Tag Archives: work

two great stories

Here are two stories from one of the projects I work with :

Mario José

*Mario Jose* is a four and half year old boy who has spent half of his young life institutionalized in a center because his mother disappeared in 2006 and his father is unknown.  His great grandmother, who is 85 years old, had to look for outside help when her great granddaughter disappeared unexplainably.  Being of advanced age and living in dire poverty, the grandmother placed Mario Jose in the center where he currently lives because she was unable to care for him.  The center took Mario Jose as an act of charity, considering that they don’t usually work with orphans, but rather function as a feeding center.

The family history of Mario Jose is a tragic and violent one.  His grandmother was killed at a young age, orphaning her daughter (Jose Mario’s mother).  The great grandmother of the family believes that Jose Mario’s mother is also dead.  While there are other extended family members, none of them have shown an interest in Jose Mario.

The priest who has been helping the family contacted the government in 2008 looking for help for Mario Jose, but he found no answer.  Through word of mouth, he heard about our Permanency Center and came to visit us in February of 2009.  Our team decided to investigate the case, making a visit to the center where Mario Jose lives and doing a psychological evaluation of him the same day.  The lawyers and social workers took on his case, placing it before the judge for him to be declared abandoned, opening up the road to a permanent family.

Unfortunately, under Honduran law, Mario Jose can not be declared abandoned because he has several living relatives that could care for him.  Our team worked with the social workers of the government to show that this was a special case that deserved a second chance.  The judge has agreed to move forward, soliciting statements from the relatives that are not able or not willing to take care of Mario Jose.  Through much detailed work and diligence, we have been able to have each one of the necessary family members come in and make their statement.

We now hope that with these statements given, the judge will declare Mario Jose abandoned and send his case to adoptions before he lives out another year of his life in a center.

George

*George* had been living in a center in Honduras since 2005 when he was 2 years old.  He was abandoned at that age by his mother. His father, who is understood to be an alcoholic who lives on the street, has never been in the picture.  This January, our staff visited the center where he lived with the intention of finding children like George: children who are in real need of an adoptive family but have become lost in the system.  When we reviewed his case, we realized his situation and also saw that he had not had any kind of a family visit since early 2006.  His case was also inactive in the court system.

Our team took the case on and has poured in time and resources over the last 10 months.  Our staff have collaborated with IHNFA to do the psychological evaluations, social work investigations and legal steps.  We have subsidized the medical tests and media publications necessary for moving the case forward.  Our lawyer assigned to George’s case was diligent to not let details fall through the cracks and to always keep the case moving forward.  Much like putting together a puzzle, we had to resolve many things in George’s file in order to see if he was legally adoptable.  We needed to contact the mother, who was rumored to be dead.  A lead opened when the director of another center contacted us after hearing and reading the media publications regarding George.  George’s older sister (now 18) had been at this center and by locating her file at the court, we were able to follow a trail that led to information on the death of the mother so that we could get her certificate of death.  She had died of AIDS in 2005.

In early October, the court declared George legally abandoned, opening up the path to adoption.  This week or next his case will be officially assigned to the adoptions committee and there is already the possibility of one adoptive family who is looking for a boy in his age range.  We hope that George is with his new family by the end of this year.

While we celebrate this beautiful gift for George and our successful intervention, we must also take a moment for a sober analysis of the situation.  If our project had not been able to visit George’s center, how many more years would have passed before his case would have been noticed?  Was it necessary that George live for 5 years in a center when he could have been adopted much earlier?  How many other children are out their like George, waiting for someone to take notice of their case?  How many more children will grow up in centers because it takes so long for cases to be processed?  With out our financial intervention to pay for transportation for home visits, medical tests and publications, George would still be in the system, months or even years from being adopted.

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a record of events

Pictures coming soon, but for now, here is our whirlwind of a week since I last blogged:

Tuesday: work and then a dinner party at Guillermo’s boss’s house for their team (they are our neighbors and friends from church)

Wednesday: work and then dinner with Guillermo’s small group (teenage boys from Los Pinos) at Pizza Hut.  Traffic was horrible and Guillermo got out way late from a meeting, which means I got to hang out with them for a while and eat bread sticks while we waited.

Thursday: Guillermo worked at the office and I worked from home.  In the morning I went for a walk and had breakfast with some other ladies from our church who live close.  It was great-minus that I got covered in ticks which have been biting and itching all week!  In the evening we went on a surprise last minute date with Anibal and Yadira because Yadira was in town for some errands.  We were going to see a movie but ended up going to dinner instead because that night was the premier of New Moon!

Friday: I had a very short day of work because they were fumigating our office area.  I met up with Yadira for a day of girls shopping-something I haven’t done in a long time.  I picked up some crocks for Guillermo and some new juice glasses.  It was fun but tiring, I hope I don’t have to go to the mall again in December.  In the evening, we went to dinner at our friend’s Charlie and Jenny’s house.  They live far away, so it was another late night.

Saturday: We were up early, me for cooking and Guillermo for soccer.  I made sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and a big apple pie with a crumble top.  We at a quick lunch and then headed down the hill for youth group.  I didn’t go because I had a year end board meeting for work.  After that, we went to the Christmas dinner for our small group (hence the cooking).  It was great fun and we even had the treat of live music.  Several in the group are very talented or professional musicians.  With the addition of Tio Bill, who plays the flute and sax, we had live Jazz and Christmas music.

Sunday: Church, rest and oh wait, more soccer for Guillermo.  Do you see a pattern here?

The good news is that I didn’t have to cook dinner or lunch all week!  It was a rich week with friends and we feel very blessed.

This week is quiet.  Guillermo is away for work until Thursday and I have normal days at the office.  Last night my usual good night call didn’t come until I was asleep.  The culprit, soccer, despite a pending cold and tiredness from all the nights of staying up.

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shout it aloud!

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so far, today

6:30 am Snooze beeping alarm
6:50 am Awake and call Guillermo in La Esperanza to say good morning
6:55 am Quiet time
7:05 am Up, shower, breakfast
8:00 am Leave for work (no strikes today!)
8:29 am En route to work, get a call from one of my co-workers saying that she had arrived to the office, but now they were kicking us out because IHNFA is back on strike
8:40 am Change route towards a coffee shop, wait fot he rest of the team
9:15 am Team arrives
9:15 am-11 am Meet with team in order to advance in work, even though we can’t be in the office. Make plans for an investigation we are doing for the Inter Amrerican Development Bank about children who are not under the care of their parents.
11:15 am 2 blocks from coffee shop, have to turn around because a wall of soldiers is coming up the hill, blocking traffic. I guess I won’t be running x, y and z errands I had for that part of town.
11:20 am re-route to another bank to cash paycheck
11:45 am Cash paycheck, pay vehicle registration
12:00 pm Haircut!
12:40 pm 2 blocks from the salon, the streets are totally militarized… I guess that means more changed plans
1:00 pm head home for the rest of the day

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red tape

Every so often “me toca” as they say in Spanish- its my turn- to spend days and days, along with a small fortune to get a few necesary pieces of paper.  AKA, red tape for my residency card.  This has been one such lucky week.  Not only have I been dealing with my Honduran residency card, I have warmed up by renewing my passport through the Embassy.

Really, you don’t understand.  Trips to parts of town that are: 1.  dangerous 2.  have absolutely no parking 3.  unknown to me.  Waiting in line to get a piece of paper, leaving to go pay at a bank to finalize what is on the piece of paper, returning to wait in line to turn in the receipt from the bank.  It seems that the rules change all the time, the process is very confusing and arduous.

For me, this red tape is a small inconvenience once or so a year.  For hundreds of children in Honduras this is the difference between living in a center, being reunited with their family or being given the chance to be adopted into a permanent family.  While I can pay a talented lawyer to take care of my case, these children’s lives and voices are underrepresented by a system that is overburdened.  While I can find it in my budget to pay for all of the costs that come up along the way, many children’s legal cases stretch on for years because of lack of efficiency or lack of funds.  Routine medical exams, a simple step in the process to declare the best interests of an abandoned child, can last for 6 months because the goverment doesn’t have the ability to liquidate these funds quickly.  Every moment of ineficiency is a moment of institutionalization for a child who desparately wants to be in a family.

Through our project with Institute for Orphan Advocacy, Puerta al Mundo and IHNFA, we are making a difference.  We are a team of dedicated professionals who work with the Honduran government to follow the cases of children who’s legal status is unknown.  Through the efficiency of working in a non-goverment organization, financed by groups and individuals passionate about finding families for orphans, we are able to inject resources, accountability, passion and expertise into these processes.  One small example: by allocating just $1200 for 2009, we are subsidizing the costs of medical exams, media publications and photos necessary for the process of determining the best rights of the child.  If you want to get involved or donate, follow this link.

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the institutionalization of children

The organization I work with is called Orphan Advocacy. We do just that, advocate for orphans, that they may have a family.

My office is inside of a state-run orphanage. Today on my way to a co-worker’s office across the way, I decided to stop in to the baby house. 18 children live there, most between the ages of 0-2. I fed a bottle, burped and held a little, under-nourished baby. Sometimes it is good to remember why I am doing what I am doing and not just be in paperwork all day.

It wasn’t the baby that grabbed my attention today. It was a 13 year old girl named A who was helping out, but also lives in the center. From the moment I saw her, she caught my eye. Many of the teenage girls here have a rebellious attitude, but not A. She was sad.

I left the baby house and she followed me, asking if we could talk. We sat down and she told me she had been here a month and could I please help her. She said she got picked up by the police when she was on the street doing errands. Her family doesn’t know she is here. Nobody visits and she isn’t allowed phone calls. She has a mom and some siblings at home. She cried. I cried. I didn’t want to cry in front of her, but I didn’t really have a choice. I told her I was very sad for what she was telling me and that our office would investigate to see what we could find out about her case.

In our work, we talk a lot about preventing the institutionalization of children. Today I was deeply impacted by the meaning of this. We talk about shortening the time children are in centers, so that they don’t become institutionalized. What I realized today that there is a great evil in the fact that a child finds themselves in a center and away from family. The length of time doesn’t really matter.

*Note: In the time I’ve been writing this blog, we have already found out what is going on with her case. She was taken off the street by police, but it was later discovered that she had been raped and was being prostituted by her mom. Thus, no visits and no phone calls. At this time, she will be sent to a special home for adolescent girls who have been sexually abused. The state is investigating her mother and looking to remove her siblings from the home. My heart breaks even further.

Pray for A and her family. Pray for these little kids running around outside my window.

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sensitive

Tonight I’m thinking about the effects of seeing poverty on a day to day basis and the levels of sensitivity we have to these kinds of things.  I read a lot of blogs and once in a while I stumble upon travel journals written by North Americans as they take trips or short term mission trips to places like Honduras or other countries where there is extreme poverty.

Tonight I was thinking twice at the level of reaction some North Americans have when they see poverty, when they meet a poor family, when they see these issues up close and in person.  Tears.  Uncontrollable emotion.  Anger.  Pity.  Guilt.  Motivation.  Unforeseen periods of doubting their faith as they wrestle with what this means.  Life changing.

I’m thinking twice because I’m questioning myself and I’m questioning my culture.  I know it wouldn’t be possible or healthy for me to have a deep, emotional, life changing experience everyday when I go to work.  It would be counter-productive for me to spend everyday in deep sorrow for the state of the world and the amount of poverty that exists here.  The human being has certain built in self-defense mechanisms that keep this from happening.  I’m questioning the positive and negative roles that de-sensitization can play.  I’m also questioning the hyper-sensitivity that my culture is producing.  What does it say about us that we can be so easily shocked by the normal life situation that describes a majority of the world? I’m not saying I’m better or worse than my fellow Americans,  rather I’m making some observations and raising some questions.

I want to be effective in my work in Honduras.  I want to live and work out of  a place of love and joy, not guilt and depression.  But at the same time, I don’t want to lose sensitivity to things that God himself would look at and have compassion.  When I go to my office everyday, which is inside of a state-run orphanage, I don’t want to see the kids running around as ‘just kids’.  I want to remember who they are and what they need and how God sees them.

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