Sunday, 22 March 2020

Many things in our lives have changed over these past weeks.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our team has cancelled our service trip which was to start on March 27th.  We had been looking forward and preparing to go but know that is best that it be cancelled at this time.  Honduras continues to take measures as we do here and their county is in lockdown as well as schools cancelled.
We did pack up the many donations from you all that we were to take in our suitcases and thank you immensely for these.  Hygiene products - shampoo, toothpaste, etc are much needed and we keep them for our next trip - whether that be in this school year or the next.

And as we have time to reflect on these changes and our lives in the uncertain time of this pandemic, our purpose in our El Hogar ministry at St Luke's remains the same - to continue to support and nurture the vulnerable children in the care of El Hogar.  While we gaze out of our windows in this cool March, we look for signs of spring and have hope as we see the snowdrops and the early bulbs showing their heads up through the frosted winter's soil.  While we are anxious to get into our gardens, the kids at El Hogar are harvesting a crop of root vegetables that they have been tending the past few months.  They seem to be enjoying themselves.  Many of these raised garden beds were built by the 2018 St Luke's team. 

Sunday, 23 February 2020

 Hello Friends of El Hogar,
You will pardon our fun as we work on our egg-citing, ongoing fundraiser for our beloved El Hogar de Amor y Esperanza in Honduras.  We just can't help it when chocolate is involved.    But truly, this is serious stuff and we are so pleased to be doing this for the children of El Hogar in Honduras.  We have made over 300 hand-made and hand-dipped (with the best quality Belgian chocolate) Easter eggs for purchase for your Easter. They will be available from any team member or at coffee hour at St Luke's starting March 15. Cost is $6/egg or 5 for $25.

It is messy business, but someone has to do it!

Before we get to the chocolate covering, we need to make the inner egg with the fondant.  We go through alot of icing sugar and sweet condensed milk and so you know that the ingredients are the best. 

While the chocolate is being coated in one room, we have a team packaging and labeling in another room.

Looking good, team.  Thanks to our workers and alumni for your hard work.  Now we need you. You will not be disapointed with your purchases.

Meanwhile, the schools at El Hogar are getting well into their school year which started at the beginning of February.  And this week, it was photo day for the kids.
You can keep in touch with life at the schools through facebook
or their Instagram posts
  We have been so grateful for your generosity of helping us out with the donations that we take down each trip in our packed suitcases.  This year we are looking for donations of toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss, deodorant, soap,and razors. There is a basket in the parish hall for the collection of items you donate. We will pack up everything on Sunday, March 15th. Thank you so much! Muchas gracias!

We are so looking forward to being part of their lives for a week when we arrive there March 27th. Check out these smiles!  Wouldn't you be too?

Monday, 11 November 2019

 November is a busy time both here at home and at El Hogar.  The school year is ending for the students at El Hogar and the children, both at the primary school and the Technical school are finishing up their last week and writing their exams.  This weekend is graduation and so it means moving up to the  next grade and for some, moving out to the technical institute for their classes now that they have finished Grade 6. Their school year will start again in February and so they have their vacation over the Christmas holidays.  You can keep up to date by using the school's website and you can sign up for any of their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts.

Here at home, the El Hogar 2020 team has been busy preparing for our big fundraiser - making our famous and much-sought-after Gingerbread churches and houses.  As well as the team, we have many alumni and Friends of El Hogar helping out. First is the rolling and baking of over 400 parts before construction can begin.
After they are all completed, we will have put in more than 450 hours.

The fun part is the decorating after the structures have been made.  And everyone enjoys that. Each church or house is each a little different.
The decorator has put their personal touch on each one they do and they are all beautiful, all with edible parts.

We are so grateful for those who come to help us with this fundraiser and on one day, we enjoyed the visit of 4 colleagues from Wawanesa Mutual whose company gives them a day a year to work with a community charity and they chose us! These ladies were super creative with much detail in their work.Thanks Ladies!

Each final product is unique and ready to be sold at our Christmas Market at St Luke's Nov 30th and at each Sunday coffee hour after that.  Cost is $30 each or 2 for $50.                                                                                           

Be sure to look for our table at the Market.  We will also be selling chocolate bark and note cards made by our friend Marilyn Barnes.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Our last day here and we are too busy getting packed,tidying our living space for the next team and too involved to get onto the bus by 0800 to get us into the city to catch our flight, to realize how caught up in our emotions we are in actually leaving this place.  So we were up early, but I guess no earlier than most mornings as we often hear the boys up and at their chores just after 5.  This morning though, we are invited to attend their morning gathering and devotions out on the soccer pad.  This is their time to say thank you to us and was done nicely by a couple of the boys (and translated through the English teacher Enrique).  This student was one of the younger ones and seemed to be a leader already. 


.....and for us to let them know how thankful that WE are for them and all we have learned this week, for their love and respect and hospitality to us.  That they have a wonderful opportunity in this school to make a difference in their lives, in their family's and in Honduras to be leaders.  Here, through Enrique, Dave is telling them just that!

We try to capture all that is said and observed- in our hearts and on our cameras!

We hear an emotional and powerful speech from Lazaro who believes that the only way that this place could grow and change as it has over 40 years, is by God's hands through the teams that have come and by all the supporters who have been part of this project in Honduras in the past and those who have yet to learn about the work here in the future.  It is our task, to tell the people who ask, why we go to Honduras and about the work that is being done here.  It was an emotional speech both for him and for us to absorb. He has been with this organization since its beginning and he is the one who has seen the changes and helped with the growth as well as teachers and staff that are truly dedicated to these children.  

We end this part of our morning by taking a picture of all the kids - each holding up a toothbrush and toothpaste which were part of the donations!  It shows their appreciation and also no excuse for not making sure they brush their teeth each day! 

Back in town at the primary centre, we had a little time before departure to the airport, to catch Profe Heyser teaching the children Honduran folk dancing. The kids are enthusiastic, catching  his enthusiasm and love for this art.  In past years, he has let them to win competitions for their school.  There was as suggestion from one of us to him that perhaps in future trips he'd teach us some folkdancing!  He thought that a good idea.  Dancing is part of their cultural wealth both for the country and this school.  Each dance tells a story and has a meaning.  It was fun to watch the kids in this activity.  

Again we had time to debrief with the staff, (Matt, Erika and Tim) about out time here, as they listened to our observations and thoughts for the week. We wanted to get their photo to be sure that we have a record of the Toronto shirt - just to make us feel at home!  (We also find out that Matt has a team sweater for other areas of the country where teams come from!)
Off to the airport, taking with us one of the students who gets the job of being on the roof to unload the van of our luggage.  It is safe to say that we are happy that we don't have as many heavy bags as we head home.  

We leave behind many busy hours and full days as we worked and learned and got to know the boys.  We take with us the memories of a memorable week and the resolve to tell the story of El Hogar to others.  We learned about a number of very positive programs going on in the country.  We are encouraged by all the positive effects that these programs have in so many areas.  We are inspired.  While each of us came with a servant heart, we felt we were in partnership and a relationship with the El Hogar programs to help where we can.  We all agreed that we gained alot more than we gave.  We saw true humility lived out in the people we met this week.  They shared with us their hospitality and acceptance.  We have been so blessed by this trip.

Friday, 29 March 2019

This was another education day and we were delighted to attend the Museo de National Identity in the centro of Tegucigalpa.  So again it was interesting to pass through some parts of the city where we hadn't been before and saw everyday life in the city.  The cathedral in the town square and a spot to buy tortillas or frutas. 

The museum contains a complete visual display of the history of Honduras.  Unfortunately, this historical part was under renovation, but we still had Erika's chosen guide, Ariel, who puts the standard for guides rather high!  We still got a rather open and honest story of the history through the art display that he took us through which was open.  The art was wonderful and the first section that was Honduran art told the stories about oppression, poverty, violence, hope for the future, environmental damage, no voice for justice, peace.  It was fascinating and we got alot of Honduran historical stories through the interpretation of the art.  There was also a Picasso display and interesting to have a Picasso display in Honduras. 
We had lunch back at El Hogar again and were pleased to have Tim Munro with our group again this morning.  We had time to have our traditional picture around the logo of El Hogar.
We had a little time to check out the raised garden that we as a team started last year and so it was wonderful to see all sorts of things growing including pineapple.
We hitched a ride back to the Technical Institute with Gustavo who drives the students each day.  We picked up the 7, 8, and 9th grade girls at their high school on one side of the city, drove north to ITSM to pick up the Grade 10 and 11 girls and then he would take them all back to Santa Lucia.  In the meantime, there would be teachers who would hitch a ride with us in the morning after they finished their night shifts and another trip taking teachers back home again at night.  It must be a nightmare for the logistics and sorting rides, but it happens each day and seems to work.   Sometimes it is important to be able to take a nap on the bus when you can.  

We loved our activities tonight with the oldest of the students and they were very engaged in what they chose to do.  Charming and smart and polite.  Michael was the one inviting the boys to play soccer and they loved that.  He was helping them practice for the Episcopal school competitions this weekend.  
 Work shoes waiting to be packed up! 

This is our last night together.  We have enjoyed our home this week which must have been the "manor" of the owner of this property.  We also have grown together as a team, working together, laughing together, sharing meals together, sharing and praying together.  It as been a special time.  Teammates for a short time, but friends forever.   

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Our two official days for work projects are over and today is our learning and education day.  A very full day of discovering some of the very positive programs that are happening here.  We were in the van with Danilo, one of the El Hogar drivers by 0800 to take us to Tegucigalpa and to El Hogar.  We were met by the Executive Director, Matt Engleby, and also Tim Munroe who is the Director from the Boston office and down for a visit, so there was lots of good conversation and discussion about the dreams and  changes that are taking place in the schools. We also had some time with Claudia, the director of the school and she too gave us her enthusiastic report on the new happenings at the school.  In the new extensions of Honduran obligatory education to Grade 9, our El Hogar schools are working towards grade 12, but have started by offering up to Grade 11 so far.  The other big change is the addition of day students.  Last year there were 4 day students and this year there are 77.  They come from various neighbourhoods, including the biggest area called La Betania where the bus picks up 50 kids on our school bus each morning.  A former teacher's brother, Delmer, is a dynamic, charismatic, enthusiastic community worker in that neighbourhhod and  has made great strides in trying to improve the quality of life in this community.

Here Tim from our Boston office and Erika enjoy conversation with him.

 The neighbourhood sends about 50 kids to El Hogar.    We visited three of the moms in their homes whose children are now part of El Hogar and who all commented how their children's' lives have changed academically.  We visited their homes and in one of them, as we all  went inside, we totally filled the room and here is where the mom lives with her two children.  And in the next two homes, we felt that while they were simple homes that they had the support of their community and all pleased that their children have a new outlook on their schooling.

We visited the dental suite as well to chat with Doctora Nora who is the resident dentist and glad to receive our toothpaste and toothbrushes.

Lunch was at El Hogar and we couldn't get into the dining room until the children had finished their lunch, for our usual volunteer dining section is now being used for a Grade 1 class!

The afternoon was spent at the Ciudad Mujer  Centre where we viewed as an absolutely amazing model of a centre for women that exists to improve the living conditions of Honduran women, by facilitating services that meet their basic needs and strategic interests.  There are

6 different services for women under one roof  in this two year old building which have clinics to empower women through their programs of.Sexual and Reproductive Health, Domestic Violence, Economic Autonomy, Job assistance and also supplies Child Care.

We all commented that we have certainly not seen a facility like this at home and we were certainly impressed.  It was also meant a  time to spend with Claudia and appreciated that  she had taken the afternoon from her busy schedule to take us there.  Of course it meant that it was a drive through the city to view city life while we all love to do.

Our evening activities were fun again with the boys, though there were less tonight as many of the boys are trying out for a volleyball team with a tournament coming up soon. 

 Ros also had baking night with the boys, who loved making cookies for us all!

 Rod enjoying a little futbol with the boys.