Sunday, 26 March 2017

Coming Home

My time working with the De Weerds and Every Day Ministries Canada (EDMC) in Nagua, DR has come to an end. I am sitting in Regina at my dining room table writing the last post for this trip.  The last three full days  in the DR were quiet as Ryan had a lot of administration to catch up on and the passion fruit project was in suspension until the second and third passes with the discer could be made.  The tractor was  supposed to be there on Saturday the 18th but did not show up.  Next steps in that work is to get the land worked and then source and transport the 3 meter posts that will serve as the frames for the passion fruit to grow on.  I left on Thursday and the plan was to get the ground prepared and the first 200 plants in the ground on the 25th.
Aerial view of the area to be transformed into passion fruit plants 
Adrian and Sharon Thomas, the founders of EDMC, have been in Canada for several weeks and are hoping to be able to return to Nagua around the middle of April.  Since I was leaving, they asked one of their friends to come down and replace me as the caretaker of the house and on Tuesday I drove to the Semana airport (about a half hour drive) to pick up Sam.  Sam and his wife Dawn (who was unable to come this time) have been to Nagua a couple of times previously to take care of the Thomas's house, and Sam, like me, is semi-retired and willing to offer his time to help in this way.  We had a couple of days together as we shared the house, and our stories had a lot of common themes. Sam and Dawn have servant's hearts and last year had spoken to their pastor about any opportunities he might be aware of to volunteer since they had recently retired and they were wanting to be able to serve.   It so happened that the pastor was aware of a request from the Thomases asking if there was someone willing to go down to Dominican Republic for 10 weeks to take care of their property while they were back in Canada promoting the work.  So Sam and Dawn met with the Thomases and were able to work out an arrangement to come and spend time with Adrian and Sharon in their home in Nagua before they left for Canada. A lasting relationship began. The Thomases were able to go back to Canada knowing Sam and Dawn would take care of things while they were gone. When Sam was asked if he could come back again this time, he was pleased to be able to do it.
Proof that I am able to put my feet up!  Sam with Libby De Weerd enjoying the sand
Sam and Dawn seem like a great couple who to me are showing what it means to live a life that reflects Christ in being willing to put others first and give of their time and finances to support Christian development work in the DR.  The last day I was there, the De Weerds took Sam and me to a nice tourist area called Las Terrenas where we spent a few hours soaking up the sun and enjoying a nice meal.  The couple was so generous and appreciative of my willingness to come down and help, and it was my pleasure to get to know them and begin a relationship as ministry partners in the Latin America and Caribbean Region.  When I see the level of comittment and sacrifice that a family like the De Weerds  make to live full time in Nagua, raise their children there and build into the lives of so many people, it is truly inspiring.  Over two hundred pastors are connected in some way with EDMC and by extension the members in their churches.  They, along with the Thomases support the Christian community in this part of the DR by building churches, homes for those in need, training leaders and pastors, supporting kids to go to school, mentoring men, women and young people and improving economic opportunities through small business ventures and training.  The biggest limiter for this ministry and so many others in the region is funding.  Much of the work is done through the use of volunteers in the communities and churches that are connected to EDMC, and from Canadian churches who send teams of volunteers that plug into the projects and get involved in ministry.  The networks that EDMC has to solicit financial support for all of the projects they have on the go can always be expanded.  Cheryl and I are blessed with the opportunities we have to work to support our volunteer efforts and we feel strongly that we want to be able to promote the work of our regional teams and provide an opportunity for more people to hear about the Kingdom work that is going on here and the impact it is having in transforming communities and  families.
The Team from Langley, B.C. and Robert their driver and overseer who works with EDMC.
If you are reading this and are interested in hearing more about the work of EDMC or any of the other ministries we work with, please reach out to us.  We would be honoured to be able to tell you more about the work and connect you with folks on the ground.  If you are interested in having us come and speak to your business, church or small group, we would love that opportunity as well.  We think there may be a role for us in facilitating partnerships between the folks who are busy doing the work in places like Dominican Republic, Honduras and other parts of the region and individuals and groups here in Canada.
We are all part of the church of Christ and those of us in Canada have the responsibility and opportunity to support our global workers through encouragement, prayer and finances.  I will promise you  that if you make the decision to partner with any of us in the Latin America and Caribbean Regional team you will have the chance to become part of something really cool.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog.  It means a lot to Cheryl and me when you make the choice to support the work we do through your interest, encouragement and prayer.      

Rick


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Bags of Dirt

Since my last post we have made progress in the preparation for the passion fruit planting. Lorenzo Garcia was hired to disc the soil and did the first pass on Tuesday. The soil is quite sandy so the breaking disc was able to get deep.  It is not the smoothest land so the first pass was a bit crude.  He returns on Saturday to make two more passes and we will assess whether we can start putting up the posts and wire.  We are still trying to source this stuff and our Ag consultant is working on finding the posts.
Six foot breaking disc going over the land
Last Saturday our consultant came by to check on our progress and to drop off passion fruit seeds, some small bags and a few sacs of topsoil. The task assigned to me was to build a 12 X 4 foot frame under a shady tree to house all of the seedlings for the few months they will be growing, until they are of a size that they can be transplanted.  So the last three days I have been filling little plastic bags with dirt and placing them in nice neat rows in the frame. Pasqual, the watchman on site offered to help me and saved me some time. By the end of Monday I had filled the frame halfway and on Tuesday I planted about 400 seeds.  Two seeds for each of the larger bags and one for the smaller. Tuesday I spent quite a bit of time with the tractor guy and only got about another 100 bags ready.  On Wednesday I finished filling the frame with bags of dirt (460 in all) and planted another 400 seeds and watered everything.  790 seeds planted.  Now they will have to be cared for by Pasqual until they are ready to plant.
460 bags of dirt and 800 seeds- how many glasses of passion fruit juice will that produce?
A crew of volunteers was on site today as well to start on the walls for the security and office house for the farm.  Four rows of cinder blocking and the rest will be made of wood with a tin roof.  Of course no power tools, and everything mixed by hand.  It reminds me of the way my grandfather talked about his life on the farm.  These men are all in good shape and were working hard in the sun. Impressive to watch.
Excellent work gentlemen
One younger guy was fooling around on a break and balanced a cinder block on a beer bottle he found. He came over to where I was filling the bags and said I needed to come and take a photo of his amazing feat!
Strange physics
There is a team of young people from Langley B.C. here until Sunday.  This ministry has a lot of construction projects on a list where many hands can tackle some of these things.  These highschoolers are working in the hot sun moving fill into a low lying area to get it ready for a playground and park, they are doing some kids programs in schools and sharing in churches.  They will go home very tired, but I think with a good perspective on life in this culture and what it means to serve others in this context.  I join them in the evenings for meals and they seem like a great bunch of teens.
Loaded in the truck and ready to go to work
Their last full day here is Saturday and they have a beach afternoon, and so I think I will join them.  Seems like I should go to the beach at least once while I'm here.  800,000 Canadians a year pay a lot of money to do just that...must be something to it!

I head for home a week tomorrow and I am wondering whether we will get any passion fruit plants in the ground before I go. Ryan is somewhat optimistic, but secretly I am thinking the post setting will be hard on an ex civil servant who has spent the last few years behind a desk.  May be a photo op with me holding a post hole digger like the politicians do when they are trying to look civic minded around election time.

I will do one last wrap up from my time here next week.  P.S.I had to get a flat repaired on Monday and the hole was in the sidewall.  The fellow fixed it right away and it cost me $4.00.  I remarked to Ryan that it would be non repairable at home and the tire shop would sell me at least two new tires. We think things are soooo much better in Canada!

Rick

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

It has been just over one week since I landed in Nagua.  I head for home in just over 2 weeks so my time here is short.  After reading the passion fruit document I feel like I know just enough to understand the process we are embarking on to prepare the land for the planting. The land we are using is part of a 27 acre property purchased a few years ago, and will be the main Ministry HQ for Every Day Ministries Canada or as they are known here Ministerios de Cada Dia.  Their plan is to build a ministry center for teaching and conferences, build accommodations for ministry teams from Canada and for ministry center events, develop a fruit orchard that will make a profit to help with costs and some additional buildings to house staff and act as a storage/warehouse for the agriculture operations. Grand plans to be sure but it makes sense to me as I sit and listen to all of the things that have been going on for the past decade or more since the Thomas family first arrived. This team is building homes and churches, training pastors, mentoring families around the area and having a facility like this will be able to bring most of their infrastructure together in one place.   To see the range of impacts this team is having go to www.everydayministries.ca and check out what they are doing to empower and equip the people of Nagua. if you go to the website and want to help out financially with any of the projects there is a way to do that.  
Some of the Chinola (passion fruit in spanish) parked under a tree to keep them cool
Back to the Passion fruit.  These plants grow on vines and an orchard of grapes they need to be set in rows with trellisses to support the vines and allow them to climb and produce fruit with enough sunlight and open air for easy picking and care for the plants.  The plot we are preparing is on virgin pasture land with a handful of cashew trees.  Job one after marking the boundaries of the 50 metre by 50 metre plot was to cut away any branches around the perimeter or on trees in the plot below 8 feet to allow the tractor to get in and break up the ground.  So armed with a machete, bow saw, two axes,(freshly sharpened) and a 6 ft step ladder i traipsed around in the plot and sawed, hacked, chopped and pulled out every shrub tree or offending branch in my path.  Paqual, the security man on the property came out and helped and we got 95 % of it done on monday.  At the end of the day this is what the fenceline boundary looked like.
This is the south west boundary of the plot along a fenceline
On Tuesday I went back with a hired chainsaw operator to tackle some large branches and the one nasty, gnarly old tree with about one thousand intertwined, mostly dead branches.  While my hired gun worked on the big nasty, I hauled and dragged by hand the branches removed the previous day.  Myphone was in in my back pocket and by the end of the day I had walked 10 km. Those were hard calories to burn.  This day there was a volunteer crew finishing a cement pad that will be the house and storage building and when they finished the pad they agreed to help me finish the branch removal.  In 30 minutes we finished the last of it.  The land is almost ready for the discers, except for a couple of roots and a handful of low branches to be dealt with in the next couple of days.
the remaining "nasty and gnarly" just before
 the chainsaw man got after it

Day one I got two nasty wasp stings which left me a little skittish on day 2.  I got through day 2 with only one mysterious bite and most of the skin off my legs maimed from the branches. Careful use of the polysporin helped in that regard.
Once the land is prepared we will plant the passion fruit seedlings ans get the trellises in place.  More on this next time.
the same tree with the offending parts removed
 and all the branches along the fenceline gone



    








Thanks to the work crew for their willingness to help me out.  In five days a work team from Langley B.C. will come for a week.  I am looking forward to working and observing them while they tackle some tasks here in Nagua.

From Dominican Republic,

Rick

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Rick is currently in Nagua, Dominican Republic to fill in for a couple who had to come back to Canada for personal reasons.   He returns to Canada on March 23rd. It was a rapid deployment with only a couple of weeks notice, and so he had to coordinate the trip with a couple of other projects he is working on.  Travelling to this part of the world from Regina is a long and at times, ardous process.  First to Edmonton and then long layovers there and in Toronto as many tourists joined the flights on their way to the sun and sand. It took almost twenty four hours from the time he got dropped of at the airport to arrive in Nagua.  It is official, sleeping on planes in not really something possible for Rick. thankfully the trip home is more direct and only takes about 8 hours.  I will switch over to first person now!

Ryan picked me up in Puerto Plata and the drive to Nagua was very pleasant along the north coast.  a short stop for a bowl of delicious Dominican fare and a coffee was priority one.  Ryan and Heather and their two young children live in Nagua and work with the couple who are back in Canada.  Ryan has been doing double duty with half of the team gone and there have been a series of fill in help from other parts of the region over the last month, bringing some welcome relief.  The drive gave Ryan the opportunity to fill me in on the many facets of the ministry they are involved in and it was an exhaustive list.  I am looking forward to seeing how things operate and jump in where I can.

My first day was spent in the office as that was a teaching and admin day for Ryan and provided opportunity for some orientation in some of the plans over the next week or so.   We sat down with Beandy, the admin assistant  and charted out plans and created an outline for a team coming from Canada on March 12 for a week.  It was remarkable how much of the whiteboard exercise I could follow, but don't ask me to repeat it back.  I took a picture of it to help me remember the discussion.
        The first one is chicken, not sure what for, and #4 is when the Canada team comes...I got it!

One priority is getting started on a passion fruit plantation and the team is just in the first stages of it. My plan for March 1 is to read and digest the passion fruit farming course that Ryan has found to get a bit of background on it.  There is a passion fruit farmer here who is an ag consultant and he is the technical expert advising them on this project.  Later this week we head out to the land to see what is next and ready to prepare the land for the seedlings.  The team is expecting this to be a cash crop that will bring in regular income to support the ministry projects.  I will get into more detail on the work they are doing here in subsequent blogs.  

Dominican version of vehicle rodeo
An unexpected bonus was that there is a lady that comes to the house I stay at to clean and if I want, cook some suppers for me.  So I am spoiled here.  We are communicating okay and she is planning to make mashed potatoes, carrots, fried chicken and cabbage salad tomorrow. Luisa stocked up on groceries today so by the looks of it I will not starve.

As it was the day after a long weekend there was a run on the bank and so the parking lot at the office looked a little congested throughout the day as the cars did a slow dance in a limited space.  I remarked to Ryan that there would be crashes and fist fights back in Canada and our pick up trucks would not even be able to turn around in that tiny parking lot.  I kept an eye on the ATM line and when the crowd dwindled I was able to walk over to get some pesos.

More to come...

Rick


    

Friday, 25 November 2016

I am writing on the last full day of our adventure in Tegucigalpa, and it has been a super experience all around. The team, both Canadian and Honduran, has opened their ministry and their hearts to us, which has enabled us to discern their needs and attempt to fill some gaps for them, thus accomplishing our goals for this trip.

Cheryl developed 34 ESL lessons, taught 6 classes, and is passing the torch on to a member of the team, who has never taught English before but loves these students and is willing to serve them the best she can. Cheryl's prayer is that she will develop confidence in her teaching and delight in a ministry that she can call her own. The culmination of Rick's work here is now being shared with the main members of the team in 2 half-day training workshops encompassing organizational structure, policy manual, budget spreadsheet, leadership styles, team values and code of conduct, and performance management. I bet you all wish you could have attended these workshops; he is available for booking beginning next week! We were also able to help with various tasks such as organizing supply cabinets, putting sponsored children's names on their pictures, editing documents, dismantling bunk beds, gluing chairs . . . you get the picture. As it turns out, 7 weeks has been just the right amount of time for our deployment here. We have kept busy the entire time and finished what we set out to do. God's timing, as usual.
Business casual in Honduras - note the footwear
While here, we attended Tabernaculo de Sion church with Kathy. This is a congregation of about 200 primarily middle class Hondurans as well as teachers and missions workers from the US and Canada. They also run Honours Academy, a school based on a student preference model of education, and their other main area of focus is bringing medical brigades in to provide free health care for the poor. The founders of the church have built a ministry that is definitely impacting lives. The Sunday morning worship service is very similar to that of an evangelical church in Canada, although the praise and worship is quite charismatic and the sermon may last an hour. There is lots of technology and a specialty coffee shop serving a congregation that looks and behaves much like an evangelical church in Canada, including enjoying a certain insulation from the poverty and crime just up the road. Kathy mentioned that she once asked one of the worship leaders from this church to spend a day interpreting in the area where our schools are and she was in tears a good part of the time because she was seeing fellow Hondurans in difficult circumstances and had never experienced this before.  So whether here or at home, hundreds of people from secular and faith-based organizations are doing development work with the poor while middle class Christians sit in comfortable pews.
Worship at Tabernaculo de Sion
We took a day off a couple weeks ago and embarked on a breath-taking drive up the mountain to La Tigra National Park, which is dedicated to conservation of the biodiversity in this part of Honduras. This enabled us to get a glimpse of the agricultural community surrounding Teguc and hike in the wilderness area once we got to the top.  Unfortunately, we didn't see any wildlife, but it was silent and pristine. The rural roads are not much better than logging roads after a few good rains, creating an obstacle course of many exposed boulders and cuts into the road where the water has eroded it away.  In our experience, a grader would be a very rare sight, so drivers just go slow and watch for holes. Since they do not get freezing conditions and ice, a steep challenging incline is possible to navigate if one takes their time and remains alert.  Busses are still travelling up these roads to provide transit services to students and other folks who live on the mountain. Life goes on and one must get to town!  Large delivery trucks are also common as they bring groceries, water, supplies, and also take local produce down to market.  The road to La Tigra was steep and winding, and when meeting a larger vehicle, there was barely enough room to squeeze by. Daytime travel is recommended as it is challenging enough without the lack of light and people and animals on the roadside.
Entry to an old silver mine in the National Park
The aldeas (towns) along the way hug the mountain on both sides of the road and trust me when I say there is almost no flat ground.  It is not uncommon to see a house facing the road and the back overhanging a deep valley.  They have engineered the sides of the mountains for market gardens, growing vegetables, flowers and other crops.  It is small scale, but almost certainly, these operations provide the sole livelihood for these families.
Hillside cabbage patch

Looking down into the deep valley
As we return to Canadian life in a couple of days, we know that our time in Honduras has changed our perspective. In some ways, life in Teguc is not a lot different than life in Canada, as day in and day out, we are all earning a living, raising families and building relationships.  I would say that what 5 months in Honduras has done for us is opened our eyes to the multitudes of opportunities we have in Canada compared to the majority of Hondurans.  The work that Schools of Hope is doing here has the potential to lift many of these children out of the cycle they find themselves in because they can finish school, which will allow them to pursue employment training and then a good job. We have been happy to sponsor Isaac, who happens to live next door to our new friend, Pastor Victor! In Canada, we can really do whatever we set our minds to do and yet many of us are not really making the most of these opportunities. We enjoy a very high standard of living, which is reflected in the size of our houses, the choices we make with our finances, and the things that become priorities for us. I think we are now much more aware of these differences and it helps to temper our priorities a bit and be more grateful for the opportunities we have been given over our lifetime. This causes us to place more focus on what we can do to help others both at home and out of country.  This is the journey we are on and we continue to adjust our purpose and values.
Cheryl's English class gifted her with a carving after the last class - a very special moment
This will be our last blog for a while. We appreciate those who are following our journey and take the time to communicate with us, comment on our posts, or make time for a meal or coffee with us when we are back home.  We look forward to seeing some of you soon!

Blessings from
Rick and Cheryl


   

Tuesday, 8 November 2016


Well - we only have about 2 weeks left on this assignment and we are on track to accomplish all that we anticipated doing. We have plenty of down time and have been jogging/walking around the nice, spongy Olympica track or doing Holy Yoga on the open-air upper deck most mornings. We have even gone to two movies while here, enjoying much more comfortable seats than back in Regina. It's really no hardship to live here. Tegucigalpa is widely known as one of the most dangerous cities in the world, but we have not seen or felt this vibe. We walk the dog in the gated colonia across the street from the house we are staying in or stroll down the busy street to the stadium in the early mornings. We zoom around safely locked in the vehicle during the day with traffic all around us, and we don't wander out after 6:00 pm - it's pitch black anyway, so what would you do? We've been "downtown," parking at malls and restaurants, but haven't seen any shady characters. If you had to take public transportation and taxis, you might have something to worry about, but we have no reason to do that.

Cheryl warming up for the 5000m race
This past Sunday, both of us spoke at Pastor Victor's church, which is situated in the poor community on the hillside where most of the children in our sponsorship program and ISFP live. We have introduced you to Victor as the director of ChildCAREPlus and School of Hope's full time employee. An interesting fact is that pastors are NOT paid by their congregations here. An offering is taken every Sunday to cover the expenses of the church (maintaining a building, leasing space, buying sound equipment, chairs, tables, and perhaps Sunday school resources) and I imagine it is a challenge to meet these costs when families barely make enough money for their own household expenses. So pastors labour for free in the hours of the week they have left over after paid employment. You can imagine how much time they have to spend with their families. Anyway, it was our pleasure to be guest speakers at this lovely church. We arrived an hour late because there was a national event of some sort in Teguc that morning and our end of the city was plugged with hundreds of busses bringing people in and spilling them out to do . . . we're not sure what! Kathy had to take an alternate route to pick us up and then it was a slow grind to move through the chaos on the anillo (ring road just like Regina!) We arrived to a joyfully singing and clapping congregation of about sixty. We struggled with what to say that might be relevant to people who live in a context so far removed from ours, but we trust God used a thought or two to speak to someone who was listening. Of course, we had to speak in English, translated by Victor. Rick shared what God has been teaching him about giving up control of his plans to God and Cheryl painted a picture of the kinds of poverty people in Canada suffer from (poverty of self, community, stewardship, spirituality). We were warmly welcomed and thanked, and it was nice to meet the moms of some of the staff we have been working with.

Rick is doing his best to look preacher-like
We need to give you a few more details about the ChildCAREPlus (CCP) program which really anchors the ministry here. It is a child sponsorship program that operates similar to those run by organizations like World Vision, Compassion, or Watoto Child Care. Schools of Hope (SOH) partners with Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) and its humanitarian agency, Emergency Relief and Development Overseas (ERDO) to deliver CCP, which essentially provides children living in desperate circumstances with school fees and funds to support basic physical needs. At this point, 180 children are matched with Canadian sponsors at a cost of $37.00 per month. The team here has a goal to sponsor 200 kids by December 31. Children are usually sponsored from grade 1 through high school.  We have been so impressed with the hands-on approach this program uses that we are planning to switch our support from a different program to take on a child through CCP. There are about 20 kids waiting for sponsors at the moment, so if you are interested in something like this, go to http://www.erdo.ca/childcare-plus-overview. There you can choose a country and then find a child to support.  
Ariel Lopez assisting the kids in writing Christmas letters to their sponsors
As previously mentioned, Schools of Hope employs Victor Estrada to manage the program with the help of an assistant. Victor is responsible to identify children who most need sponsorship, visit with the families personally at least once a year, have students write letters to their sponsors once or twice a year, take annual pictures, and deliver birthday and Christmas gifts from sponsors to the children.

Victor Estrada - CCP's Superman


Kathy, Dale and Carolyn are very busy before the beginning of the school year (Jan-Feb) buying school supplies for every child and additional resources for classrooms. A highlight of the year for sponsored kids is Hope Camp. Victor works with Dale, who brings in a children's specialist and team from Canada, to offer a fun-filled week of faith- and skill-building activities. They even rent a camp facility or resort and transport the kids out of the community, which for many would be the only chance they get to stay away from home.

Counting down . . . Cheryl has completed 22 detailed lesson plans and continues to work through the chapters of the Side by Side textbook she is using to anchor the curriculum. Rick has almost completed a policy manual for the NGO and familiarized himself with Honduran labour laws. With regard to the well project, although water was struck once, the well casing caved in and water flow has not been re-established. Thankfully, the drilling company is assuming costs for "mudding" to firm up the casing and the extra time and drilling that is needed. It really has been a difficult process, but everyone is believing that it will be successful in the end. Please continue to pray that God will bless this community with running water for the school and as many houses as possible.

Cheryl's English curriculum - ready for a willing teacher to take over the class

Thanks for reading, and adios for now!


Monday, 31 October 2016


This week was largely spent in the office with Rick working on financial documents and Cheryl writing lesson plans and looking for ESL activities online. Rick was suffering from a cold/flu for 4 days so he was less productive than usual. Back at la casa, el perro is causing us some grief but we're dealing with it.

Cheryl's ESL class grew from 5 to 7 this week. Members of the class are Schools of Hope (SOH) staff:
  • Damaris is in her 20's and manager of the ERDO feeding program
  • Delmys is a 30-year-old single mom who works with Damaris in the feeding program
  • Ariel, Damaris' brother, is in his 20's, working as assistant to Victor who is the Manager of Child Care Plus
  • Marvin is in his 20's and he is one of the part-time school Bible story teachers
  • Claudia, sister to Damaris and Ariel, teaches the Seedlings program in the schools. She is newly married to . . .
  • Edwin, who is another of the part-time Bible story teachers
  • Rosa is 15, not a staff member, but goes to the same church (Victor's) as the others
Cheryl with her amazing students
 All of these young people are intelligent, motivated, compassionate Honduran citizens who have the potential to change the lives of their own families and those of the children they serve. Kathy has identified a need to offer them assistance with learning English so that they can take advantage of more opportunities within the ministry and in the larger city. Cheryl's purpose in building an English curriculum to leave here is so that anyone who has an interest in working with second language learners will be able to teach the class without any previous experience. Her hope is that this class will multiply into additional classes for community members, or through local churches, for people who cannot afford to pay for language study.

The in-school feeding program (ISFP) has been in operation for about four years. SOH  partners with 15 schools in 5 impoverished neighbourhoods on the fringes of the capital.  A collaboration between SOH team members and the school division prioritizes which schools will receive the program. Besides our program, the government of Honduras has made a commitment to provide 3 months of feeding for a segment of the population where poverty and lack of adequate food is an issue.  The government has not been able to keep that commitment in every case and so our ISFP has been able to fill some of the gaps.

The kinders receiving their morning drinks
The primary goals for the program are:

Increased cognition for the child
Children who are hungry are not able to concentrate and learn in class. This results in reduced learning and an overall inability to participate effectively in classroom activities, school sports days, and other school related functions. Feeding children on-site at school will increase their ability to succeed.

Better school attendance
Bottoms up
Children who have inadequate access to food tend to miss a lot of school due to lack of energy and nutrition-related illnesses.  In the school communities, female children are often kept at home to care for younger siblings on days their mothers can find work.  Free breakfast and/or lunch is an incentive for a child to attend and also motivates parents to send their children to school. 

Provision of basic nutrients
 Families in the targeted project areas are constantly struggling to feed their children.  It is not uncommon for children in these areas to have a breakfast of coffee and a small tortilla and not eat again until the evening.  The main meal prepared in the home is often dependent upon what has been earned that day by a parent.  Meat, milk and protein rich legumes are scarce. Provision of a protein-rich drink upon arrival at school provides a much-needed supplement to children's diets.

Almost 1,900 kids are fed through the program.  Public schools in the elementary grades run two shifts with one group of students attending in the morning and a second group in the afternoon. Therefore, the feeding program runs both morning and afternoon. (This means that before 6 am when we are walking the dog we see children heading to their bus stops.) An important component of the program is the involvement of the parents and school community to deliver the meals. SOH provides the food and often pays for the construction of a kitchen in the school, but all the labour to build the kitchen and operate the program must come from the parents and community.  We were privileged to attend the inauguration of a new kitchen at Bessy Watson school last Friday.  The program there has only been operating for one year and one of the classrooms was temporarily outfitted to serve as a kitchen while the school community organized and completed the construction of a self-contained kitchen on the school grounds. What a day of celebration they had, and the number of times they expressed gratitude to God and to the Canadian church that funded the kitchen was very touching.

There was an assembly where thank yous were given for everyone who contributed to the project

There was a special place set up for the Canadian team.
L to R:SOH Director Mizen, Manager of Child Care plus Victor Estrada, the school director,
ISFP managers Damaris and Delmys and three teachers

There are two ISF program managers - Damaris and Delmys - who work closely with a kitchen coordinator for each school to oversee the preparation of all the meals according to the standards and quantities as set by the Canadian funding organization. Both of these women live in the community and are employed by SOH. The coordinators receive an honorarium each month for their volunteer effort. Feeding the children each day can only occur if there are sufficient parent volunteers and a teacher supervisor. Mothers and grandmothers rotate each school day to come and prepare the meals.  If no volunteers show up on a particular day, no food can be served.  The ISFP staff circulate to each school throughout the day to ensure all is well and provide additional supplies as needed. 

Volunteer moms making tortillas
The first meal prepared is a hot drink that is made from cornmeal, soy and sugar with extra minerals.  It is served in a cup, looks like a smoothie, and gives the children a good shot of protein and energy.  The meal near the end of the school day consists of tortillas, rice and beans, typical Honduran fare.     
We would appreciate prayer for a water well project happening right now.  They have drilled over 500 feet and so far no water.   This project has been a long time in the planning and preparation and we are all wanting to see a successful well established.

We are very appreciative for all of you who are reading these posts! It is a huge encouragement to us and we are thinking of you every day.

Blessings,

Rick and Cheryl