teams who travel to Honduras each year. And for others, it can mean being an advocate for El Hogar within their communities. No matter which category – or categories – you fall into, we appreciate the generosity you’ve shown during this holiday season and the past year.

Our students’ lives have been changed in ways that can be seen and unseen because of you. I think about Lisbeth and her graduation from high school this past November – one of the first high school girls to ever graduate from our program. She’s beginning college courses in the fall to work toward becoming a psychologist. Then there’s Eder from our Agricultural School, who graduated from ninth grade this year and will enter our new tenth grade program for boys this coming February. These are just two of the many stories of achievement this year at El Hogar. The gifts that you’ve given these students are greater than any measure. And as we all know, this is the season of giving.

As we prepare to bid 2017 farewell, we look at 2018 with excitement and anticipation. It will be the first year we have a tenth-grade group of boys. The year when we begin moving forward with our new strategic plan, looking toward the day we open our new coed high school campus. The year when El Hogar takes new and exciting steps forward.

For those of you who have given of your money or time to El Hogar this year, take time to celebrate the part you’ve played in helping the children of El Hogar as you gather to celebrate the holidays. If you haven’t supported El Hogar in the past, I hope you’ll make the decision to help us provide a life-changing education to our students. Thank you for showing the true spirit of the season each day of the year.

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

El Hogar Graduation (November 2017) – Final Thoughts and the Flight Home

I’ve never liked goodbyes. Whenever a family member who had come for a visit would say their goodbyes, I would inevitably respond with, “See you soon!” The word “goodbye” seems to have an unintended feeling of permanence. Like there’s no way of coming back.

When I come to Honduras, I dread that moment when I load my bags into the van for the final time and ride through the streets of Tegucigalpa. After navigating the maze-like layout of the city, we finally arrive at the airport. The trip has come full circle. The joyous smiles and hugs that were part of our arrival now turn into quiet moments coupled with tears. We’re all trying to savor every last bit of time together before we part company and countries. I consider the employees and students of El Hogar in Honduras to be part of my extended family. And as I said above, I don’t like saying goodbyes to family.

The campuses of El Hogar are special places to me. They’re havens of safety, joy, and hope. The students never cease to amaze me with their questions and boundless energy.

Each of the students who have been honored this week have their own stories. Before El Hogar, their lives were filled with uncertainty, fear, and other unthinkable factors that were setting them up for lives within the cycle of poverty. After coming to El Hogar, their lives took a different path. The education they’ve had access to provides them with skills and knowledge that can never be taken away.

Waiting at the gate for my plane back to Boston, I took a few moments to look back on the past days in Honduras. I began to tear up as I remembered the faces of the students as they were honored for their hard work. They were so proud, and each of us in attendance were proud of them. For my wife, this first trip to El Hogar was one that gave her a greater appreciation for the work being done here. She was also excited to have finally met the students.

The beauty of Honduras isn’t just found in nature, but in the hearts of the people who call it home. I always tell people that I count it as a privilege to work for an organization like El Hogar. To be a part of changing the lives of these wonderful kids is something that I will never tire of. I’m so grateful to have been a part of this year’s graduation ceremonies, and to have shared this amazing experience with my wife. Thank you for joining me on this journey and for your support of El Hogar!

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To change the lives of children in Honduras, please donate today!

El Hogar Graduation (November 2017) – Elementary School Clausura and the First High School Girls Graduation

Each graduation event is unique and fits the area where the particular campus is located. The Agricultural School is very understated and simple. The Technical Institute is a mixture of attendees from rural communities and cities, and was a more lively event. Tonight’s – the ceremony for the Elementary School – is the most formal of the three.

The Clausura ceremony celebrates the transition for students from an elementary education to the next level. It was great to see the boys and girls dressed in the nicest clothes as they proudly stood to be honored. Their time at El Hogar is far from finished. Now, they move forward to enter the next phase of their education.

Tonight’s ceremony was also particularly special because of another group of students being honored. In addition to the Clausura ceremony, we also celebrated the graduation of El Hogar’s first group of high school girls.

These four young women entered our program as elementary students. Tonight, we honored their completion of high school and their plans to attend university. As they continue their education, their dreams will come closer and closer to being within reach.

This night was a truly special way to end these past few days in Honduras. My heart is filled with so many emotions as this final day in Honduras draws to a close. As we drove away through the darkened streets of Tegucigalpa, the orange glow of the sodium lamps passed by the windows. This is my last night and tomorrow, we prepare to return home.

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To change the lives of children in Honduras, please donate today!

El Hogar Graduation (November 2017) – Graduation at the Technical Institute

The ever-present traffic from yesterday seemed to be a distant memory this morning. The road leading to the Technical Institute takes you through another part of Tegucigalpa, but one that still climbs the mountains that surround the city. You feel as though you’re climbing the winding road forever. The mountains seem endless. Suddenly, the view opens up to the Amarateca Valley – home of the Technical Institute.

As we arrived, the campus was lush with green vegetation that had thrived during the rainy season. One of my favorite things about this campus are the various metal sculptures that seem to be everywhere. They’ve been created by students – past and present – to highlight the skills they’ve learned during their three years of technical education. They’re works of art!

Friends, family, and visitors gathered together as the nervous graduates waited. Each of the proud boys greeted each person with handshakes, hugs, and smiles. These welcomes are wonderful, but it’s the more private family moments that really speak to me. The times when a grandma gives a hug while whispering words of wisdom into a graduate’s ear, or dad puts his arm around his son’s shoulder and the hint of tears can be seen in his eyes. These families each have their own stories filled with struggles, hopes, heartaches, and triumphs. This graduation is a moment of triumph for each of these families.

Mixed into the speeches of the ceremony was a performance by El Hogar’s marimba band. The boys are talented and always leave me with my feet tapping.

The ceremonies are special, but one story stuck with me today. My wife and another visitor were sitting in the audience and noticed a father of one of the graduates. During the entire program, this man was beaming with pride, wiping away tears, and couldn’t seem to contain the joy he felt at watching his son graduate. This moment in time seemed to be the culmination of a lifetime of worry and work to ensure that his son had access to a future filled with promise. This is what El Hogar is all about!

With the day’s celebration (and lunch) finished, we made our way down the road and back to Tegucigalpa. During this trip, I noticed some of the graduates and their families making their way home. This day wasn’t the end of their journeys. On the contrary, this was only the beginning. Will the road be straight and smooth? Of course not. That’s not how life works for any of us. But a solid education – like the one they’ve received during their time at El Hogar – is the best preparation to handle any of the ups and downs that life can bring. Their hard work has paid off.

Tomorrow is the final ceremony of this trip. We will celebrate the Elementary School’s Clausura and the graduation of El Hogar’s first group of high school girls. It promises to be a wonderful day!

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To change the lives of children in Honduras, please donate today!

El Hogar Graduation (November 2017) – Graduation at the Agricultural School

As we set out from Tegucigalpa to travel to the Agricultural School – the first of the graduations – the sky was clear, but the same couldn’t be said for the roads. When you arrive in Honduras, you quickly learn that heavy traffic is the norm and the rules of the road are simply suggestions. As Margo Mingay, a former Executive Director in Honduras, is fond of saying: “Honduras is not a just country. You don’t just drive to the farm. You don’t just send a fax…”

As we sat in the long line that was climbing the road leading out of the city, I took the opportunity to watch the people who were walking or riding in the opposite direction. Each of them has their own distinct story and history, which I’ll never know. Many of their faces showed the difficulty of life in Honduras, which made me think about the difference an education – like the one our students receive – can make.

Eventually, the traffic eased and we made our way through the countryside toward Talanga and the Agricultural School.

I never cease to be amazed by the area where the Agricultural School sits. The fields seem to go on for miles, with mountains looming in the distance. The noises of the city give way to the sounds of cows, goats, and chickens.

We gathered together with the friends and family members of the graduates under the open-air pavilion. The rainy season has just come to an end and sawdust covered the ground in an effort to minimize mud.

The graduates – dressed in their vibrant blue graduation gowns – sat at the front of the audience. As their names were called, they each stood up to be recognized and honored for the hard work that had brought them to this pivotal moment. It was their time to shine and be applauded.

After the speeches had been given and the diplomas were handed out, everyone in attendance joined together for a delicious plato tipico meal – grilled meats, fresh corn tortillas, queso fresco, refried beans, and all of the other wonder accompaniments – and tres leches cake for dessert. Needless to say, I think each person was quite full by the end of the day’s events.

As I walked back to the van to prepare for the return trip to Tegucigalpa, I passed by the graduates and their families. There were smiles, hugs, and tears in great abundance. This was a celebration that lifted my heart, and it was only the first of three ceremonies that would make up this trip.

Tomorrow, we travel to the Technical Institute to celebrate the accomplishments of another amazing group of graduates.

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To change the lives of children in Honduras, please donate today!

El Hogar Graduation (November 2017) – Arriving in Honduras

I apologize for the delay in this blog post from yesterday. As anyone who has made the trip can tell you, the trip to Honduras can be very long and I was unable to post it before the end of the evening.

The morning began early…very early. In the predawn hours, I walked through the doors of Logan Airport in Boston and began my journey to El Hogar. From this starting point, I traveled the nearly 2,200 miles to celebrate this year’s graduation ceremonies.

To fly into Honduras is to have a birds-eye view of the extremes that make up the country. On the one hand, you see the coastline with its long, white beaches, and the mountains lush with vegetation and coffee plantations. On the other, you see the shacks stacked on top of each other, covering the hillsides that surround the capital of Tegucigalpa. These are the homes of the poor and neglected of Honduras. These are the places where the children of El Hogar begin their lives.

Emerging from Tegucigalpa’s airport, you’re greeted by a sea of people and vehicles. The world seems to be a jumbled chaos, but everyone seems to know exactly where they’re going and how close their car can actually be to yours without them actually touching.

Traveling through the maze of streets, we eventually reached the gates of El Hogar. With a quick tap of the horn, our arrival was announced and the gate was quickly slid open. Immediately, we entered the calm and peace that is El Hogar’s elementary campus. Anyone who’s ever visited will agree that it is a truly special place. One filled with the laughs of children and the hope that comes from having access to education.

This year’s visit to El Hogar is personally special for me because my wife, Heather, is joining me during this visit. This is her first time visiting El Hogar and she’s excited to actually see the places she’s read about or seen in pictures. It was wonderful showing her around the elementary campus and introducing her to the students and staff.

The day of travel is a long one. It’s something that leaves you exhausted, but that feeling doesn’t last long. Tomorrow is the first of the graduation ceremonies and I’m looking forward to the drive from Tegucigalpa to our agricultural school in Talanga.

The celebrations start tomorrow!

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To change the lives of children in Honduras, please donate today!

El Hogar Graduation (November 2017) – Preparing to Celebrate at El Hogar

Jason Lang is the Manager of Marketing and Communications for El Hogar in North America.

Graduation is a time filled with a flurry of emotions for students. On the one hand, they’re excited about their accomplishments and relieved to have completed their work. On the other, there’s fear of the unknown and uncertainty about what the future could hold. This is the reality for students everywhere, especially in Honduras.

Each year, the graduation ceremonies at El Hogar provide a window into the lives of the students who have been in our care. You see their friends and family members joining together to celebrate this momentous occasion – most likely the first in their family’s history. These moments, although within view of everyone else attending, are deeply personal and are humbling to witness.

Tomorrow, I leave for Honduras and this year’s graduation ceremonies. Though each year is filled with excitement and joy, this year’s will be particularly special as we celebrate the graduation of El Hogar’s first group of high school girls. They will be the first graduates to leave our program and move directly on to university – a major milestone for these girls and our program. It’s been a long road for these young women, but their hard work has certainly paid off. Along with the girls’ graduation, we will also be celebrating the accomplishments of all the students who will be honored during this year’s ceremonies.

I’ll be blogging each day about the graduation ceremonies and my time at El Hogar. My goal is for you to feel like you’re also attending!

I hope you’ll be a part of this journey and will check back each day for updates. Until tomorrow!

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To change the lives of children in Honduras, please donate today!

Making Your Time Away Count

Most of us are very protective of our vacation time and opportunities to step out of our daily routines. It’s usually time set aside to do the things that bring us joy, which can include travel, sports, the arts, and the list goes on. We don’t usually view those few weeks of the year as opportunities to make a difference in the world, but maybe next year you could use a week of your vacation to bring joy to the lives of children. You would also gain a new perspective of what life is really like for families living in very different circumstances than yours.

Each year, El Hogar welcomes Service Teams to Honduras. They come from throughout the United States and Canada, and all with different expectations, hopes, and fears. Some teams are made up of members who know each other and come from one particular church or organization. Others have members who meet for the first time as they prepare to travel, but who end their trips with new and lasting friendships.

These trips do often include some work, which could be painting or carpentry. While teams help important maintenance work to get completed on our campuses, the real purpose behind these trips is to offer each person a new perspective on life in Honduras. By understanding the difficulties and struggles that are everyday realities for people who live there, it becomes even more evident to team members that we are all connected, despite any cultural differences.

It’s easy to watch videos or read articles, but to ride through the streets of Tegucigalpa or to visit the home of an El Hogar parent brings the realities of life in Honduras into sharper focus. The years of struggle these parents and grandparents have gone through can be seen on their faces, but many have tears of joy when they describe the difference El Hogar has made for their children.

Recently, David Dreisbach, the Director of Communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, was part of a Service Team. He was kind enough to share some of his thoughts about his time at El Hogar:

“I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time I passed through the gate of El Hogar. Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is hot, overcrowded, and loud. People look at you as you pass them on the streets with eyes filled with despair. But inside the walls of El Hogar, there is peace. There is happiness. There is love. And best of all, there is family. 

David smiles with Anna Nicole during his recent Service Team trip to El Hogar. (Photo courtesy of David Dreisbach)

I met dozens of joyful children who all have a story to tell. As I got to know these children and heard their stories, I quickly found a common theme. The theme is that for each one of them, being at El Hogar is a miracle. It’s a chance at life and a chance to make their lives count.

When you leave El Hogar, you have the feeling that you are leaving the real world. A world where contentment is not based on excess but on having what you need. Going back to a society built on excess, greed, and discontentment was very hard. The children at El Hogar are going to be fine whether they met me or not. I, on the other hand, have been forever changed.”

David’s experience is not unique. Each person leaves El Hogar changed and with a perspective that will never be the same as when they first entered our gates.

It’s easy to put a team together or to join a team, and we can help you do that. Planning is already underway for Service Teams who are traveling to El Hogar in 2018. If you’re interested or want more information, please call 781-729-7600 or send an email to info@elhogar.org. We look forward to welcoming you!

New Year, New Possibilities

“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.”

– Melody Beattie

The first few weeks of a new year are usually spent getting everything prepared to run smoothly as you move forward. For some people, a new year brings feelings of joy and anticipation. For others, they enter with feelings of worry or dread. Like the quote above, I look at the new year like a book – many chapters that tell a story filled with the good and bad that life inevitably brings, as well as the hope and promise that carries us through.

Your support puts their hopes and dreams within reach.
Your support puts their dreams within reach.

Two years ago, my wife gave me a daily diary for Christmas that’s good for five years. Each night you answer a question and, once the year is over, you start back at the beginning. It lets you see how you’ve changed over the years since your previous answers, while also showing you how you’ve overcome the struggles of the previous year. For me, this is how I look at the start of a new year at El Hogar.

Each year our students enter our campuses during the month of January to prepare to begin their new school year. For those returning to El Hogar, they’ve made it through the struggles of the previous year’s studies. They can look back with pride. Now, they’re entering a new grade – or maybe even a new center – with all the hopes and fears that the unknown inevitably brings.

For those who are new to El Hogar, the emotions they enter with are powerful. They’re coming to a new place fresh from situations of neglect, violence, abuse, poverty, and hunger. They’re surrounded by the new faces of other students and staff members. It’s a new world for them and they quickly learn that there are opportunities available at El Hogar that they never could have dreamed of in the past.

Each of these students enter the new year at El Hogar in very different places, but they all have many things in common as they view the year ahead. They have hope for a brighter future. They have determination to get the most they can out of their education. They have peace within the safety of El Hogar’s walls. They have comfort in the love and care they receive from staff members. They have lives that are being transformed through the help and support of El Hogar – only made possible each year by our generous donors.

The new year brings the promise of new possibilities for each of our students – ones that were out of reach for them previously because of the poverty they were born into. With your support, our students can continue to break free from the cycle of poverty in their families and see their lives turn around. With your support this year, 2017 can be the turning point that changes the direction of their lives forever.

The Greatest Gift

The holiday season is a special time at El Hogar.

Is it just me or has the holiday season just become far too commercial? My favorite memories of the season come from time spent with family and friends, delicious meals featuring long-held “secret” recipes, and strolling through the neighborhood looking at the decorations adorning each home.

Sadly, most people seem to focus more on the gifts that they’re giving than the intent behind the gifts. By the time the clock strikes midnight and 2017 begins, many Christmas gifts will have already taken up residence in their permanent new closet or basement homes. I find this troubling because it’s not what the holiday season is supposed to be about.

This special time of the year should be about bringing back fond memories, rekindling joy that may have been stifled because of a difficult year, and giving us an opportunity to look at how we can make the season better for those in need. It’s that last point that’s particularly timely for me.

The students at El Hogar are wonderful teachers. They teach us lessons each day with the things they say and their actions. One thing that has struck me each time I’ve visited – as it has for many service team members who have gone to Honduras over the years – is how giving the students are toward each other.

One story that’s stuck with me was told by a service team member not long after I started at El Hogar. They told me that during a trip to Honduras, they had taken some of the students out for lunch following a church service. The children enjoyed their lunches, but several of them only ate half of their hamburgers and kept the rest wrapped up. One volunteer noticed this, but thought they were taking it back to enjoy at El Hogar. On the contrary, when they returned to the school, these students gave their remaining hamburgers to their brothers or sisters. They were sacrificing a treat to make sure their family didn’t feel left out. It’s a giving spirit that rings true for us during this time of year, but one that we should also try to have all year long.

For me, it’s a gift to see the lives of our students impacted for good each day. It’s a gift to see the hope and promise in their eyes. It’s a gift to see smiles on their faces. These are the gifts that truly matter and they’re made possible because of the generosity of people just like you. People who give whatever they can to make the lives of our students – children they may never have a chance to meet – better. That’s the greatest gift you can give no matter what season it is.

For those of you who have given to El Hogar this year, thank you for your support. You’ve shown us the true spirit of the holiday season throughout 2016. For those of you who may be new to El Hogar or who haven’t given a gift to us yet, please consider giving your gift today by clicking the button below. It’s a great way to do something truly meaningful and selfless during this season. When you do, let me be the first to say thank you!

On behalf of everyone at El Hogar, I hope you have a wonderful, joyous, and peaceful holiday season.