B.C. aid helps Honduran kids

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      The children at El Hogar de Amor y Esperanza in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, have lived through tragedies. Some grew up on crime-ridden streets where drugs and gangs are the norm for abandoned youths. Others spent days locked in their homes while both parents worked. Those who did see their parents regularly often found themselves toiling in fields or begging for change.

      El Hogar, an orphanage and school for students in grades 1 through 6, has a special bond with schools in British Columbia. For five years now, B.C. kids have raised money for the project in Honduras. The children are all roughly the same age, but fate has dealt the two groups very different hands.

      For example, Pizzacalla said, in December, Sentinel raised $5,200 for El Hogar. Instead of simply mailing a cheque, Rose contacted the orphanage and asked them what they needed. A request for 10 bunk beds came back and that’s where the money ended up going. When the Straight visited El Hogar in February, the beds were already in use.

      “We’re breaking the poverty cycle,” Pizzacalla said with confidence.

      Sentinel is far from the only B.C. school producing tangible results. Last Christmas, West Bay elementary school raised enough money to supply El Hogar’s 100 boarders with milk for an entire year. And in February, Chartwell elementary raised $1,000 for El Hogar that bought the school more bunk beds and food.

      Rose claimed that UOF’s administration costs are an impressive zero percent. Volunteers like him work full-time for free. When Rose visits Honduras, he pays for the airline ticket. In Honduras, at El Hogar, nobody is making worldly salaries. Employees at the agricultural school largely live off of what the farm produces.

      By the time street kids in Tegucigalpa enter El Hogar’s technical or agricultural school, many are old enough to be gang members. Some would have had to commit murder to pass street gangs’ harsh initiation tests. But as night fell on El Hogar Escuela Agricola, the teenage students played chess with one another and shared tiny amounts of candy with friends.

      Sitting on the school’s steps, Kunz admitted that aid is not always effective, particularly in large development projects. But El Hogar is a grassroots organization, he noted. “We are dealing directly with the kids and with the communities.”

      Kunz explained that with El Hogar, the focus is at the level of the community. “It’s about getting people on Sachs’s first rung of the ladder,” he said.

      Jeffrey Sachs’s 2005 book The End of Poverty received widespread acclaim for its pragmatic arguments in favour of development aid. In the book, Sachs presented extreme poverty as a problem that could be solved by assisting the world’s poorest nations onto the “bottom rung” of the economic-development ladder. At that point, Sachs maintained, a country could enter the global economy and begin to independently take itself the rest of the way up the ladder.

      Kunz described El Hogar’s efforts as applying Sachs’s thesis at a micro level. “Our project will not change the overall economic climate in Honduras,” he said, “but it has the potential to change the lives of the families involved forever.”

      At the orphanage, Castro told the Straight the story of an 11-year-old girl named Elis. When she arrived at El Hogar, she was only six. Castro said that Elis wouldn’t play with the other children, so she gave the girl a doll. The gift was met with confusion.

      “She told me that in her home, she was like a mom,” Castro explained. “Washing floors and cooking for her younger brothers and sisters.” Elis didn’t understand why anybody would want to pretend to raise a child. “She was a little one but she has been old,” Castro said.

      At El Hogar, you see kids turn around, Castro continued. “It’s amazing when they go back to their community,” she said. “They look like different children.”

      Rose and other UOF volunteers are bringing stories like Elis’s back from Honduras and sharing them with students at Sentinel and throughout B.C. Rose described the resulting enthusiasm as a favourite part of his work for UOF.

      “We’re not talking about trivial amounts,” he said. “There’s nothing like watching what these kids can do.”

      For more information about the Universal Outreach Foundation, check out UniversalOutreachFoundation.org. If you would like to help the kids at El Hogar, send a note to Ian Rose.

      Travis Lupick was in Honduras as a recipient of the Seeing the World Through New Eyes fellowship, funded by the Jack Webster Foundation and CIDA.

      Read more stories from his trip:
      Doctored crops stir Latin American debate (April 16, 2009)
      Exploring Peru in the shadow of the financial crisis (February 17, 2009)
      Discovering "mass food production" in Honduras (February 13, 2009)
      A walk through the poverty of Honduras (February 12, 2009)


      You can follow Travis Lupick on Twitter at twitter.com/tlupick.

      Comments

      4 Comments

      Foresight

      Mar 26, 2009 at 9:15am

      With the 'poorest children in Canada' right here in B.C. why would any one go to any other country to help. The old saying 'charity starts at home'. How can you tell the neighbor that his children needs food and clothing, if you very own children need food and clothing? Are you not a hypocrite? 'Clean-up your own back yard first'. 'Pull the rafter out of your own eye, before you try to pull the sliver from your neighbors eye'. No wounder we're in such a mess, the "splinter groups have got you all thinking fragmentated". Can't see straight for all the foreign pieces.

      Any of this familiar to any of you?

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      gjohnston

      Mar 26, 2009 at 9:50pm

      It is unfortunate that user "Foresight" fails to see that the poverty and disadvantages facing children in BC is dramatically different than the poverty facing children in Honduras. At least in a country such as Canada, there exists welfare and numerous child services and charity organizations, plus enough "splinter groups" keeping the issue of local poverty an issue in the news. In Honduras, there is a very huge chance of children ending up in one of the gangs, where the only path is death, hospital or prison life. In Honduras, children live in shacks with a parent if they are lucky, and during the rainy seasons many of these kids are killed when the monsoons wash away their entire shanty town. Poverty in this countries is not comparable to what is happening in our city. At the same time, these student groups do not forget about their neighbours. The students in West Vancouver schools sponsor local charities such as the Harvest Project to sponsor local North Shore Food and Clothing Drives as well as providing charity to Hastings Street local charities. Students from Sentinel math classes also make and serve lunches to the poor on Hastings Street. I think it is very important that students who come from such wealthy areas as West Vancouver recognize how the other side lives and how fortunate they are. From my experience, I see that these students do not take their lives for granted and want to be able to give back to those least fortunate. In such busy lives of students today, it is wonderful to see groups of kids from Kindergarten to Grade 12 spending hundreds of hours a year fundraising, and trying to Make Poverty History, regardless of where the backyard is.

      Glenn Johnston
      Make Poverty History Coordinator
      West Vancouver School District - Social Justice Rep
      Sentinel Secondary School

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      childrensvillage

      Mar 28, 2009 at 9:33am

      Certainly one cannot pretend Canada does not have challenges around child poverty and it must be eliminated. The work to current eradicate poverty in Canada does not mean that we can have an isolationist view and sit back while our hemispheric neighbors slip into an abyss of suffering. We are privileged in Canada to have a social net of social assistance. Honduras and other Central American countries do not. In Guatemala, 1/2 the children, under 5 years of age, are malnourished. There are over 300,000 orphans and only 35% of kids make it to high school. I believe, as compassionate Canadians, we need to leverage our privileges, to assist those in need beyond our borders. Even though they are not politically our family, they are our neighbors. We cannot wait until all our problems are solved to assist others.

      Foresight

      Mar 28, 2009 at 11:01am

      Honduras is a lot like Canada. Their government spends most of that countries finances on "military build-up sponsered by the u.s.a. govt." I'm supprised they aren't part of the 'u.s.a. space program'! That's why We have so many 'poor children and homelessness right here in Canada, because the Candian govt. 'supports u.s.a. military build-up and space travel". Nothing to help Canada's "poorest children and homelessness". Science before The Citizens. Shameful behavior!

      Sovereign Vanguard

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