It happens everywhere around the world, in every family. One day you're chasing a toddler and then you blink, and the years have flown by, and suddenly you have a teenager. Or in our case, 13 teenagers.
When we look around here at GiveHope2Kids, we're always surprised by another voice that's deepened, another young person headed off for their high school internship. We always throw the traditional big party, a quinceniera, to celebrate when a girl here turns 15. We just celebrated Katherin, and flipping ahead in our calendar we see that next fall we'll celebrate as 4 more of our girls become young ladies. Time sure does fly!
So what is life like for the young people of GiveHope2Kids? Our number one priority is always family, so our teens are still an integral part of the families here -- the big helpers. Most of our teens have been here for several years, so they see their house-parents as mom and dad and they love the younger kids as their siblings. After family, an education comes next on our list. Our teens are studying in school, learning through classes we're teaching (jewelry making, sewing, and chess as examples), taking music lessons, and participating in our Friday night Hope & Healing Ministry, from acting in skits, to singing on the worship team.
We are proud of the young people they are becoming. From rambunctious preschoolers, to thriving teens, we've been through a lot with these kids. It's a beautiful thing to watch as the love of God and family shape these lives and propel them towards a success.
We're so excited that our Transition Home is now up and running. This is thanks to Earl & Sharon Washburn, our long time mentors, stepping in as the parents there. We feel it a privilege that we can offer this home to several young people who are studying, including our first high school graduate. Grisel now has a chance to stretch her wings, and take flight at university, while still having family to come home to at night.
We are giving the kids we care for a legacy, the legacy of family. This gift comes in two parts: having a family that claims and includes them, and experiencing the everyday workings of a healthy family unit.
When one of our kids first walks through the door, they’re shell-shocked. They bring a grocery sack with a few changes of clothes, but they’re usually wearing the one pair of underwear they own. They’re shell-shocked because someone probably lied to them about where they’re going and for how long – and our hour and a half, bumpy ride into “nowhere” is so unlike the crowded, gang-infested neighborhoods that most come from. Our new kids are also in shock because they can’t conceive the thought of living in a safe place.
Most of our kids have never known a reliable father – for some a father represented absence, or a vague unknown, or abuse. Some of our kids lived under the shadow of prostitution – whether it was their family’s income or their probable future. Some wandered the streets, looking for food. Older siblings were trying to parent younger siblings, often without any food or money to be had. Their stories are of hunger, neglect, abuse, and abandonment.
They are our heartbeat because we believe that, by God’s grace, we can pass on the legacy of family to these young people. They have been absorbed into a thriving family-life with us – yes, messy, yes human – but a family that sticks with them and with each other. It gives them a place to come home to, a model for marriage and child-rearing, a place of safety, a place to belong. Here is where we can change a generation: instead of repeating the same cycles of disfunction and abuse, these young people have a chance to break the mold and model success. This is our prayer. This is our goal.
This year has been a big year for getting things rolling on our 2nd campus of GiveHope2Kids.
At our new Roma Campus we initially bought 20 acres. Then we went through a period of dreaming, seeing big things for the future: Could we expand into a hospitality trade school? A counseling center? Along with what other possibilities? While we're not sure exactly how God will have us walk through these new doors, we realized that more land was the right idea. So now we own just over 50 acres. We're currently developing our infrastructure (think power, water, and roads), planting fruit orchards, and constructing homes for kids. We're also remodeling a house for the Furrow Family that will also help us host groups for the next couple of years.
Along with the two staff families already living at the Roma Campus, this winter we'll be revving up our Transition Home to house our university students and their house-parents. Actually, it's important to insert a note here: We are so very thrilled to have Earl & Sharon Washburn joining our team as house-parents to our young adults! The Washburns launched and administrated the high school Instituto El Rey for many years and have long been our mentors.
Thanks to everyone who gave towards this land or it's homes, or who came and served here in 2018! We are grateful and so excited to watch things progress. It's amazing to look around here and glimpse a future of laughing, playing children, who are learning that they can belong to a family again.
The 30th of March this year our little Yanessa was diagnosed with Leukemia. She and her twin Larissa are 5-years-old, and part of the 7 sisters in our care.
In the beginning God gave us a verse for Yanessa, to help strengthen our faith. In John 11:4 Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." God is faithful and little Yanessa is a walking miracle.
Yanessa was hospitalized for 2 1/2 months in San Pedro Sula. It took a couple of weeks to get the official results, but Yanessa was diagnosed with an easier form of Leukemia and the doctors said that we caught it early enough, so that it would be treatable. Then starting in May we've made two trips a month, driving the 5 hours each way and staying over for her treatments at the Fundación Hondureña para el Niño con Cáncer. We are very grateful for the care they have given Yanessa. Yanessa still isn't fully recovered, but she has responded very well to every treatment and we consistently get good reports for her. She's moved from sad and listless, to sparkly and joyful, even in the midst of all the medical procedures and separation from her sisters.
We want to especially thank Areli (Ruby's 3rd sister) and Gladys from our team for caring for Yanessa. Both ladies have spent several weeks away from family, doing 24-hour-shifts in the hospital to care for her. They have been a huge blessing and have shown Yanessa a mother's love through all of this.
I also want to thank our faithful donors for helping us to cover the cost of Yanessa's treatment. While many of her medical bills are covered by the foundation mentioned above, GiveHope2Kids has spent several thousand dollars for her care during these months. This was possible thanks to your faithful support.
Here are a few pictures of Yanessa through the course of her treatment. Please pray for her continued recovery. Also, if anyone is interested in becoming more a part of Yanessa's life, she is still in need of sponsors.
As we begin work on a new campus, we wanted to communicate exactly what is our vision for this new ministry site. The short answer is that we'll copy most everything from our Urraco Campus and have more homes for kids, more educational opportunities, and more self-sustainability projects. We're basically doubling Give Hope 2 Kids.
And if you're sticking around for the long story....
This journey started with first recognizing a need we have: We need a place for our young adults to live while they study beyond high school. While our Urraco Campus is a wonderful place to raise kids, it is a very impractical place for university students to live. (It only takes 5 hours for a round-trip to the city on public transportation.)
In the fall of 2016, God used several different circumstances to start us walking towards expansion. Near the end of the year, we felt that it was time to act, time to pursue a location nearer to La Ceiba. We started asking around and quickly felt God directing us to pursue a property in Roma, which is 20 minutes east of La Ceiba. Through God's faithfulness and our incredible donors, we've now purchased this land. The 2nd campus is 20+ acres, next to the main road, and just a 3 minute walk from a bus stop.
Our young adults will now be able to access La Ceiba's universities and larger trade schools as they work toward independence. For all intents and purposes the transition home for these young adults will be the only significant difference between the 2 ministry campuses.
Nearly everything else will be a duplicate of the Urraco Campus. We will still live out all our essential values, like the most important: Our homes for children will be led by strong, Christian families. It is our intention to carry on the wonderful family culture we so enjoy.
We firmly believe that we will have an impact in the community of Roma, just as we've had in Urraco. We've already started building relationships with the teachers and students in the public school, while doing service projects there. As we develop relationships in the community we later hope to invite the young people to be a part of a youth group.
We will also initiate several agricultural projects to help support the ministry and make it as self-sustaining as possible. By focusing on the strengths of each location, we hope to gain even more ground in sustainability. For example, our Urraco Campus has the altitude for growing good coffee and we have more acreage there for meat production. The Roma Campus has a little drier of a climate, so we will be able to produce greater quantities of mangoes, papaya, and avocados there.
Well, thanks for hanging with us to hear the long version. What God is doing in and through the ministry of GH2K is so exciting and we welcome you along for the journey!
Daysi and her 3 siblings have been with us now for 4 years. We've seen Daysi excel at her studies and become a fantastic young lady with an incredible future ahead of her. Right now she can't decide between being a veterinarian or joining the navy, but whatever she does, we believe that she will be hugely successful.
It was awesome to watch during the ceremony as Henry, her house-dad, danced the traditional waltz with her and gave a speech about how proud he is of her.
Daysi's life is a testament to the fact that hurting kids placed in a loving, Christian family can thrive. She is a great example to the other young ladies here and we are so proud of her!!!
With Ruby as Daysi's house-mom, much of Ruby's family joined us for Daysi's celebration. It was a personal highlight of ours to get a picture of Ruby and her 5 sisters all together.
In the past six months, we’ve added 13 kids to our family-style homes! Thus far, that is our biggest influx of kids in that amount of time. With more kids come more heartrending stories.
All of our kids come with scars. They all come with emotional scarring, and some also bear the scars and burns of physical abuse. All of our kids have suffered from neglect, whether from parents not caring for them or abandoning them, or previous foster parents who barely took care of them. They’ve all known what it means to be either uncared for or unwanted.
We have one little one that was dropped off at a neighbor’s house while the mom went to run errands. Mom never came back.
We have a family of kids that wandered the streets with their mom. Their two older siblings vanished and no one knows where they are.
At least two of our kids’ biological mothers live as prostitutes. These kids tell the most horrible stories – kids being taught to steal as preschoolers, kids being left alone for days with no food, kids being abused by the mother’s customers, and kids watching their older sisters be sold, knowing their turn would come.
When we drive these kids home to live with us, they are normally traumatized and malnourished and full of intestinal parasites and lice. They do a lot of sitting and staring the first few weeks, but slowly, slowly, they start to blossom. As they get healthier physically and realize that they are in a safe and loving place, they start to come alive and be children again.
As horrible as their stories are, and as much as they’re still imprinted in our kids, those stories don’t define our kids anymore. Visitors come and ask us, “So, which ones are the orphans?” Why can’t they tell? Because our kids aren’t orphans anymore. They are part of a loving family now, with lots of brothers and sisters and cousins, some biological, some not.
The secret to helping kids get healthy again is by putting them in real families, who love them and treat them like their own. They need to attach to their caregivers and know that those same people will be there for them day in and day out. I cannot even express my joy at seeing one of our house-moms get all “mama-bear” about defending one of her kids, or one of our house-dads showing tender affection to one of his kids. Our kids are not orphaned or abandoned anymore. We are changing their stories.
We keep seeing a new movement that says, “Send all the kids home to their families! Children's homes are bad!” Our response: Don’t put everyone in the same basket. Each country, each children’s home, and each family and individual child has their own story.
Listen to our stories.
It's been such a fun season here at Give Hope 2 Kids!
We started out before Christmas with a big gift for all the kids to share: a big trampoline! We set it up at night and the kids were surprised to find it outside their homes in the morning. This trampoline is busy nearly all the time.
Then we crammed all 47 of us into our bus and went on a 15-hour Christmas excursion day! We started at our favorite thrift store and each kid got to pick out several things for themselves. Since our kids normally don't get to choose many of their own clothes or shoes, this was a BIG DEAL.
Next we took a picnic lunch of Honduras' favorite food -- fried chicken -- and went to a little zoo and park. The kids loved playing and seeing all our local animals there.
Then we visited La Ceiba's big pier to take in the sites and enjoy another playground, dinner, and icecream. We all got a little soaked in an unexpected downpour, climbed back into our bus, and drove the 1 1/2 bumpy hours home into the mountains. It was an exhausting day, but oh so much fun!
For Christmas the ladies of our property made nearly 300 tamales and the kids baked Christmas cookies. We then enjoyed a HUGE dinner with the tamales, bbq pork chops, fried rice and more. (It's amazing how much food some of our kids can put away!) Then the kids got a present of socks and underwear and a couple small fun things. It was such a joy watching our new kids open their gifts -- it definitely seemed like a first for them and their eyes lit up with each little item.
For New Year's Eve we brought pizzas from town, roasted marshmallows over a bonfire, and enjoyed some fireworks.
We've packed so much fun into the last few weeks! But even after all the holiday fun fades into memories, these kids still have a wonderful gift that goes on: they were abandoned or abused, and now they have a stable and loving family . We will be a family for these kids for as long as they need us.
Thanks to Joel Haler and Brian Hughes and their friends and family for helping to make this a wonderful Christmas for our kids! We've enjoyed sharing these special weeks with you.
Imagine with me for a minute: You're an 11-year-old girl, your parents are suddenly gone, and you're left to care for your younger siblings with zero resources. Your younger sisters are ages 9, 7, twins 4, 3, and a baby. Are you feeling panicked yet? These are the shoes that big-sister Katherin was filling for over a month, alone.
They are not alone now. These 7 girls arrived here at GiveHope2Kids one week ago. They came with only the clothes on their backs. All were malnourished and two had bronchitis. They were listless and obviously insecure.
It's just one week later, but already you can see a change in these girls. They're more alert, more active, and they smile. It's amazing how one week of good care can make such a difference.
But one week of care isn't our goal. We're in this for the long-haul. If we can reunite a child with family, that is obviously our ideal, but for most of our kids that's just not possible. For as long as a child is here, we are raising them in the best family-environment that we can. We will educate them and prepare them to support themselves as independent adults, and not let them go until they're ready to fly. We want to be their forever-family.
Seven sisters are now living with Grandma Gladys. We will be their home and family for as long as they need it.
Will you help us do this? We were already needing sponsors and adding in 7 more kids makes our need for sponsors that much more urgent! Be a blessing to these kids. Help us a make a difference in their lives!
This year has been a year of adding finishing touches to our myriad of building projects from the past 8 years. Too often when we urgently need to get to the next project, we've rushed past the finishing touches our spaces need. So this year we've painted walls that have never seen a coat of paint before, trimmed windows, and added on a much needed storage shed. We've finished off our community areas better too, which makes things run smoother for our Friday Night Youth Group. Currently we're finishing a road for better access to our agricultural projects and we're expanding and improving housing for our pigs.
An exciting addition here is that we recently traded out vehicles to purchase two 2001 Landcruisers. We're ecstatic after eyeing these for nearly a decade! These are the ultimate vehicles for us. They should last us 15+ years of daily use up and down our horrible road, which really says something. They can comfortably seat 10 people out of the daily rain showers, and with kids on laps, we've squeezed 14 people in just fine. These trucks have been such a blessing already! (So thanks to everyone who has donated towards vehicles in the last several years!)
Another big win for GiveHope2Kids recently, is that we were able to purchase another smaller property in our village. We are using this land for cattle grazing and other agricultural projects. And it's only a 10 min walk from home, which makes it quite convenient. Our cattle herd is really starting to multiply, and we're up to 30 head, so this purchasing opportunity was perfect timing for us.
Our top new investment though is in people: We recently welcomed in a new house-parent to our team, Grandma Gladys. We're also caring for three new siblings, Kathia, Dilmer, and Briana. Giving a stable home to these kids is why we push through all the other projects. This is the heart of GiveHope2Kids.