Monday, January 31, 2011

"Greater Presence" Proves Succesful

2009 was a great year for AFE. We experienced much success with the students we had rescued from the garbage dump years past. Yet, only four new students from the garbage dump registered in the beginning of the school year. And each time we visited the dump, we saw more and more kids working there . For this reason we adopted a new strategy in 2010: “Greater Presence in the Garbage Dump.”

Our new strategy entailed giving classes within the garbage dump itself (as we had done out of necessity in AFE’s early beginnings). Although we had classrooms and desks available for the students, our sole purpose was recruitment. We hoped that if we brought education to where the children were working, they would be more likely to attend classes and feel comfortable there, and then catch the vision for education.

In January 2010, our principal (Jesy Ordonez) and a number of volunteers went up into the garbage dump Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week and once again used old tires as desks. They encountered some delightful children who have quickly found their way into our hearts. And we offered adult education as well to whoever expressed interest. After three months, we moved our students down to our campus (including the adults into our adult education program in the afternoons).

In April of 2010 we welcome twenty-two new students to AFE, all of whom had worked hard collecting garbage before they were recruited. Then began the process of integration. Although the rest of AFE’s students had also worked in the garbage dump, for most of them it had been years since they had set foot in that disgusting place, and the difference in them was apparent.

When the new students moved down to AFE’s campus, we started most of them in our special education program, since they were behind their classmates in their grade level. This gradual process helped the students to build relationships at AFE and feel more comfortable there. Of course, AFE’s other students received them warmly. Then, one by one, we moved them into their proper grade level. And the results at the end of the year were astounding.

In December of 2010, twenty-two new children from the garbage dump finished their first year at AFE and graduated from their respective grades. We are delighted to have these new children as part of our family. Please pray for these year’s effort, “Greater Presence in the Garbage Dump” and the new children who will join us soon.

Jefry, Oscar and Ariel graduated from kindergarten this year.
They are nearly unrecognizable from the children in the garbage dump last January.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

God Shows up at Christmas at AFE

Christmas is always a special time in Honduras and especially at AFE. Like many of you, I have helped to raise support for these activities and seen pictures of the events, but never experienced a garbage-dump Christmas first hand. Now that I have, I am so full of gratitude for everyone who helps to support this event!

A week before Christmas, over 700 garbage workers and family members descended the hill from the trash dump to celebrate Christmas with us. Just watching them come, covered head to toe in soot and ash, and arriving in waves like the sea, was an indescribable experience. Jesus died for each and every one of these forgotten-ones. And He was about to share His story and His plan with them through a party!

Several organizations came together in the name of Jesus Christ to make this happen. AFE hosted the event and was support by “Casa de Esperanza” and “Mi Esperanza” among others. Every person who came feasted on a traditional Christmas meal in Honduras and had the opportunity to “shop” for clothes, shoes, and toys in our market. To “purchase” the clothes in our market, each garbage worker received a voucher worth 200L (about $10), which is equivalent to two weeks’ wages for them. I saw moms and dads shopping for their children, and children shop for their parents.

As garbage workers delighted in the opportunity to pick out new clothes, AFE’s children and young adults served them, remembering when they had done the same. They passed out food, helped to pick out shoes, and even prayed for some of the families. It is amazing to see the difference in AFE’s students, who have become servant-leaders in their society, and the people still stuck in the garbage dump.

A week later, we gave AFE’s students the chance to relax and celebrate their own Christmas. The children came dressed in their best attire and eagerly awaiting their chance to come up and receive their present as everyone cheered. Once they heard their names, AFE’s children walked (ran would be more accurate) to the front to receive a hug and kiss from their beloved principal (Jesy Ordonez) and their present, chosen especially for them.

In Honduras, the tradition during Christmas time is for children to receive “extrenos” (new outfits) for the coming school year. This might be the only time they receive new clothes that year and Hondurans, as a culture, take much pride in their appearance. Each child received a new set of clothing including a shirt, pants, and shoes (special thanks to Worthington Christian School, Trash Mountain, and Washington Cathedral for fundraising for these items). Thanks also, to the private school in Tegucigalpa, Los Pinares, each child received a shoe box full of surprises ranging from candy to toys and everything in between.

To top off a Christmas of amazing blessings, the Tegucigalpa Mayor’s wife threw another Christmas party for the children of AFE and the surrounding neighborhood. Around 300 children arrived to participate in games, giggle at clowns, and of course, receive a special toy. The Mayor’s wife, Lucrecia, also brought along a couple of famous TV personalities, who were a big hit. However, the best news we received this season came when the Mayor’s wife passionately shared her desire to stop children from working in the garbage dump! This is something we have been praying about for years! Because every time we rescue a child from the garbage dump, a new one enters. Something must be done to prohibit children from working in the garbage dump, and the Mayor’s Office is the one to do it.

When we heard the mayor’s wife express this vision, we were so excited to tell her that this is something we have been praying about and working toward for years! Plans are in the works to solidify this partnership and make child labor a thing of the past. Please continue to pray about this with us.

All in all, it was a Christmas in which we had nothing more to say than: “Emmanuel,” God is with us. If you add up the people served at all parties, over a 1000 individuals struggling in extreme poverty, received food and gifts in the name of Jesus Christ. And to think you are a part of God’s master plan to save and redeem the Tegucigalpa Garbage slum!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Transport to New Worlds

The children of the garbage dump come from a small world that ends at the border of their neighborhoods. The younger children do not recognize that they live in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Nor have they traveled downtown to see the beautiful remnants of colonial architecture or the brightly colored signs of fast-food chains signaling a larger world of international commerce exists.

I always enjoy watching the children take their first step on an escalator when we bring them to the airport to pick up teams. It is a frightening thing to get on a moving staircase and to feel so out of control of your location. We often cause a bit of an uproar as we attempt to travel up to the second level with the AFE children.
These experiences are priceless. They give the children vision, they learn that there is more to life than the garbage dump community. They see people working in other professions, they visit places that are kept clean of trash, and they begin to dream.

Thanks to Washington Cathedral and all who participated in its “Fiesta de Milagros” auction, the children of AFE will be able to travel outside of their dump community much more frequently now. They have purchased for us a 15 passenger van (roughly 30 Honduran-passenger), which will serve to take classes on field trips. Trips to museums, the zoo, and the universities are planned. The more we can get AFE’s children out into “normal” society, the more they will feel comfortable and become socialized for something more than dump-life.

The van will transport visiting teams as well, though we plan to continue charging a small transportation fee to cover yearly maintenance.

We are excited about the possibilities in store, thanks to all who have given so generously!