Christ-Centered Stability for Honduran Kids

Christ-Centered Stability for Honduran Kids

By Kim and Michael Miller

We provide leadership for Hope of Jesus (HOJ), a Christ-centered project of the Honduran Episcopal Church, which desires a family for every child in its care. The mission of Hope of Jesus is to provide protection, daily care, education, spiritual formation, and emotional wellbeing for vulnerable children in need of temporary, out-of-home care accommodations, while encouraging their permanent family-based placement. The vision of Hope of Jesus is for each child to be placed in a permanent, loving family where he/she can achieve physical and emotional wholeness, and thrive in the love and acceptance of Christ.

A Home and Supportive Community for Vulnerable Kids
Hope of Jesus Children’s Home is a refuge for children who have suffered traumatic events, requiring them to live in out-of-home care accommodations as wards of the government.

During the initial gatekeeping process done by DINAF (Honduran Child Protection Services) a decision is made in the best interests of the child to remove the child from their family home. At this point, the child officially becomes a ward of the state of Honduras and enters formal out-of-home, alternative care until they can be reunited with their family of origin or be appropriately placed with a foster or adoptive family. The reason for a child’s removal from the family home can vary greatly from severe, prolonged abuse of the child to a momentary economic crisis. However, once the child enters formal out-of-home care, they can become lost in the system. In many cases, the momentary crisis has passed, but now the family isn’t able to locate the child due to fear or ignorance of how to navigate the system. HOJ helps stabilize this process for children and families. HOJ Children’s Home desires to: improve each child’s social-emotional wellbeing by reducing the amount of time spent in a residential care facility, connect each child with a stable family, become a national leader among small group homes in Honduras, and become a model transitional care option in the northern region of Honduras.

Hope of Jesus Family and After-Care Services monitors the holistic wellbeing of children who leave HOJ Children’s Home, either through family reunification or reintegration back into the community as a young adult. HOJ Family and After-Care Case Workers coordinate professional social and mental health services for families who have potential for reunification, coordinate spiritual care through the local church, and provide economic empowerment when necessary.

HOJ maintains the philosophy that poverty or opportunity level should not be a barrier to a child being reunified with their family. Therefore, HOJ is committed to working with a select number of high potential families to facilitate positive change, which could empower the family to receive their child back into a safe, loving, and permanent environment.

HOJ’s team of professionals licensed in social work, psychology, and law evaluates and monitors each child’s case. The team represents the child and the family to support the best permanent placement for each child, then moves the child and their family through the social welfare system and back to stability. 

Hope of Jesus Response to COVID-19 
The dedicated staff at HOJ Children’s Home took immediate action in response to COVID-19 to keep our kids safe and prevent the spread of the virus within HOJ. Staff members and children were trained in how the virus was spread and a special protocol was developed to minimize risk of infection to children and staff. Family visits were suspended for those children who have extended family members, and schools began virtual instruction.

Virtual education is one of the biggest challenges HOJ has faced during the COVID-19 crisis. Our children attend five different schools, each school with a different way they are communicating instruction. We did not have an on-site educator to work with the children and supervise their instruction, help them with using the computer, and keep track of assignments being turned in on time, so these duties were spread out amongst the support staff members. However, the workload became overwhelming.

A SAMS World Relief Fund (WRF) Grant allowed us to hire an unemployed educator in the community.  This educator directly assists the children and ensures they are meeting expectations and receiving a quality education, even in the midst of a crisis. Without the much-needed funds from the WRF Grant, we would not have been able to hire a temporary, full-time educator and our kids’ education would have suffered. 

Overcoming additional workload and responsibilities while coordinating a virtual education for the kids was a significant challenge, which was compounded by almost daily power outages during months of quarantine. Power outages are still occurring weekly and for extended periods of time, causing the children to lose valuable instruction and get behind in assigned work, reducing communication with family, and making it difficult to keep refrigerated foods from spoiling. 

In March, to reduce the spread of the virus, the Honduran government issued a mandate that people can leave their homes only one day a week to buy supplies and do banking. This mandate has continued throughout the crisis and has just recently been extended to two days a week. HOJ had to receive a special permit to allow our employees to continue working and traveling during the quarantine; because caring for children is a twenty-four hour a day job, which doesn’t stop during global pandemics, floods, or hurricanes. 

From the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, our direct-care staff members (the caregivers of the children) have worked longer shifts to minimize the possibility of infection, but this has meant long absences from home for them during a very uncertain time. Support staff members (psychologist, social worker, administrator, director, maintenance man, etc.), who live outside our village, moved on-site during the week to minimize infection and reduce transportation costs. Our direct-care staff provides meals for the support staff, and our maintenance man has become our chauffeur. When public transportation was shut down in March, our staff had no way to get to work. So we began transporting staff members to and from work in order to minimize the risk of infection to our caregivers while using public transportation.

Even when they were under the increased demands of an overwhelming workload, the hardship of having to live on-site at HOJ, and at great personal risk to themselves, HOJ staff members have worked to serve others less fortunate than themselves.

HOJ has several children who have been returned to their families or have graduated from the home to live independently. HOJ also is currently working with several families in crisis so they can become stable and receive their children back. HOJ staff members used funds from a SAMS WRF Grant to provide groceries for these families during pandemic lockdown. Here are stories of two of the families (names changed), written by an HOJ worker.

Sharing God’s Provision
The Sanchez family is made up of four people. José and Maya are the heads of household, and they are dedicated to the urban transportation service (driver and helper). Maya is the biological mother of children currently residing at Hope of Jesus Children’s Home. She is diligently working to stabilize her family to regain custody of her children. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, public transportation has stopped nationwide and the family has been without employment. They support the family with a small income from the sale of natural juices at certain points around their city.

Thanks to the help that Hope of Jesus provided through the SAMS WRF Grant, this family now has a variety of foods in their kitchen. Maya mentioned: “What a blessing it is that you helped us. I hope God continues to bless the Children’s Home and all those who work there.”

Providing Food, Decreasing Stress, Enabling Education
The Perez family consists of five people, including Mila, an older sister who graduated from Hope of Jesus Children’s Home as a young adult. Alicia is the mother of the family and currently, like Mila, only has occasional, informal jobs with low income. Alicia’s main source of income prior to COVID-19 was as a street vendor selling baked goods. During lockdown, there has been no movement as all shops and businesses remain closed and no one is allowed in the streets by order of the police. Due to Covid-19 it has been difficult for both Alicia and Mila to find stable jobs and bring a permanent income into their home. As well as seeking odd jobs to make ends meet, they must also take care of the three young children in the family, ages 6, 10, and 12. They help the kids navigate their education, which is extremely difficult without proper instruction and without a computer. However, due to the help that Hope of Jesus provided through the SAMS WRF Grant, the Perez family will have food for several weeks. This gives them the opportunity to concentrate on looking for work and establishing a routine for the children’s education. Family relationships will improve as well because empty bellies make for cranky children and an overly-stressed mother. Alicia mentioned: “Thank you for the help you are giving us, the children are very happy.”

Honduras is now dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota. Many are suffering from flooding and high winds. Please pray for Honduras.

 Fictitious names have been removed to protect the privacy of children and families we serve. 

Flood Relief for Honduras

Flood Relief for Honduras

I am a SAMS Associate Missionary and the President of Honduran Operations for Osman Hope, Inc. Osman Hope is a Christian non profit organization that operates four shelters for the poor children of Honduras. Our mission is to break the cycle of poverty by providing basic necessities and ensuring that the children get an education.

Hurricane Eta stomped on Honduras with five days of continuous rain. The result was devastating floods. One of our Osman Hope shelters had water up to its roof. The picture shown is the roof top of our shelter. Two of our workers lost everything as their houses were completely covered with water. The whole community was under water. The waters have yet to completely recede and there is another hurricane expected to hit Honduras again in a few days. This campaign intends to collect funds to restore the houses of the two Osman Hope workers, to restore the shelter and to help the families of the children that attend the shelter as they also lost everything.

Update from SAMS Mission Director Stewart Wicker on November 25, 2020:  The need has increased with the recent devastating effects of Iota which struck many of the same areas as Eta. Our missionaries in Honduras are seeking to respond. Hondurans in the region that Margarita is ministering are facing the most dire circumstances with dwindling food and water supplies, threat of disease, and limited shelter. Millions are displaced and there is no room in the shelters for thousands so they are seeking to create makeshift shelters. I encourage you to join your Society in interceding for Hondurans and other Central Americans who are seeking to survive and be renewed by hope after these back-to-back hurricanes. May our gracious Lord Jesus Christ have mercy. May He be glorified through all the efforts of our missionaries and the Honduran church in sharing His good news in word and deed through the coming months, and for many years, of recovery.

 

The video above shows one of the teachers from the flooded children’s shelter (previous photo) as she returned to her flooded home!  Pray for wisdom for SAMS Associate Missionary Margarita Grachen and all of the staff of Osman Hope that she ministers with as they seek earnestly for the Lord’s rescue of their community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be a Neighbor, Get a Neighbor

Be a Neighbor, Get a Neighbor

As Cameron and Roberto Vivanco serve in ministry in Ecuador, they have found that people return kindness for kindness. In Ecuador, children often lack the basic resources which are required for school – such as textbooks, uniforms or supplies. Without these items, children can’t attend school. The Vivancos work with local clergy to help equip children in the nation’s capital, Quito, with the supplies they need. They provide micro-scholarships through their ministry Education = Hope (E=H). In the summer of 2019, the Vivancos planned a large festival bringing together students in their ministry. Cameron shares how parents of students responded to the festival invitation:

“We had a children’s festival for students of two of our ministry sites with E=H – all in all about 80 students. There were games and dancing and prizes, but the very best part was the parents and volunteers. We thought we would need about 20 volunteers to run everything. We ended up with over 50 parent volunteers alone. I tried to thank them for helping, but they kept coming to me to thank me for the opportunity to give back. They are so thankful for E=H and the micro-scholarships and were thrilled to be able to help us with something.”

When COVID-19 hit Ecuador in March 2020 and the country locked-down, the Vivanco’s ministry helped 170 families in Quito to cope. Many lost their already meager sources of income. The Vivancos coordinated the delivery of groceries and supplies to help families every two weeks. SAMS’ World Relief Fund provided a grant to support this effort. In the midst of the pandemic, the Vivancos are providing data plans to help students continue their education. This allows students to access virtual lessons from home. In the face of suffering from the pandemic, Cameron and Roberto weave ties of community support that will help carry these neighborhoods through.

The Vivanco’s ministry has resourced other local ministries, such as a home for at-risk teens. Students in a residential program have been able to continue their high school and college education through new computers provided by E=H. As these young men study and live together, they are discipled in Christ. These youth, by God’s grace, can one day give back to their communities in Ecuador. Education and discipleship are gifts that keep on giving.

Agape Year Launches into the Woods

Agape Year Launches into the Woods

SAMS Mission Director Stewart Wicker was blessed to join the Agape Year 4.0 Fellows on the trail for part of their orientation! Ethan, Eva, Aiden, and Amara are building community while facing challenges together along the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail in Pennsylvania.

Pictured above: SAMS Missionary Nate Twitchell and Fellows Eva and Ethan pose with a great view of God’s creation.

Home in Cambodia again!

Home in Cambodia again!

Thanks be to God!
We are safely back in Cambodia, with one day remaining in our third 14 day quarantine in 5 months.  Let’s just say that we don’t recommend movement between countries during a pandemic!  While the summer had many encouragements, it was disappointing for us to miss out on connecting with supporters and churches.

The Lord gave us grace through a host of logistics to return to Phnom Penh.  First, we were able to obtain new visas through a church/business connection.  Second, the Cambodian government has rightly instituted a rigorous screening and entry process (the national case count is under 300, with no reported Covid-19 deaths, and they are committed to preserving that).  Here’s the short version: proof of insurance, cash deposit, pre-flight Covid tests, medical certificates, round two of testing in the airport on arrival, hotel quarantine while awaiting results, and round three of testing prior to the end of at-home quarantine.  We’re so thankful for all those who helped us through both sides of the process, from writing testing orders to dropping groceries at the door of our sublet.

Five days ago, just when we were about to get bored (ok, not really), the government announced that churches are allowed to reopen.  We arrived just in time!  After 6 months of online worship, this is welcome news, but it comes with a long list of mandated restrictions, including limiting attendance to adults only.  There’s much to negotiate, but we thank God for open doors to begin worshipping together and rejoice in the figuring out new ways to connect the CCOP church family.

Despite its low case numbers, Cambodia has been deeply affected by Covid-19, with the near shutdown of tourism and a dramatic decrease in garment factory work.  Our friends and church members who work in anti-trafficking tell us that they are seeing pronounced spikes in trafficking, particularly of children, due to increased economic hardship in impoverished families. Lord, have mercy.