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.