Tuesday, 10 December 2013

El Hogar Service Team to Honduras, February 22 - March 1, 2014

Here we are again - preparing for another mission trip to Honduras in February with a brand new team that are already preparing and looking forward to serving once again.  There is a core of the team returning and 4 first time team members.

The first thing we did after our team was chosen was  to book our flights for departure Feb 22nd.  We had to work fast at getting seats as flights were filling up fast.  October then arrived and we began the job of team building which took place mostly over the building of our Gingerbread Churches that seem to be a big hit and a big seller. This fund raiser  covers the Project Fee for the work we do in the week that we are at El Hogar.  Gingerbread was the focus of our lives for more than two months as we got together regularly to roll, bake, construct, decorate and package our gingerbread. 

 As well as the team, we had some additional people who came to help, mostly to decorate and share and speak a little Spanish and listen to Christmas carols!  Perhaps we did get a little competitive trying to use original ideas in decorating, but mostly it was all about team building!

We began selling in earnest on the day of St. Luke's Christmas Market. By selling more on that day then in any other year at that Market, it says that people are coming to expect our churches and we found that some of our visitors were coming just for the gingerbread!  Here is the father and daughter duo added to our team this year.  Our own Rector and Louisa. 

Or..... our success may have had something to do with Rick, our team leader and also Market welcomer, who greeted everyone at the door with a map directly to our Gingerbread table!

All in all, (and with 20 houses going to a Real Estate company),  we made and sold 151 churches and houses.

We are so grateful to Marilyn who again this year has made beautiful note cards from her lovely original paintings which she sells to benefit the children of El Hogar.  She is a talented lady.  Thank you Marilyn!

And thanks to all the team and those alumni or friends of El Hogar who baked and decorated.  A special thanks to you all for purchasing our handiwork and helping to make a difference in the lives of the children of El Hogar

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Saturday, April, 20.

We can't believe that today is our departure.  There was lots to do as we packed up and cleaned out the guest house (all the team was wonderful in pitching in) and saying our goodbyes to the children.  We can't quite imagine waking up tomorrow without them or without each other, but know that our ministry will continue on in various ways until we come another year.

We did have time to get a few pictures of the kids.

These two little guys seem to be comforting one another.  We know how  some of them must have very sad times if they have left some family behind. 

Mostly we see LOTS of smiles!

Even during chores!

Some of the girls with the dolls that Phyllis Brandon and Kay Rutty made.


  We got in a photo with Jorge, who is the child that St Luke's sponsors.  This is now 4 years into the sponsorship and we have seen him grow so much and excel in school.  We have a special place in our hearts for dear Jorge!


Erika got in a folk dance lesson with the kids and with teacher Heyser.

 We love to hear the Marimba band and they entertained us in the last evening, getting us all up to dance.

They were really supposed to be taking out the garbage but decided to become "Transformers" to get the job done!

Our traditional group farewell photo in front of the El Hogar logo.

Matt, the Executive Director who lives out in Santa Lucia where the girls are located, came in to say goodbye and help by taking some of our luggage to the airport in his car.

The rest went on top of the van.

Always a few forms to fill out to get out of the country, but Raul was there to the end to make sure that we got through all the procedures and to the departure gate OK.  He has been a wonderful friend and guide and we get a glimpse of Honduras through him and all our questions.  We are thankful for him, keeping us safe and keeping us busy!

While at the airport, Jane and Janice had two opportunities to talk to strangers (Hondurans) who would be interested in volunteering and getting involved in the work of El Hogar.  Let's hope that they follow through and indeed connect with El Hogar.  

The travel day went well, and we had a 4 hour stopover in Atlanta to enjoy our last meal together.  We said goodbye to Jane and Tom as they headed off to their flight back to Cincinnati.

As we waited for our last call to board the last leg of our journey, they called for volunteers to get off the overbooked plane and catch a flight in the morning getting $600 Delta dollars credit for doing so.  Erika was the first to volunteer with Chris, Darla and Louise following.  They arrived home, with luggage, on Sunday and with credit for next year's trip already!

As Janice, Ros and Lynn stood shivering after arriving back to Toronto, (minus1 temperatures) sometime after midnight waiting to load up our bags for the last time, we remembered last night - barely able to get to sleep with such hot humid weather!


Our week ended and we know that our lives will never be the same because of our experiences and because of the children.  While the week was busy and hot and hard physical work, loads of emotion and loads of fun, we go to serve knowing that everything that is done at El Hogar either by us or any other Service Team makes a difference in the lives of these children.

"God hasn't called us to do great things, but to do small things with great love."  - Mother Teresa

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Good evening from Honduras. Our day started off after opening ceremonies with a breakfast of corn flakes and cold milk. Many members of the team were looking forward to this all week.


Allan is enjoying special moments with his sponsored child, Cesar.

First on our schedule was a visit to Marvin's home. Marvin attended El Hogar and his sister still lives here. His mother was scheduled for back surgery today, but was too weak for the procedure. The group decided to purchase a box of groceries which would help her get through the next month. While they didn't have much, they were very proud of their home.

We then loaded the van for a 40 minute ride which took us to elevations of 4600' on our way to Santa Lucia where the older girls live and go to school. There has been a lot of work completed since we were there last including a vegetable garden and composting. This fits in with Millennium Development Goal #7, Environmental Sustainability. While they are able to successfully grow spinach, Matt informed us the girls are not particularly fond of it. The feelings that come to mind when you are here are safe, spiritual, relaxing, calming and healthy.


Matt recommended a fabulous place to have lunch before we headed to Valley of the Angels to shop for the afternoon.

It was great to spend some time with the children before dinner, then we were treated to a lovely send off including singing, dancing, music and some very kind and touching words from the children.  After the "Despidido" (farewell celebration) the team treated the children to ice cream.

Today we went through an entire spectrum of emotions, from very sad to overwhelming joy. It will be a tearful good bye tomorrow morning before heading to the airport. It has been very hot week, but we understand that is not the weather we will be coming back to!

Thank you for all your kind words and support.

Darla & Chris  


Friday, 19 April 2013

It was actually a little cooler this morning, and as usual we were all at the opening ceremonies with the children at 7 a.m  Most of the group was headed to the farm early this morning while Jane, Ros and Lynn stayed behind to do various jobs.  Ros and Lynn are catching up on student evaluations in ESPANOL!  Jane ended up in the kitchen peeling and grating GIANT carrots, onions and tomatoes for lunch.  In the afternoon, she was mending clothes and with 104 children that is one huge job, especially when the sewing machine doesn't work.  Tom, who is the fixer of everything  tried his best to get it fixed.

Meanwhile Chris who had stayed behind to finish up some of the painting on the administration building, had to improvise when the promised paint didn't arrive til late afternoon.  But he got the job done and it looks beautiful.

We always enjoy the visit to the Agricultural School.  The hour and a half drive takes us through many aspects of life that are so interesting.

 Once out of the city, we are amazed at the beautify of the countryside.

The chickens, cattle, goats, pigs, horses and crops provide learning opportunities for the 60 students farmers and food for all four school locations.

This past year there has been a new experiment of farming Tilapia in their ponds and one of the students is fishing to check the size, as is done weekly.

 It is wonderful to see a few of the boys that we knew in El Hogar and because of the opportunities that they have had for an education they will be able to find jobs in the agricultural field.


It is a long drive out to the farm and was very hot, so a few of us were glad for a little nap on the way back.


Julio Cesar Almandares, the first student sponsored by St. Tim's, is now on staff at the Technical Institute and is quite an impressive man.

We got back from the farm in time to get the second and last coat of paint on the walls.  Lesley, who is just six weeks post ankle fracture, has done an amazing job on the work front with her foot in a brace and works as hard as the rest of us.  The job is done! We have painted the administration building with two, and in some areas three coats of paint.

We have traditionally taken some of the directors and teachers out to dinner while we are here and enjoyed being together at a very lovely restaurant where we continue to share stories and enjoy our week together in Honduras.  

As well as Directora Claudia and her husband Raul, our trusty driver and friend joining us, we were delighted to have the Executive Director Rev. Matt Engelby.  He is from New Jersey and spends about half a year in Honduras and the other half in speaking engagements in North America. We had met  him previously when he visited St Luke's several years ago.

Jane and Tom enjoy spending time with Heyser, teacher and marimba band leader at El Hogar.  Heyser visited St. Tim's with seven boys in the band in 2006.

It has been a long day and walking back cross the property from the computer room is a treat.  The evening is cooling so beautifully and the grounds are quiet ....  so different from the hub of activity in the day with 104 children.