The Children’s Homes & Work Sites:
el Hogar de Niñas María Madre de Dios in Bonao, Dominican Republic
A home and school for girls in Bonao, in the middle of the Dominican Republic in Monseñor Noel province run by the Catholic church. This hogar is home between 28 and 40 girls at any one time, whose ages range from 4 to 17. We first volunteered at this children’s home in 2013, returned in 2014, and will return again in 2015. On the first two trips we painted the inside and outside of the home, including all of the dormitories, corridors, common areas, and classrooms. We also worked with the girls on computer lessons and English lessons in addition to joining them in their exercise classes at the end of the day. As always, the best fun is the recreation time when we play, talk, and generally interact with the girls–and the nuns. In 2015 we will be building a playground as well as continuing lessons and visiting a public school.
El Hogar de Amor y Esperanza–“The home of love & hope,” Honduras
A home for boys and girls, located in Tegucigalpa (the capital city of Honduras), and run by the Episcopal church. There are about eighty boys at El Hogar, mostly between the ages of six and thirteen. El Hogar Projects is divided into three parts. The home in Tegucigalpa, and Agricultural School and Farm in Talanga (about an hour’s drive north of Tegucigalpa), and a Technical Institute in Amerateca (about an hour’s drive west of Tegucigalpa). Drew students have worked at all three locations, and helped to build the new Technical Institute. For many years we worked primarily with the children’s home in Tegucigalpa, but more recently we have been asked to work with the boys at the Agricultural School who appreciate interacting with students not much older than them and sharing their work with us.
The Episcopal Agricultural School and Farm of El Hogar, Honduras
When we first started volunteering with El Hogar Projects, every boy spent a year at the Agricultural School after graduating from sixth grade, receiving general education and training in agriculture and animal husbandry. Then they elected to either to spend another two years at the farm continuing their high school education and agricultural training, or to move to St. Mary’s Technical Institute for three years of further education and training to become carpenters, welders, or electricians. Now the Agricultural School has expanded and accepts young men who have not come through the children’s home, although the criteria for acceptance remains the same. There are about forty boys at the farm, ranging in age from 14 to 19. The farm grows a variety of crops, fruit, and vegetables, and raises pigs, cows, goats, and chickens for food and for sale. The students spend half of their days in school and must pass annual state examinations to remain. The other half of the day is spent learning to grow crops and raise animals, skills that they will take back to their villages and communities when they graduate or use a farm managers or teachers..
Paramedics for Children, Copán, Honduras
Paramedics for Children (PFC) works with the 25 high mountain schools in the Copán Valley in northwestern Honduras, providing school supplies and health services. Children receive medical evaluations and nutritionally deficient children can receive vitamins distributed by their school teachers. Since it began in 1997, PFC has helped over 2,000 children and resulted in some incredible improvements in the health of children and their ability to nurture and prosper. While public education is free in Honduras, the government only provides the school and the teachers. Books, supplies, and school uniforms must be purchased by the families. PFC explains that “in a country where the average wage is about $3.50 per day, few poor children get to attend school. Many families can only send one of their children at a time, and even that is at a great sacrifice. PFC’s program has helped to substantially increase enrollment and to decrease student dropouts, enabling graduates to find better jobs and empowering them to improve their lives.”
In 2005 PFC opened a community health clinic, Clinic of Hope, in Copán Ruinas. The clinic treats up to 750 patients per month, making affordable health care available to over 25,000 people for as little as $0.79 cents a patient. Within the same compound the Director, Rodger Harrison, runs a bed and breakfast whose guests help to support the PFCs work. The B&B also houses volunteers. Drew students began working with PFC in 2012, although they had been aware of the program for some years and support the philosophy Harrison calls “lollipop logic,” which calls on volunteers to provide affordable services in community partnerships, rather than handouts.
El Porvenir, Honduras
The Drew Honduras Project has worked with a number of different but connected community partners in and around El Porvenir, near La Ceiba on the northern Honduras coast for the last decade. Honduras Children, run by Charlie and Amalia Kirkhum, supports a Kinder/day care program for children from El Porvenir whose parents mostly work in the surrounding pineapple fields. The children are provided with breakfast and with the educational skills they need to move on to first grade at one of the local schools. A total of 23 children graduated from the kinder in November 2011. Drew students worked with Charlie at a local school, cleaning up the playground and building a play area for the children. In our down-time we played with those children, helping them with homework and art projects and running around a lot. We also volunteered for two years at a children’s home nearby that unfortunately had to close, and at SOS Villages a few miles away (see below).
Also in the La Ceiba area is a very different kind of children’s home. SOS villages is an international organization that creates families for orphaned children in a village environment. Groups of 8 to 10 children live together in regular houses with “aunts” employed by SOS. [Read more at their website]. DHP was only able to work with SOS for two years before the organization decided to cease working with volunteer groups, but in that time we were able to make repairs to a covered gathering area and rebuild a playground for the children. It was very instructive to see this alternative way to raise orphaned or abandoned children and to be invited into the homes of the families to share meals and stories.
Nuestras Pequeñas Rosas–“Our Little Roses”
One of a only two or three homes for girls in Honduras, located in San Pedro Sula, and formerly run by the Episcopal Church. Las Rosas, provides a home for girls ranging in age from infants to twenty-year-olds. The Drew Honduras Project volunteered with this home until 2000, working with the children and helping to prepare a community house for girls who had graduated from the children’s home. (The home is now run by the former director as an independent home for infants, children, and young women, and in addition provides 24 hour day care, medical care, and a bilingual nursery school for children in the surrounding community.)
Colonia Episcopal & Colonia Suyapa, Puerto Cortés
Colonia Episcopal is a community of 78 families (totaling over 500 people) located about 15 miles south of Puerto Cortés. Colonia Suyapa is about the same size located a few miles away. The families living in the two colonias lost their homes, land, all their possessions and many friends and family members in Hurricane Mitch, which battered Honduras for six days in November 1998. They rebuilt lives and new homes on nine acres of land purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras. Families lived in makeshift shelters until their cinderblock houses were constructed, and Drew students worked alongside community members to build those houses for four years until the building was completed. The first buildings constructed at the sites were the school, the health clinic, and the church.
El Guardelaria at Puerto Cortez–“The Day Care Center”
A day care center set up by the government, located in Puerto Cortés, which serves many of the women employed in nearby Free Trade Zone factories owned by foreign companies, particularly those making garments for export to the United States. The Honduras Project worked with this center in March 1998.