Friday, December 31, 2010

Thanks for Your Prayers!

This year we were blessed when the Central American Orchestra decided to donate the proceeds of their Christmas concert to AFE. How this came to be is a long story of God's extraordinary provision, but the ramifications of this small decision were amazing.

AFE was featured on Honduras' most-watched morning news show, "Frente a Frente" (face to face). Pastor Jeony, Jesi, Rey, and five AFE young people were interviewed on the show that the entire country of Honduras watches in a two-hour special feature. Amazing garbage-dump footage was shown in the background of the children's testimonies, bringing many viewers to tears. The news team came to AFE and videotaped this year's graduation and promoted our web address. Now Pastor Jeony and Rey can barely keep up with all the emails and offers to help that have locally. Some of these include:

1. Two scholarships donated to the most expensive university in all of Honduras.

2. A personal visit from the Mayor's wife and her pledged support of the project.

3. Land offered, lawyer's services donated, we could go on and on.

Thanks you so much for all of your prayers, we are excited to see what will come of this publicity and what God will do next!

Here is a link to a segment of the show, "Frente a Frente" (and yes, it is in Spanish).

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things!

Noah is ten years old and visited AFE last March. His heart was moved, but what can one little boy do to help his friends in Honduras? Make wallets, out of duct tape!

“Wallets for Change” cost $10 each and the proceeds go to AFE. Noah puts AFE’s business cards inside so that more people can lean about the project! To purchase a wallet, contact:

Jana Goad loves gardening and the children of AFE. Last spring she joined her passions and raised $7,000 at a plant sale. She created merchandise by dividing plants from her own garden and asking for donations from local nurseries.

Michelle Dirks is a stay-at-home mom who works full-time in her volunteer positions. She organizes an annual fashion show, golf tournament, and sells cookbooks. Last year she and her friends raised $20,000 for Honduras!

What can you do to help those in need?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Prayer Request

Dear friends,

This Thursday, the Central American Philharmonic Orcestra will perform a special concert to raise funds for AFE! Please pray not only that pocketbooks would open, but hearts as well! One of our major goals to to increase more local support and action. If powerful Hondurans can catch the vision of no more children in the garbage dump, perhaps they would have the means to make this dream a reality!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Summer Break

In Honduras, students take their “summer break” in December and January. This is because the school year runs from February to November, as opposed to the September-through-June school year in the United States.

As of November 29th, AFE students are officially out of school. We offer vacation activities (mostly to continue providing the one nutritious meal the children receive all day), and of course AFE’s “Gran Fiesta de Navidad” for the garbage dump community. Nevertheless, during this break AFE’s children often find themselves with more free time and sometimes they get into trouble.

Last year, a promising seventh grade student became pregnant over break and decided not to continue at AFE. In years past, gangs have tried to recruit our children, alcohol and drugs have been experimented with, and older children have simply discovered the independence and freedom they crave by working in the garbage dump instead of attending school.
Jenny Elvir is fourteen and will be in the 8th grade next year
Still, a break is needed. Our children have worked especially hard this last year. Now is the time that AFE’s teachers begin another sort of work, on our knees in prayer for our children as we send them back home. We ask their parents to watch over them, but most agree with a perfunctory nod. The parents believe that their fourteen-year-old is an already an adult....because at fourteen they were already raising two children of their own.

Will you join us in prayer for AFE’s children?
Jeyson Ordonez is sixteen and next year will finish his last year of high school.

Monday, November 15, 2010

AFE's U.S. Tour

By Rey Diaz

For the past two week, Pastor Jeony Ordonez and I have been in the United States visiting the home churches and organizations of various AFE supporters. AFE's "US Tour" includes stops at: Dallas, Texas, Portland, Oregon, Redmond, Washington, and Couer d'Alene, Idaho. In each city, we have encountered warm hospitality from our friends and extended family of God.

In Dallas, Jeony was able to share God’s work at 121 Community Church at 3 different services. We were also able to catch up with many of the students who had visited Honduras earlier this year with a family mission team. One notable young man we met was in Dallas was named Noe. He is busy making wallets out of duct tape and selling them to make money for AFE. Noe also puts a AFE business card in the wallets and shares his experience with the potential buyers. God is still using children to spread his good news.

Jeony and I also shared at the Orphan Outreach Board meeting.

After Dallas, we visited Portland, Oregon to meet up with Jack and Pat O’Neil of Hope Teams International. Jeony was the keynote speaker at the Bridges to Hope Banquet. Jeony delivered a powerful message of Hope to the Hopeless. The next day, Jeony again shared about AFE at Oregon City Evangelical Church where Pastor Tom and his church were celebrating Orphan Sunday.

In the Seattle area we shared at Washington Cathedral and updated the Board of Together for Transformation about how God is rescuing children from the garbage dump. Currently, Pastor Jeony and I are in Idaho visiting Lake City Community Church. On Saturday we will return to Tegucigalpa and relieve our wives of the business of filling our positions in our absence!

In all of our stops, Col 1:13-14 has been the theme verse: "For God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of his beloved son, who purchased our freedoms and forgave our sins."

Thank to our wonderful friends and hosts in the United States! It has been such a blessing to share with you!

Monday, November 8, 2010

121 Mission Team Connects Deeply at AFE

By Elise White Diaz

I remember my first mission trip very well. I was seventeen years old and our job was to paint a school for needy children in Guatemala. I started a paint fight then later that evening climbed over the wall to sneak into the boys’ room. Needless to say, I don’t think I quite got the point of the mission trip.

It wasn’t until I was able to connect deeply with a native from the country I was visiting that I really began to consider how blessed I was to be born in the United States. Yolanda was nineteen years old like me but worked as a maid in Mexico while I was studying in a university. I couldn’t speak much Spanish at the time but we communicated with charades and lots of laughter. Yolanda is the reason I serve the poor in Honduras today.

Ricky and Milagros compare hand sizes.

My greatest hope for mission trips is that the participants would have the opportunity to connect deeply with native Honduras, and not just experience the trip as a one-time service project or an opportunity for adventure (as I did in my youth).

Because of the language barrier, it is often difficult to create opportunities for deeper connection between American teams and Hondurans. Yet, under Bob Beams’ leadership the group from 121 Church in Texas did just that. Bob scheduled some sharing time just between the teachers and the team. We worshipped together, shared our testimonies (with translators), and then prayed together, holding hands in a circle of unity that bonded two nations and two cultures together.

Tears were shed as people got open and vulnerable. Commitments to long-term prayer made. And my heart soared as I’m sure the Father’s did in heaven.

In addition to Vacation Bible School activities,
the group from 121 Church in Texas build a garbage facility at AFE so that we do not need to burn
garbage right underneath the classrooms and pollute
the air as the children study.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Adult Education at AFE

By Paul Sloan

One month ago, AFE started an adult education course for the adults of the garbage dump. From 3 to 5 P.M., Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, adults come to AFE’s campus to receive classes. Currently, we have students receiving classes from 1st through 5th grade. Paul Sloan teaches 1st grade, which consists of 5 to 6 students per class period, and Oscar (a young man from the Linda Miller community) teaches 2nd through 5th grade, which also consists of 5 to 6 students per class. They instruct in all the basics, from the alphabet and reading and writing, to counting and mathematics.

One woman in particular is excelling in reading and writing. Almost 4 weeks ago, Marcia Gomez Lopez came to AFE not knowing the alphabet or how to read and write. Currently, every class period she is reciting the alphabet and reading aloud perfectly. She is 51 years old, lives in Buen Samaritano, and is a single mother with 4 children. Two of her children, Victor (15) and Brian (9) attend the classes with her. She has been living in the Buen Samaritano community for 2 years, and working in the dump for approximately 3 years.
When asked why she started coming to classes, she said with a smile, “Just to learn.” At age 51, not being able to read or write or do any sort of math, she is now reading and studying on her own time, doing homework with math problems and writing assignments. She is learning quickly and loves coming and participating in the class. It is people such as Marcia Lopez that AFE is trying to reach out too. She is a living example that God’s work does not stop with the children at the dump, but that His heart is for every one, and that every single person has a purpose, and His hand reaches out to all of them.
Addendum from Elise White Diaz:

Why provide an education for an older adult who will have a small chance of changing her circumstances? Education creates more than just new job opportunities. It also provides self-esteem, identity, and the ability to see beyond one's circumstances and glimpse the possibilities in the larger world. Who knows what effect education will have in the life of Marcia Gomez Lopez. Let's pray and see!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Daisy Accepts Christ!

To all who faithfully follow AFE's blog, thank you for your prayers! The week after we posted the story about Danilo, Isis, and Dulce Maria ("New Babies Come to AFE"), their mother, Daisy, came to church and accepted Christ!

A Lesson from Mexico History for AFE Today

by Elise White Diaz

Teaching Honduran history is a fascinating venture; especially with Wikipedia around. I can spend all day researching different names and tangents discovered in the text: Honduras’ annexation to Mexico, the Vanderbilt connection with a Central American revolt, an American businessman who declared himself president of Nicaragua….And it was on one of these internet searches that I learned about Benito Juarez.

Benito Juarez is a famous forefather in Mexico history. But his story is strikingly applicable to my life today. Benito Juarez was the first Mexican president of pure indigenous descent. He grew up in a small village working the corn fields from a young age, and was raised by his grandparents and uncle. He grew up illiterate and only spoke Zapotec until he walked to the city of Oaxaca to attend school at the age of 12 and live with his sister, who worked as a maid. This decision turned out to be a divine appointment in Benito Juarez’s life.

The man his sister worked for was a lay Franciscan named Antonia Salanueva. Salanueva was impressed with young Benito’s intelligence and thirst for learning so he found him a spot at a Franciscan seminary so that he could study to become a priest. But God had different plans for Benito Juarez.

Juarez decided instead to study law, became a lawyer, then a judge, then the governor of the state of Oaxaca, then Chief Justice of Mexico, and finally president in 1858, the first indigenous president of Mexico. He presided over a period of Mexican history known as “La Reforma” (the Reform) and facilitated important changes in the country, such as bringing the army under civilian country, lessening the power of the Roman Catholic Church in public affairs, and leading Mexico into a more capitalistic society. Today he is remembered by the national holiday to celebrate his impact on Mexico and with his picture on their 20 pesos bill.

Great story. What does this have to do with me, an American woman serving in Honduras? I am Antonio Salanueva! The children of AFE are beautiful and brilliant and now something precious is at their disposal: opportunity. Who will take the baton and run with it?
Perhaps it will be Maria Selena Diaz. The initiative, drive, and profundity this young woman demonstrates is at odds with her background. She has never known her father and her mother (a garbage dump worker) abandoned her at birth. Her grandmother (who also works in recycling) raised her until she could not afford to do so any longer. With no one else to claim her, Selena moved in with her aunt and experienced a very dark time in her life. But AFE was there for her, Jesi Ordonez had meaningful talks with her, and the church convinced Selena that we are her family. Now Selena is known as the most articulate girl in the upper grades and gave a moving testimony at a donor celebration. She tries hard in school, is perfectionistic about her work, and asks deep questions in class. The other day I told Selena: “Selena, you could be the first female president of Honduras and make Honduras known world-wide for positive political reform instead of coup d’états and poverty.” And I truly believe that she could.

Monday, October 11, 2010

New Babies Come to AFE

They toddle in and wait in line for a hug and a kiss from Jessy, the directora. The come with snotty noses and carrying bags of coca cola, which is quickly snatched away and a bottle of milk put in its place. These are the babies of AFE, who play quietly and sweetly, until snacks emerge; then searching eyes and outstretched hands wait patiently. Rarely is a tear shed, never a fuss made; they are content in their brightly painted room, with their brothers and sisters, and the kind women who take care of their every need. These are the future students of AFE.

If they were not here, in the comfortable cribs of AFE’s nursery, they would be stored in cardboard boxes in the garbage dumps or cared for by nine-year olds in garbage-strewn shacks.

Recently, three new charges joined the ranks in the Guaderia, making the total number of babies cared for at AFE nine. Jose Dario, Dulce Maria, and Iris are younger siblings of a kindergartener at AFE, and only God knows their ages. Their mother, who works in the garbage dump all day, every day, gave birth to her children in her home. As soon as it was physically possible, she had another baby. And then another. She couldn’t care for them all. A nine-year old, who looks like a six-year old, babysat all three. They would lie on a bed together instead of learning to crawl because the child couldn’t hold all three.

Since these children were not born in a hospital there is no record of their birth. Neither is there a record of their mother’s birth. The world does not know about them, but God does. And God created them for a purpose. Now that the three babies are at AFE receiving milk and nutritious, age-appropriate foods, they have the chance for a normal life. And AFE accepted them with the stipulation that the mother would take precautions to avoid giving birth to more children than she can handle. They are being immunized and receiving proper sleep and care. Who knows what these children will become or how God will use them! Perhaps, they will become influencers and leaders in Honduran society, righting many of the wrongs we see today.

Monday, October 4, 2010

AFE Celebrates Our Partners

by Greg and Nancy Gibson

On September 16th - 18th, AFE held a three-day thank you celebration for our top supporting organizations. The theme for the celebration was "AFE Evolutions." A child from each grade (Kindergarten through Tenth) represented their classes and showed the growth and development which takes place from kindergarten to the tenth grade. We reminisced about AFE’s past, toured and discussed our current work, and dreamed about what the future might hold.

Thursday night was "noche cultural," in which everyone dressed in typical Honduran clothing and the food was typical Honduran, American, and British food (or at least a Honduran version of American & British food). The topic of discussion was AFE’s past, remembering what happened since Hurricane Mitch in 1998, Pastor Jeony's call in 2001 (the voice of God speaking through his five-year old daughter), AFE's commencement in 2001, and everything that God has done since then.
On Friday, we spent the day touring the AFE campus and listening to the children introduce their classroom and tell AFE's stores.

We also visited the nearby communities where AFE's children live, the Linda Miller community & Amor y Vida church, which supports AFE, and the garbage dump itself. The theme for the day was AFE 2010.

Friday night continued with a big "thank you"celebration for our partners and Pastor Jeony's inspiring message: "God Has Not Forgotten."

Pastor Tim and Jackie White, senior pastors of Washington Cathedral in Redmond, WA.

Duncan Dyason,
founder of Street Kids Direct in the UK.

Jack and Pat O'Neil
of Hope Teams International in Portland, OR.

Paul Sloan represented Orphan Outreach in Texas.

Terry Hawk of World Gospel Mission

Pastor Jorge Pinto (not picture here) and family represented Iglesia Amor y Vida in the Bosque neighborhood and Proyecto Manuelito.
Thank you to everyone who worked hard to make this great event possible!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Meet Our New Volunteers

Paul Sloan is a recent graduate from Baylor University in Texas. Orphan Outreach sent him to use his sharp mind and love for children to serve the students of AFE. Paul teaches English classes, helps with adult education in the afternoons, and supports mission teams when they visit. When asked what she appreciates most about Paul, AFE’s director, Jesy remarked, “Paul is so easygoing. He is willing to do whatever is needed and always has a good attitude!” After his year of service, Paul will continue his schooling in graduate school in the United States.

Johanna Novoa is a short-term missionary sent with the Mennonite Committee’s international exchange program. She is from Bogota, Colombia and studied business administration and theology in her undergraduate education. She is excited to use her knowledge to help build up AFE’s microbusinesses and to serve the poor in another part of the world. She will also help AFE with accounting and the Amor y Vida’s youth group.

Leah Kooy, is a 26 year old teacher who has already served two years teaching at the International School in Tegucigalpa. She is originally from Linden, Washington and came to Honduras because she wanted to use her talents to serve the poor. She is able to do so at AFE, where she offers special attention to students who learn at a slower pace. Leah especially enjoys this work for how fulfilling it is. In November she will marry a man she met here in Honduras and then likely move back to the States with him to continue her teaching career.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Poverty is more than simply the environment in which the children of AFE grow up. It seeps into their minds and hearts and grabs at them from every angle. It uses things like their appearance to tell them: from trash they came, to trash they will return. It utilizes bad habits (like coming late and skipping school if they feel like it) to keep them locked into the garbage dump.

For this reason, AFE has set strict standards for its students; so that our children appear different and set apart from the surrounding garbage-dump culture. We established these rules to develop our students into the servant-leaders we know they are destined to become. Yet, making rules is much easier than enforcing them, especially with a large staff.

Last Friday, we had an all-school assembly to review the rules, the consequences, and our new approach. Now, the responsibility of enforcement is on the teachers. There will be random classroom checks. If a student is found with a cell phone (even children from the garbage dump have cell phones today!), the student will recceive detention and the teacher will be responsible to stay after and monitor that detention. In this way, the teacher is held accountable to enforce the school rules.

The rules include how the students maintain their school (no writing on desks, no throwing garbage on the ground) and extend to how their dress and appearance. They must come to school clean, in proper uniform, with shoes on their feet, but with no makeup or piercings on their faces. They will look different, too, from the other young people of their neighborhood who begin promiscuous behavior at very young ages.

We have high hopes for this new strategy. On Sunday, five minutes before the service began; the church was full of AFE students who had arrived on time. If our strategy proves successfuly, at the least AFE´s campus will be very clean and well-maintained from all of the students´ efforts during detention. At the best, AFE´s students will respect themselves, each other, and their environment.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Strong Rains Tear Apart the City

The month of August has been a month of rain. Rains so strong they are tearing apart the city. A neighborhood on a mountainside collapses. Rains create potholes and craters in highways so large a car could fall into it. Houses flood. It is amazing the damage something as water can create. The news reports four people that have died trying to cross what were once shallow streams. 2,469 people evacuated from their homes. Tegucigalpa has been in a state of emergency during the month of August. Our prayer is that the rains let up.

This is the back yard of Rey and Elise´s house.

The descruction of a road.

Monday, August 16, 2010

To a Successful Season!

Most Hondurans refer to the months between May and September as the “rainy season”. Those of us in the nonprofit sector refer to this time as “mission team season.” When summer vacation begins in the United Sates, people board plans and head to Honduras more than any other time of the year. You are guaranteed to see large groups of North Americans donning matching shirts in the Tegucigalpa airport in the summer months. It is a large industry for Honduras.
This season was a particularly busy for AFE. We hosted ten teams this summer, from as far away as Denmark and as close as Texas. The teams built a music/art room, updated the nursery, painted and planted gardens at AFE, build a basketball court and several kiosks outside, organized a soccer camp and vacation bible school, served the medical needs of the surrounding communities, build three homes for AFE families in need, completed the first floor of a new church building, and brought AFE’s kids to a water park for the first time in their lives.
It was a very, very busy, but well worth it. Special thanks to: Bob and Char Dabill, Tracy Duboir and World Gospel Mission teams, Hope Community Church, Washington Cathedral’s youth, the children and families of 121 Church, Bob Beams and Orphan Outreach, Brett Durbin and Trash Mountain Project, and to everyone else who gave to accomplish the work well done this summer. Until next season!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Does Sponsorship REALLY Make a Difference?

Many nonprofit organizations offer child sponsorship. It is a great way to personalize the connection between the donor and the recipient. However, the marketing of sponsorship programs can be somewhat misleading. In an article about Child Sponsorship, The Better Business Bureau notes that most sponsorship programs do not give their donations entirely to the child.

“In most cases, sponsor contributions are pooled with other donations and are used to support projects designed to benefit the local community where the child lives as opposed to being conveyed exclusively to the child” (

For one thing, typically the administration cost for sponsorship needs to be taken out. Some of the larger organizations also have costs from their domestic offices, their field office, and then the salary of the workers hired to write the child´s letters (because most children in sponsorship programs are illiterate), then the salary of translates to put the child´s letter into English so that it can be easily read by his sponsor in the United States. For a large organization, a sponsorship program can be a very expensive undertaking because all of the staff needed.

Efficient organizations typically require about 17% of your $36 monthly donation to cover the overhead costs of running a sponsorship program. That means that about $400 of the $434 dollars you donated that year will go toward programs in the community of your child. Yet the question remains: is the child´s life really being impacted by your sponsorship donation? Do the years of sponsorship give the child a chance at a different life, and the opportunity to experience the abundant life Jesus promised was available to all?

AFE, on the other hand, does not take out any overhead costs from sponsorship donations. $30 of your $30 donation pays for programs that directly benefit your child. These programs include a full lunch and breakfast provided throughout the week, Christian mentorship and formation, family help and intervention, shoes, clothing and holiday celebrations, and extracurricular activities and transportation.

Another difference between AFE and some of the larger sponsorship organizations is that because we are small, we know your child personally, and we can guarantee that your donation is making a difference in his or her life.

Maira, one of the first children rescued from the dump, comments that she found God at AFE. In a country in which most do not graduate the sixth grade, she makes straight A´s in the tenth grade, and dreams about becoming a doctor, to make a difference in her country. Maira´s life has been changed by the programs that your sponsorship donation supports. Will you help partner with us to change more lives as well?

Find out More about Child Sponsorship

Will We Return to the Garbage?

Maria Argentina is an active member of AFE´s newly-formed, Luz y Esperanza. The five women who make up this small business create paper-mache beads from newspaper found in the garbage dump. They turn trash into treasure by producing beautiful necklaces.
Before joining the co-op, Maria Argentina stood in line for garbage trucks and ripped through trash bags in search of bottles, paper, and metals to resell. Although their earning potential was miniscule, her sons (Gerson, 12; and Oscar, 8) had to help to feed their family of six.
When Maria joined Luz y Esperanza in April of this last year, Gerson and Oscar became a part of AFE. Maria made the decision to put her boys in school because she wagered that if she could sell one necklace at 150 L ($7) every two days, they would earn enough to eat that evening. In the beginning, Maria´s gamble proved lucrative. An American volunteers serving at AFE helped the women to connect with many potential buys. But Luz y Esperanza´s advocate had to return to the States because her time of service was up. Now, Maria is worried that if they cannot find enough demand for their products, she will have to go up into the garbage again, and maybe she will need to take her two boys with her.

During the summer the visiting mission team helped to sustain them. But what will the woman of Luz y Esperanza do as fall approaches and AFE´s visitors taper off?

If you would like to help sell Luz y Esperanza´s jewelry in the States, contact

Creating Family for Reina

AFE´s educational program is outstanding; it helps to provide a path out of the garbage dump for the children here. But AFE also offers something more, something even greater than education for its students. Each member of AFE´s staff serves as more than a teacher. Each teacher was specially selected for their ability to represent God´s love to these children.

AFE´s staff serves as the extended family of God for the children of the garbage dump. When older brothers and sisters are gang members or drug addicts, AFE´s staff serves as the positive influences they need. When parents are inept or guardians are cruel, AFE´s teachers love their children unconditionally and provide a place where they can feel physically and emotionally safe. AFE´s teachers get to know each child personally, they watch to make sure they are eating well, they notice if they come to class with a sad look in their eyes, they visit them in their homes if the child does not show up for school one day. They advocate for the children in every way possible.

This function of AFE, serving as the family of God, will prove especially important in the life of Reina Margarita, a new student at AFE. Reina is a new recruit from the garbage dump, and this is her first experience in school. She is nine years old and in the first grade. She lives with her mother (who also works in the dump), and her older sister who is addicted to yellow glue. Her father died last year when he was hit by a car as he crossed the street in front of her home. Reina does not have much in her life. She no longer has the love of a father or an older sister. All she knows is the trash dump, but she does have an extended family of God in the staff at AFE.

If we can hold on to her, I know what will happen to Reina Margarita. She will feel the consistent warmth and affection here and blossom before our eyes. She will find her place among the other students, who have already made amazing strides themselves. She will discover what she´s good at doing and what she enjoys. She will begin to wonder how such an unconditional love exists, and she will be pointed to Jesus. In a couple of years, a pretty, happy young woman will be unrecognizable from the sad little girl I know today. I know this to be true because we have seen it happen time and again with other students of AFE.

What a joy it is to see God place his hand into the lives of children like Reina Margarita, to heal and transform them from the inside out. And what a privilege it is to be part of it.

How can I get involved?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Valesca and Katarin Find New Home

They were my two favorite girls at AFE. Maybe it was because of the sassy way they talked back to Rey when he teased them. Maybe it was because they shared my fascination for picture books and loved it when I read stories to them. Or maybe it was because they danced and twirled when they talked.
Whatever the reason, I always looked forward to recess time when Katarin and Valesca Mondragon would come to my office and sit and watch me work on my computer. Today, however, I need to report that they will never again visit me during recess at AFE, and that’s a good thing.

Katarin and Valesca came from one of the most heart-wrenching situations at AFE. Their parents left to work in the United States, abandoning them when they were too young to remember. They left them with an aunt who worked in the garbage dump, along with their older brothers and sisters. This aunt was the only parent-figured Valesca and Katarin knew, but she abused that privilege. She forced her charges to work in the garbage, often at the expense of school, and if they did not bring home enough income, she would beat them.

For a long time, AFE has been working and strategizing to end Valesca and Katarin’s oppressive situation, with a healthy outcome. Recently however, the circumstances deteriorated. Valesca’s older brother and sister had had enough. They ran away to live with another relative in Olancho, a state an hour away from Tegucigalpa. Missing the revenue from the older siblings, the aunt pulled Valesca and Katarin out of AFE indeterminately to work in the garbage dump. Valesca and Katarin were only in the second grade. Despite the promise they were showing at AFE, they had no hope of returning to school. AFE began to enlisting Honduras’ child protective services to seize Valesca and Katarin from their home.

Working with the CPS in Honduras is a risking gamble. Once the children become charges of the state we lose track of them. And stories abound of foster care situations even more abusive than the ones the children were taken from. Yet, there were no other options available for Valesca and Katarin.

Then AFE’s director, Jesy Ordonez received a mysterious call from the United States. The girls’ father had gotten wind of what was happening. He pleaded with Jesy to help Valesca and Katarin escape from their aunt and move in with the relative in Olancho. Jesi graciously obliged.
When I returned to Honduras after a brief trip to the States, Valesca and Katarin were not at AFE any longer. But they also were not living with their aunt. And they were free from the garbage dump. Valesca and Katarin are back in school. The school is not AFE, but it will do. Perhaps they have found another young woman to connect with in Olancho, maybe it’s a teacher who can serve as a positive role model. Although I will miss them, I am happy that Valesca and Katarin will not have to work in the garbage any longer. And I continue to pray that the good work God began in their lives at AFE will continue on to completion, and that they can break free from the cycle of poverty into which they were born.

Friday, April 30, 2010

New Students from the Garbage Dump

By Melanie Miller

Today was the long awaited day when all the students we have been tutoring in the dump were set to begin in AFE. We were thrilled this morning to see each of their smiling faces milling around AFE this morning waiting for classes to begin!
They took the first big step into a new world today…now we continue to pray for their persistence in it.
We know these kids are persistent! At the beginning of our time teaching in the dump we offered a prize to the student who had the best attendance. At our party (previous entry) we had not one or two winners…we had 7! Let me present some our dedicated, bound-and-determined-to-win-that-prize, present-every-single-day, students…



Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Keeping Young Men in School

AFE’s junior high classes, while small, are predominately filled with young women. After the sixth grade it becomes a struggle to keep AFE’s kids in school, especially if they are young men.

As teenagers young men have the earning potential of an adult, and their families expect them to do so. Their communities perceive staying in school as a strange waste of time when they could be working.
This last year we have had to fight hard for six of the eight young men to continue. One young man left AFE to go back to the garbage dump (he’s now back at school again). Another young man was pulled out by his parents so he could work. Some just don’t seem to have the internal motivation to continue. We have had success convincing all eight to continue, but the struggle does not appear to be over.

To answer the felt-need of income potential in our young people, we partner with the Micah Project to teach the boys ready-to-use vocational skills in the afternoons. Three AFE boys have been accepted into this program. Another option is to teach the young people to make sellable handicrafts similar to those AFE’s mothers are creating.
Additionally, we hope to hold a workshop about money management for AFE’s teenagers and families so they can learn the importance of saving instead of working to provide for that day. Please keep this effort in prayer.

Contact Rey Diaz if you want to help with afterschool income-producing activities for our young people.

Trash to Treasure: AFE Mothers Generate Income and Hope

It is not uncommon for a mother at AFE to get up at dawn and sort through garbage until dusk. In the afternoon she does not oversee her children’s homework or ask how their day went. She leaves the household chores to her family until she arrives bone-tired in the evening with 100 L ($5) in her pocket: enough for dinner for the family’s dinner that evening. Not only does this lifestyle make it hard to involve parents in their children’s education, but it also makes it difficult to reach families for Christ.

Melanie Miller, a missionary-disciple from World Gospel Mission, has started a new business venture to empower AFE’s mothers to generate their own income in positive ways. Three days a week a group of six mothers gather in the upper room of AFE to bead-together works of art, chat about their lives, and receive Christian mentorship from a missionary-mother. They took out a loan to buy the supplies for their necklaces and with their successful it has already been paid back. Each necklace sells for 150 L ($6) and is available in AFE’s store. The small business is run by the women themselves.

Our pioneering, entrepreneur mothers range in ages from 19 to 30.

The best part about the business is that the women are turning trash into treasure. They find the paper for the beads in the dump and turn it into beautiful creations.

One afternoon Rey and I stopped on a bridge to see why a crowd had gathered. It was the rainy season and the Rio Choluteca was bloated and running feverishly. Despite the strong current, a young calf had ventured bravely into the water to meet his mother on the other side, but was being washed down stream. The calf bleated and his mother moaned while the crowd watched, clutching nervously at the railing. “Come on, baby-calf! YOU CAN DO IT!” a little girl yelled. Somehow, after ten minutes of struggle, the calf found his footing and made it to the other side. Applause rang out over the bridge.

Sometimes the children of AFE remind me of that brave little calf trying to cross a strong river current. The number of children who succeed in Honduras’ education system is discouraging. US Aid found that:

“At present, 86% of Hondurans complete sixth grade, but fewer than 45% complete the ninth grade and fewer than 25% complete high school. Only six percent continue to complete a university education. Despite an increasing elementary school completion rate, Honduras has the lowest secondary school enrollment rate in Latin America” (

Elise (and Walesca sometimes) help AFE with marketing and communications.

With no more than a sixth grade education, the cycle of poverty continues, as does the fragmentation of families, drug and alcohol abuse, child labor, and the maltreatment of children. The rate of educational success is even more discouraging within the garbage dump community where many parents have no more than a third-grade education.

When a child leaves AFE (for whatever reason) they forfeit more than educational opportunities. They also leave their Christian community, positive mentors, pastors and a church behind. They decide (or it’s decided for them) to take a path that does not have abundant life as its destination. For this reason, AFE does whatever it takes to keep its students in school. This issue of AFE’s newsletter will highlight some of our new strategies to fight the drop-out rate affecting our community. Please pray that AFE’s children will be like the young calf that entered the river with courage, and kept his eyes on the Father as he attempted such a difficult feat.

Back to Our Roots: Classes Begin Again in the Garbage Dump

Nine years ago Jeony and Jesy Ordoňez climbed the dusty road to Tegucigalpa´s landfill and pioneered the first classes reaching children of the garbage dump. Their first effort birthed tremendous success. AFE´s bright, successful 10th grade class were Jeony and Jessy´s original students. When they were six and seven years old, these first students sat on discarded tires and used their knees as desks to scratch out their first letters.

Since that time, AFE´s teaching staff has grown to sixteen qualified educators. Its enrollment has grown to 150 children, each connected to the garbage dump in some way, all learning in excellent classrooms and facilities.

Amor, Fe y Esperanza has accomplished so much since its humble beginnings. Yet over the last couple of years we have noticed a startling trend. Many of the children newest to school from the garbage dump have started strong in the beginning of the year, only to slowly drop out and go back to the work in the trash. It is hard to imagine why any child would choose garbage collecting over school. Perhaps it’s the freedom and disposable income (although its miniscule) available in trash-picking. Perhaps it’s the pressure to help provide for their families. Whatever the reason, perhaps it is time for us to refocus our efforts and get back to our roots.

Marvin and Daisy enjoy classes.

This year AFE has begun a strategy to keep new children at AFE for the entire year, even until they graduate high school. At the beginning of each year we will provide new students with a transition process from the dump to the classroom. By teaching children where they feel comfortable, we hope to show them that learning is fun, necessary and invaluable. Melanie Miller, who has helped teach classes in the dump describes the experience this way:

“Teaching in the dump is neither without its challenges nor without its joys. Daily, the staff is greeted with smiles and hugs of waiting students. Discarded tires and cracked pails serve as chairs, but not one complaint is heard. Needled syringes are a play thing and dingy dogs, an armrest. Any and every activity presented is greeted with rapt attention. Sadly, there are 14 year olds in 3rd grade and 3rd graders who don’t know their alphabet.”

The classes span several different areas, divided by grade level. Adult education is offered. Yet, just over the hill, families opt to work instead of take an hour off for school. Mothers encourage their children to sort through garbage instead of learning how to read and write.

Ruth shows the little lamb she made.

In January this new effort took off. Just three months later, twenty-six new children (who worked in garbage themselves), are signed up for classes at AFE. Twenty-six more children will have the chance at a bright future.

While our new (or rather, old) strategy is bearing fruit, the problem of child labor in the dump continues. Soon it will be time to offer more than simply a carrot. Our prayer is that God will provide the means, perhaps through political power, to urge the government to enforce child labor laws already in existence.

“There is a life of dignity, joy and freedom AFE wants to offer these children. They are beautiful and smart and desperately precious. And while they may not know it yet…it is our job to show them.” (Melanie Miller).

Wendy Figureoa: Case Worker Extraordinaire

She stands no more than 5´1”, an unassuming woman with soft eyes. She could be any Hondureňa, but there is none better suited to serve as AFE´s new caseworker.

* * *
She picked her way through the dirt to a house on the edge of a busy street, pieced together from garbage, vacant except for dogs milling about the yard. Yesterday one of AFE´s new students, fresh from the garbage dump, came to school but wouldn´t enter class. Sandra was too shy to tell her teacher why. She walked behind Wendy Figueroa as they went to visit her home and her mother. After the first knock on the aluminum gate it was apparent that no one was home. The only sound came from the flies landing on the laundry. But Wendy persisted. And persisted. Until a small woman with a suspicious scowl appeared in the doorway. As Wendy chatted with her, smiling gently, I saw the woman’s face change.

Although Wendy serves as AFE’s “eyes” in the communities, watching for home situations that are suspicious of child abuse, families immediately recognize her as their friend and advocate. At the same time, they know that AFE will come in strong with police and CPS if Wendy has anything suspicious to report to them.

With Wendy acting in this new position, the home life has changed for one young woman at AFE. Last fall the thirteen-year old girl confessed that her drunken father would come into her bed at night, instead of her mother’s, and she was afraid. When she voiced her fears to her mother she denied the problem. Yet, after Wendy’s home visit, the young girl’s mother and older brother have taken an active role in her protection. The young girl once again sleeps peacefully alone in her own bed.

When a tenth-grade boy sent a note to AFE saying that he was dropping out of school to work, Wendy visited his parents to remind them that education is a right owed to every child in Honduras. Jeyson is back in school today.

AFE has high hopes for what Wendy can accomplish in her new caseworker position. Thanks to Orphan Outreach who has donated the salary and helped train Wendy for her important role.