For all child sponsors, donors and friends of the SOS Children’s Village in La Ceiba, Honduras:
There are now 120 children at the Children’s Village. Ten new children entered the Village between January and September of 2004.
The need for child sponsors continues to grow. The Village has an on-site kindergarten, which is attended by 20 children from the Children’s Village and several more from the nearby villages. Sixty eight children go by SOS bus to the elementary school in La Ceiba, 17 attend high school in the nearby town of El Pino, 4 go to vocational school, 2 are in a special school for children with disabilities, 2 are studying in Costa Rica and 6 are too young to be in school.
EMPHASIS on LEARNING
Since classes began in February, the children have missed more than 2 months of classes due to teachers strikes that affected public schools only. Now that they are back in school, they are going to extra classes one Saturday morning per month, and it is likely that the school year will be extended into December. If there are any more interruptions, they will have to repeat the school year. The children that go to elementary school get up at 4 am to get ready, eat breakfast and get the SOS bus to La Ceiba. We have hired a teacher (Omar Gomez) for 4 hours each weekday afternoon, to help the children in grades 1-6 to recuperate the lost class hours. The teacher will be paid from sponsor and other donations, apart from sponsorship fees. The Global Education Fund donated $1000 to purchase school texts for use in these classes and for home study. The Village employs a kindergarten teacher and a special needs teacher for children with learning disabilities. All SOS children are given religious training under the guidance of their “tias” and the Catholic Church. The “Tias” must be as permanent as possible, since for young children, this is their mommy. For these children, if their “tia” leaves, it’s like being abandoned all over again. The “Tias” are given on-going training, promotions and a reasonable salary. Theirs is a 24/7 job. They have a month’s vacation every year, but many take 1-2 children from their SOS home with them to visit other areas of the country.
In August, 7 children from the SOS Village won 1st place in the local “Mind Games” Championship. They went on to win 2nd place in the National Championship in Tegucigalpa. We are all very proud of them !!
We now have a volunteer at SOS for the next 6 months. Her name is Krista Brucker, and she is helping out weekdays from 8 am to 4 pm with English and computer skills. In addition, we have hired one teacher for Saturday classes in conversational English. English is taught to about 30 children in two 3-hour sessions. Again this program is paid for by sponsor and other donations. On Friday afternoons, from 1-3 pm, 16 girls are going to dance classes given free by Cecilia Gruessing at the Mazapan school in La Ceiba. Ceil has also provided the girls with the appropriate dance clothing and shoes. She plans a program for the public in December. These extra classes will give the children an edge in their future lives, more confidence, greater discipline, an improved self esteem and an opportunity for artistic self-expression.
There is now a new website to cover child sponsorship, donations and activities at the SOS Children’s Village in La Ceiba, Honduras, as well as other programs for underprivileged children and those with medical needs, on the north coast of the country. This website can be found at www.helpinghonduraskids.org. The Internet is an indispensable resource for obtaining sponsors, donations and volunteers. Much of the success of many small organizations such as Helping Honduras Kids is due to positive reactions spread by word-of-mouth and supported by the information available on the website. Search engines also bring traffic to the website. Much of the recent traffic on this website has been related to volunteers wishing to serve at the Children’s Village. SOS prefers volunteers to be at least 24 years of age and to serve for a minimum of 6 months. Their resumes are forwarded to the SOS regional offices in San Jose, Costa Rica, for approval. I have also placed a brief biographical sketch on this website, so that potential sponsors, donors and volunteers will have some idea of who is behind this grass-roots effort to help underprivileged children in Honduras.
OTHER HAPPENINGS and ACTIVITIES
The children at the Village need the diversion and educational value of outings. I provide those nearly weekly, as reported to sponsors by email. Since the last Newsletter in September 2003, I have taken >635 children to places like Tela, Trujillo, Utila and Roatan Islands, El Pital, Peru beach, El Porvenir lagoon, Pinalejo, overnight at my home, movies and fast food at the mall, etc. Since January 2002, this number exceeds 1325 children. Most of these outings are intended to be educational in nature.
The children of the Village put on special programs for holidays such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Children’s Day, Lempira Indian Day, Valentine’s Day, SOS anniversary, Easter, Christmas, etc. These programs include skits (usually related to life skills and with a message), singing, dancing and sometimes food, drink, piñatas and ice cream cones. On occasion, I have rented a Jump Station for 3 hours, and the children go wild jumping and doing flips. I also take videos for all ages and these are always rated G or PG. There have also been several trips to the skating rink in the mall for >40 children at a time.
During the teachers’ strike, I took 11 children to our little cay on Utila Island for 3 days of snorkeling, swimming, boating and beach combing. I was happy that they all pitched in to help with cooking, washing dishes, mopping floors, sweeping, etc without being asked. This is in contrast to many children from “rich” families, who have to be asked 3 times and then don’t do anything, or do a poor job. The children on this trip were those with the best grades in school, or who had improved the most.
In February, a group of 5 people from the International Health Services spent about a week at the Village where they installed a new roof on half of one house, made and repaired many playground sets, installed 4 clothes dryers, carried out activities with the children, repaired bicycles and many other tasks. We are very grateful for this help from IHS and hope that they return again next year.
In June, we again provided fluoride treatment for the children, as we have each 6 months. Then in July, a medical brigade visited the Village for 3 days to provide exams for the children and care for those with special problems. There were several doctors and nurses, plus some young people who put on Christian skits and organized games. The group was sponsored by the Episcopal church. We are in the process of setting up a small dental clinic at SOS for treatment of the childrens’ teeth on-site. There is a medical clinic and a nurse, plus a nurse’s assistant, at the Village. The psychologist has left SOS for another position outside the organization, and this position needs to be filled.
Also in June, I took digital photos of all 120 children, plus 35 full and part-time SOS staff. This photo file was used to send sponsors updated photos of their sponsored child(ren).
The purchase of gifts is a constant satisfying job. We provide gifts for all children on their birthdays, on Children’s Day (September 10) and at Christmas. For children who don’t have sponsors, or if sponsors have not provided funds for gifts, we try and obtain donations or look for some means, so that no child is left out. A number of children don’t have proper birth certificates, so their “birthday” may be the date they entered the Village, and the year is a “guess”.
Many sponsors have been able to visit their sponsored child(ren) during the year. This is a very happy event for both the sponsors and for the children. As much as possible, the children send their sponsors small drawings and/or letters. Many sponsors write to their “SOS kids”. This interaction helps the children to know that there are those who really care about them. When you don’t have the support of a biological family, these contacts take on special importance to the children.
NEEDS AT SOS
There are many needs at the SOS Children’s Village. The larger needs are an overhaul of the water supply and sewer systems. The fresh water supply is interrupted with some frequency, and as all will appreciate, several days without water at a place with 120 children and 30 adults can be quite a problem. There are currently 5 washing machines at the Village, and none of them have proper electricity, water or sewer hookups. They are hand-filled with cold water, and then drained with a removal PVC pipe into the gardens in front of the houses. This is not a sanitary condition for the children. An adequate drain field is needed for these washing machines. In addition, most of the roofs on the 15 houses leak during rainy weather and there is a need to begin to replace them with aluminum zinc roofs. The cost of this is about $1200/house, and the SOS budget allows for only one house per year (15 years for complete replacement, which means that many roofs will be leaking like sieves before their time comes for replacement).
The SOS pickup is used daily to take children to the special school, for medical appointments, to pick up supplies, etc. It needs to be replaced, but this in not in the budget until it fails completely. The SOS bus needs new tires, but running on bald tires with 65 children aboard is the norm due to lack of funds. The SOS complex was built in the early 1980s. Thus there are many doors, windows, ceilings, etc that need replacing. A big screen TV is needed to show movies and educational material, and a sound system is needed for the many programs in the activity center.
Of course there is a continual need for more child sponsors. We presently have 90 sponsors, but this fluctuates considerably as some sponsors drop out of the program and others enter. The sponsors contribute $12/month/child, plus 3 gifts/year (birthday, Children’s Day and Christmas). Since I handle the overhead, all of the sponsorship funds go directly for the benefit of SOS Ceiba and the children. The sponsors also contribute to special needs, eg the English, computer and remedial teacher’s salaries, materials for repairs (eg to the roofs), etc. Many sponsors also sent funds to send a 12-yr-old girl from Utila Island to Ohio for surgery. Sindy was raped last year and traveled alone (the Embassy doesn’t permit parents) to the states where 2 surgeons operated on her on Aug. 11. She is now recuperating. Her host family doesn’t speak Spanish so Sindy is learning a few words of English. Sindy is a brave little girl. She comes from a place where there are no roads, no electricity and no other children to play with. She enjoyed going to the zoo, seeing the big city, going to birthday parties, and other activities, prior to her surgery. Many people have called her, sent gifts and money and bought clothes which certainly lifted her spirits. She went up with only one ½-full backpack, all her earthly possessions.
There is always a need for school supplies, school shoes and uniforms, clothing, towels, individual bed sheet sets, kitchenware, glasses, silverware, plates and bowls, garden tools, wheelbarrows, etc.
There is also a need for financial help with the educational programs mentioned above under Emphasis on Learning, ie the English, computer and remedial teachers’ salaries. These programs rely entirely on special donations, as they are not funded by SOS or sponsorship fees. Financial help is also needed for occasional parties at the Village and the outings mentioned above under Other Happenings and Activities. The childrens’ lives basically consist of getting up at 4-4:30 am, doing chores, getting ready for school and eating breakfast, and then boarding the SOS bus for the ½ hour ride to school which begins at 7 am. The children arrive back home at 12:30 pm, eat lunch, do more chores and homework, play, eat dinner, and then go to bed. They have no trips to the mall or movies with friends, overnight pajama parties, Scout trips, after school sports activities, etc like children in “normal” families. Most children at the Village have a “dark” past that they try to forget. The parties, programs and outings are provided so that the kids can relax and enjoy themselves, learn about their country, the environment, animals and sea life, swimming skills, how other families live, and what the big world outside the SOS walls is like. A party at SOS, with food and drink, a piñata and games would run from $100-200, depending on the donor’s budget. Help with the cost of outings, as reported weekly to all sponsors, would also be appreciated.
CONCLUSIONS AND PHILOSOPHY OF HELPING HONDURAS KIDS AND THE SOS CHILDRENS VILLAGE
What Do Children Everywhere Need Most After Their Physical
Needs Are Met?
1. LOVE – This most of all (it must be physically demonstrated and given unconditionally)
2. Quality one-on-one attention
3. A loving “family” environment (siblings together)
4. Can these 3 important human needs be provided in orphanages with >300 children?
5. What are some unrecognized and unmet needs of many children at social risk in orphanages? – treatment for depression and anxiety, speech therapy, treatment for attention deficit disorder
Further Thoughts on Helping Children at Social Risk (Some points repeated for emphasis)
These smiles may hide dark pasts!
1.Provide a loving “family” environment, with brothers and sisters together.
2. The most effective help is one-on-one (lots of love, individual attention and hugs).
3. Provide long-term “role models” (continuity is important).
4. SOS (and my) philosophy: You can’t help all the children that need it in this world, but do an excellent job with those that you can help.
5. Children (even poor ones) should be taught to be generous.
6. I believe more in how much I have positively influenced a single child’s life and less on the statistics of how many children I have helped.
7. The SOS model has been tested over many years in more than 131 countries:
One home + one “Tia” + brothers and sisters together = a loving “family”.
No more than 10 children under one roof
IT WORKS !!!
Helpinghonduraskids and the SOS Children’s Village wish to express our deep appreciation to all sponsors, donors and friends of the Village who have contributed in so many ways over this past year to the present and future well-being of these deserving orphaned, abandoned and abused children.
Thanks for caring.