Welcoming a Special Child

In Honduras, the Hall family shared with us their plans to move their family from the US to Honduras by January. It was something they had thought and prayed a lot about, and something that couldn’t feel more right to them. Seeing them there, in their element, I could definitely see why. The Halls are remarkable people with huge hearts, and they have 3 smart, fun, loving kids as well! It was special to get to be there as they made steps to begin this huge new chapter in their lives.

One of the decisions that they made was that they really want to be there for all the children in moving there, which means not sponsoring only certain children. I know this had to be an incredibly hard decision to make, because even though they will continue seeing their sponsored children regularly, releasing them into the hands of other sponsors is still a big deal. Not long after arriving back home, the Halls made their upcoming move to Honduras an announcement through the Manna 4 Lempira and their personal pages. Soon after that, their children became available for sponsorship. It was noted that priority would be given to those who already sponsored siblings/family members of any of these children.

So of course in Honduras, the fact that Brayan and Ayumi (Junior’s brother and nephew both sponsored by the Halls) were going to be needing new sponsors soon was in the back of my mind. I guess I figured it would happen a little farther into the future. When the announcement came about them being available for sponsorship, I felt a HUGE pull. And I immediately started praying. A lot. I knew I needed to make a decision quickly, and I knew I needed God’s help in making it. At the time, I was between teaching jobs and technically unemployed. As much as I WANTED to sponsor both of them, it didn’t feel financially responsible to. So then I had to decide and pray some more. I loved both of these boys dearly when I met them. However, I did spend more time with Ayumi. He and Junior are only 15 days apart in age. They’re in the same class, they live together, and are as close as close can be. Every time I would try to picture someone sponsoring Ayumi, I kept feeling strongly that that someone had to be me. I couldn’t get the way he so freely and lovingly gave me so many hugs the day at the pool, despite a very difficult early life, out of my head.

And so finally I knew what I had to do. I sponsored Ayumi, and committed to advocating for Brayan.

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Here are some pictures of him over the years.

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Eventually, I got a Facebook message that couldn’t make me any happier! Another sponsor from our team had decided to sponsor Brayan. And not just any sponsor. She sponsors the other Brayan from the group the day at the pool, the 4th boy in this photo that she took!

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It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly, and it’s just further evidence of God’s hand in it all along. It still makes me smile to think that Brayan has a fantastic sponsor, and one who shares just as much love for these boys as I do!!

Honduras Day 8: Leaving Honduras

ADVENTURE-8

Click here to see yesterday’s post, Day 7: Betania Fun Day.

So I woke up in the morning, went to shower, but when I looked inside, I became perplexed. I started wondering where the water was going to come from, because I didn’t see a shower head. And then I turned the water on…

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Yep.

There was no shower head indeed. The water came out of a hole in the wall. At this point, I had to be very carefully showering already, only using cold water and being careful with the water hitting my sunburn. Of course it was another one of those moments, like fireworks the night before, where all you could do was laugh. And in talking to other team members at breakfast, I found out other rooms didn’t have this problem. I was the “lucky” one 😉

When I was packed, I went back out onto the balcony.

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I could see San Pedro Sula much better in the daylight!

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And down to the hotel pool.

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We sat by the pool for breakfast, which was nice, and thankfully we found spots in the shade. Yes, Gracias was hot, but even in the morning, San Pedro Sula was already scorchingly hot being at a lower elevation level!

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Soon we took off towards the airport. It’s tiny, so it didn’t take long to check in at all. We had some time to kill, and I got to shop for the first time, along with getting some water for the flight. We also had to say our goodbyes. Since the airport was so small, even though we were all on several different flights, our gates were all still right next to each other! Another family from our team was on my flight, so it was nice to have some familiar faces when landing in the US and going through customs.

Whereas last time when I landed in Houston, I had to run through the airport just to barely make it on my flight that had already boarded, this time I had a little more time and actually was able to stop and get some food for myself. The shop I stopped in to buy my food was interesting because there was literally no one working in it! You checked yourself out using a machine. I’m sure there were more security measures in place that I couldn’t see, but at first glance, it seemed very trust-based.

Finally, I arrived home in Chicago. While I was missing Honduras and my sponsored kids like crazy already, I was glad to be safely home and see family!

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Honduras Day 7: Betania Fun Day

ADVENTURE-7

Click here to view yesterday’s post, Day 6: Diego’s Home Visit.

Waking up this morning was definitely bittersweet, as we would be saying goodbye to Hotel Guancascos and Gracias. It was our last fun day, and Sowers 4 Pastors team decided it would be best to have us packed and loaded up before we got to the pool, so that we could leave straight from there. After I finished up the last of my packing, I spent the rest of the morning taking everything in one last time.

 

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I think since this was was the smallest group for a fun day, it was definitely our calmest group of the week. It was nice to end the week this way, because as excited as we were to spend time with these children, we were also a bit exhausted and some were sick. I wasn’t sick, but it was a fantastic, quieter last pool day. Unfortunately for the Betania children, though, we had far less pool toys than we had the other days. This is due to a combination of some getting broken due to “big kids” (aka translators) using them on the slides and also some getting mysteriously taken by another group at the pool. We salvaged what we could, and thankfully the kids didn’t really know the difference.

The only downside was that my translator had an exam that day, so she couldn’t be there. I had gotten spoiled by her always being around to help translate on pool days, because she was excellent, so I was on my own with my limited Spanish this day, going to get other nearby translators at times I really needed help.

Helen was the loudest child at the pool that day 😉 But her enthusiasm and excitement were so fun to watch and take part in. Here are some of her poses for me. Shy is not in this girl’s vocabulary!

 

Helen’s cousin and one of her closest friends, Amy, is sponsored by one of the other sponsors visiting, so they had a great time playing together.

 

We took a girls walk down the bridge when I went with Helen, Amy, and Heydi. Even without a translator, it was fun spending a little girl time together enjoying the gorgeous views, the fish, and the flowers.

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Quite the opposite of Helen, Heydi is definitely on the quiet end. But she is such a sweet, loving, easygoing girl. She loved just floating and relaxing in the water, and we got to spend awhile playing catch together, in addition to the time I got to spend together in one of the smaller pools with all my kids.

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She even went down the big slide at one point!

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Diego was as adorable as always. I mean just look at this smile…

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He definitely wasn’t scared of the water, showing off his swimming for me and even going underwater!

 

 

And Junior was just smiles from start to finish! I was a little worried about him going in, if his vision would be off and then with his burns, but Brayan and Ayumi, his brother and nephew, looked out for him the entire time too, along with all the sponsors helping me out with keeping a closer eye on him, because he was everywhere! He is such a joyful kid.

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One of the other sponsors was great with the boys, and they ate it up!

 

I had already pretty much fallen in love with Ayumi from the day before on home visits, but if I hadn’t, I completely did on this day. He kept coming up to me throughout the day and giving me spontaneous hugs. I knew enough about his life to know he’s had an especially difficult one, but he was so happy this day and it was incredibly easy to bond with him, too!

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Here are Junior and Ayumi jumping in together.

 

Speaking of the boys, I couldn’t stop talking about how impressed I was with them. Seriously. The group of Junior, Brayan, Ayumi, and another Bryan sponsored by another team member, impressed me all day long. They were so respectful, helpful, and polite. I got to see a lot of kids over the week at the pool, and kids in Honduras act just like kids in the US or anywhere. Boys will be boys. And while these boys knew how to have fun, they were conscientious, never obnoxious, grateful, loving and affectionate, and they even gladly helped me deflate the inflatable toys at the end of the day. All in all, something about this group of boys was exceptional ❤

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Instead of popsicles, today, they decided to do a mid-morning snack of baleadas. Baleadas are a traditional Honduran dish, consisting of a folded over flour tortilla containing beans, cheese, and crema. The kiddos gobbled them up!

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After swimming was done and everyone got changed, we hung out and took a few pictures before it was time to leave.

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Again, with my limited Spanish, I showed them pictures of my family and cat and parts of my life that I had on my phone. Thankfully another translator came around and helped translate our goodbyes, maybe the hardest ones yet, since there were no more days this trip to look forward to seeing more children.

While waiting for the cars to load, some of the kids got some last minute playing on the playground. Here are Junior and Ayumi on the seesaw.

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And Helen on the swings with an expression of pure joy…

 

We left straight from the pool, feeling a little gross, to begin our 5 hour drive to San Pedro Sula, where we’d spend the night. By this point, after another full day in the sun, my sunburn was even worse and incredibly painful. At one rest stop, I got a bottled water mostly so I could put the cold bottle on it. I also had trouble keeping my eyes open as we once again bumped along in the large van for all those hours.

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Finally we arrived in San Pedro Sula. For dinner, we went to Pizza Hut, a frequent visit of Manna teams. However, this wasn’t any kind of Pizza Hut you’d see in the States. It was a nice, sit-down restaurant. Several team members commented that it had the best wi-fi we’d experienced all trip. We sat on a large, leather bench and waited to be seated. We agreed to sit in the kids area, since we had several kids in our group. Yes, this Pizza Hut had a kids area and a play place! A big one! The menu also contained many more items than just the pizzas, pasta, and wings we’re used to here. One thing they didn’t have, though, that I’m used to here, is gluten free pizza. Not that I needed a whole pizza just for me, anyway. I got the salad bar. And wow, it was a great one and FRESH. The pineapples on it, still stand out to me as being delicious and wonderfully fresh, not the canned pineapples we’re used to here in salad bars.

The hotel room was huge, and my room was very high up. Although it didn’t have the charm and upkeep of Hotel Guancascos, but it was fine and a nice, safe place to stay for the night.

 

A view of San Pedro Sula at night:

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And then a funny thing happened a little after I got into bed. Fireworks started going off right outside the hotel! They weren’t on my side, so I couldn’t see them, but other team members staying on the other side of the hotel even had sparks land on their balconies :O Here is a short video I took of the noise. It was just something you could only laugh about!!

 

 

Click here to continue on to Day 8: Leaving Honduras.

Honduras Day 6: Diego’s Home Visit

ADVENTURE-6

Click here to see the previous post, Day 6: Junior’s Home Visit.

While I spotted Helen, Heydi, and Junior all right away in the small Betania church, I did not see Diego when we came in. I mentioned it to Russell when he asked if everyone was accounted for, and started on my other home visits. I didn’t know much about Diego, due to the fact that I don’t always receive letters from him in each mailing or photos of him in each round of updates. So I knew his attendance had to be more sporadic.

Later, though, in between home visits, he and his mom were at the church! We found out that they actually live in town in Gracias, definitely a drive from Betania and not within close walking distance. Now I knew why he wasn’t always there for letter writing or photos. The Manna staff talked to his mom and they decided that since she lived in Gracias, where we were staying and headed back to for the evening, we’d do my home visit later with him. His mom had a car, and my translator agreed to come back, so for the time being, Diego gave me a super sweet gift and I told him I’d see him later!

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The bag, which translates into “someone who loves me very much has brought me this little bag from Honduras”, contained tissue paper wrapped little cookie bites and a handmade woven sombrero keychain. It was such a sweet and thoughtful gift ❤

While I had some time before my last home visit, I spent some time enjoying the beauty back at Hotel Guancascos on our last full day there.

It’s safe to say I fell in love with this gorgeous, gem of a place! Even with all of the countless mosquito bites I got, I was in constant joy and wonder appreciating so much diverse and natural beauty there. I can’t wait to go back!

Finally it was the time that we were supposed to meet Diego’s mom. My translator met me back at the hotel. Now, Hondurans are notorious for being on “Honduran time”, or in other words, late. This case was no exception, as Diego’s mom actually came about an hour after the scheduled time! The positive side, though, was that it gave me more time to talk to and get to know my translator, who is a great person with a huge heart and did an excellent job all week!

Diego and his mom picked us up in their car and took us to their home. It was definitely nicer than most of the other homes we had visited throughout the week, but still very modest. I loved Diego’s adorable little “garden” outside of several potted plants. And Diego himself couldn’t be more adorable, either! He is so sweet and has great manners, but he isn’t shy at all and likes to give his opinion, too. The school he attends is a bilingual school, so he was even able to say some things to me in English, including the Our Father prayer, which he was very proud of!

We talked for a little while at the home. I know that Diego has a sister, but she wasn’t there and there was no mention of her, so I didn’t ask. Yes, at first glance, it seems like they are more well off than the other families, and in many ways, they probably are. Diego’s mom is a teacher. They used to live near Betania, and still have family there, which is why they still attend the church there. But it’s clear they still have needs as well. And our first evening in Honduras, during our dinner together with the Halls and Russell, it was explained that in the Manna 4 Lempira program, they do accept children who may not be as financially needy, too. They know better than anyone firsthand that these children still do have needs, and furthermore, their philosophy is that these children, when given the supports and care through the Manna program, are the ones who will hopefully grow up to be future leaders in their communities and churches. Even though Diego’s only 6, I can definitely see him as a future leader 🙂

The cool thing about this special home visit is that it ended up being a couple hours! We were going to go to a mountain nearby, but I don’t think they realized how long of a walk it was going to be. Thankfully, it was no coincidence that none other than the Hall family drove by us as we were about 15 minutes into the walk, picking us up in their truck. They were on a mission of their own, so we rode with them for a little while, until they dropped us back off at the car. Gotta love how perfectly that worked out!

Next, the family took us to the newly renovated park in Gracias. It’s beautiful, modern, and a great, safe place for families to go to have fun, relax, or get some exercise together. They even have guards outside to keep it safe.

Diego’s mom really liked the exercise equipment they had.

While Diego loved climbing. He said his favorite subject in school is physical education, and he is definitely very athletic. One of his school friends was also there, so they played together for a little while.

Finally, we had to say goodbye. My translator had to get back for a class, and it was getting late. Diego’s mom even offered to drop her off at her home after she dropped me off at the hotel so she didn’t have to walk back, which was really sweet. We took some pictures together before leaving.

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This was my final home visit of the trip, but it was a very unique and special one!

Click here to continue on to Day 7: Betania Fun Day.

Honduras Day 6: Junior’s Home Visit

ADVENTURE-6

Click here to see yesterday’s post, Day 6: Heydi’s home visit.

After Heydi’s home visit, it was time to visit Junior’s home. The Hall family, who has sponsored Junior’s brother and nephew, had just done their home visit at the house before me. As I had mentioned a few days before my trip, I found out days before I left for Honduras that Junior and his family had gotten in a bad truck accident the month before. Miraculously, they were all okay, but Junior was one of the worst injured, and has lasting effects with his vision. After hearing the news, I was really grateful for the timing of my visit to be able to offer some extra love and encouragement to him and his family after the accident.

I was welcomed into the home by Junior’s mother and other family members like I had been a part of their family my whole life. It was an incredible and special feeling, and one that I won’t forget. His mother was so happy and so loving towards me, and I still marvel in the bond that sponsorship creates across the distance, even before visiting. I always tell my new sponsored and correspondent children when I start writing to them that we are family now and I love them already, and I mean it. I start loving and praying for all of them immediately. Having the privilege to meet several of my sponsored children, I can say that the feelings are definitely reciprocal.

I was humbled by the generosity and love of this family as I learned more about the accident. They were on their way home from one of the older daughters’ weddings, all riding in the back of a truck. About 20 people in the back of a truck is a common sight in Central America. The truck was trying to pass a motorcycle, also common, and ended up flipping and rolling with the passengers loosely in the back. It truly is a miracle that they all are okay to tell about it, and this is a family of very strong faith. It’s their faith that got them through in the aftermath. We talked about how God is protecting them and has big plans for their family. Junior told me about his dreams for the future, which include being a firefighter.

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Junior was in the hospital for a week after the accident for head trauma. He does still have lasting effects in the burns on the side of his face and his eye being crossed, but it could be SO much worse. It made me so happy to see Junior, the perpetually smiling boy in all of the photos, still smiling in person. He is the one, along with his family, who was praying for my arrival to Honduras before my trip was even a reality, and he is very special ❤

Along with Junior, it was very easy to fall in love with his older brother Brayan and his nephew, who is actually the same age, Ayumi. Both boys were kind, thoughtful, and eager to share love, just like Junior.

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Junior and Ayumi are less than a month apart, and attend the same class at school. Since their school is a very short walk away, they asked if they could take me there. Of course I said yes! The class even went to visit Junior when he was in the hospital, which I thought was very sweet.

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As far as schools in the area go, it was one of the nicer ones. My translator asked and confirmed that it was a school that received money from the government, as some do. I asked how they decide which schools receive the money, if it goes to ones who need it most, and she said sometimes, but that’s not always the case. Here, though, this is a community that’s clearly benefiting from it.

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The classroom actually has 5th and 2nd grades in it together. Junior and Ayumi are in 5th grade. When we came, all the students were learning math together. As a teacher, I’m impressed by these teachers who can teach such different ages simultaneously. The teacher was very sweet, stopping class for our visit, and the kids were happy and well-behaved. Junior ate up all the attention he got for bringing me, and he was loving every bit of it 🙂 Walking through the school as the only gringo there, I did get quite a bit of attention!

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Back at the house, I spent a little more time with the family before I said goodbye. We all got a very good and refreshing sweet rice milk drink, and I got to meet a few other members of the family as well. Meeting them was a pleasure, and I can’t wait to visit them again!

Click here to continue on to Day 6: Diego’s Home Visit

Honduras Day 6: Heydi’s Home Visit

ADVENTURE-6

Click here to see yesterday’s post: Day 6: Helen’s Home Visit.

After Helen’s home visit, it was time to visit Heydi’s home. I had the pleasure of riding with Allen, the patriarch of the Sowers family, who was finally feeling better after a week of being knocked out by a bad illness going around. The Sowers family are the ones who run Sowers4Pastors, the people doing the amazing work on the ground in Honduras every day, that Manna 4 Lempira is partnered with. We were with his son, Russell, who is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever seen, all week, but it was nice to be able to meet Allen as well. Heydi, my translator, and I loaded into his truck and we took off to her home.

Meeting Heydi was very special, because she was my first Manna sponsored child. I had sponsored her for over 2 years at this point, and I had fallen in love with her quiet, gentle heart from her letters and photos. Meeting her in person, she was just as I expected, and such a sweet girl.

I was surprised by what a far drive it was to Heydi’s home, very aware that she and her siblings have to make this significantly long walk to the church and back regularly, but all the more amazed at their dedication to doing it. I will admit that there have been weeks in my life where I’ve viewed going to church more as an obligation. But in visiting two countries in Central America now, I can say that the people there very much view it as a privilege. Even Allen, who knows the churches well, was surprised at how far we had to drive.

Heidy’s home visit was another where her parents were not expecting us to come that day. I felt bad, especially when we learned that both her parents were sick, along with 2 younger siblings who had stayed home from school. They were still very happy to have us, though, but we kept the home visit shorter, because I knew that they needed to get back to taking care of the children and resting themselves. We sat outside of the house, but I could see from the outside how great her needs were, as I had figured, especially in a family with 10 kids. The large number of siblings she had was a big part of what drew me to sponsor her in the first place. There were some trees right by the house with gorgeous blooming purple flowers, though, and I loved how pretty they made the view.

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I am so impressed and proud of the beautiful young lady Heydi is becoming. She still wants to be a teacher, just like she did when I sponsored her around 2 and a half years ago. She definitely has the heart for it, and she is very smart, too. She’s also already defying the odds by now continuing past the 6th grade in school, a grade most children in rural Honduras don’t make it past.

The family even offered me a live hen before I left, and I was once again humbled by the amazing generosity and love I was experiencing in Honduras!

Click here to continue on to Day 6: Junior’s Home Visit.

Honduras Day 6: Helen’s Home Visit

ADVENTURE-6

Click here to see yesterday’s post, Day 5: Mercedes Fun Day.

Waking up on Day 6 was bittersweet. I was very excited to meet the rest of my children, but I knew the week was very near the end.

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The last church we had to visit was Mi Betania, which is the smallest out of the four. Most of the other other sponsors only had about 1 child on average to visit, and I definitely had the most with 4! Even before visiting, just from the photos and from the letters I’ve received from my Betania children expressing their love for their church, I’ve felt a special affinity to this church.

We arrived and I saw Junior outside right away! I told him hello and gave him a hug, and it was so great to see his smile in person. Entering inside, I got to see and hug Heydi, and then meet and introduce myself to Helen, who was my first home visit.

As you can read more about here, I sponsored Helen only 2 weeks before arriving in Honduras. She hadn’t received any letters from me yet or seen any photos of what I looked like. She had only been told she had a new sponsor and that I was coming to visit. So where, with my other children, there was already a relationship there through letters, Helen and I were just getting to know each other. But this bubbly girl was the biggest joy to get to know, and I am so glad I felt led to sponsor her!!

Whereas some other children I had visited lived very far from their churches, Helen couldn’t live any closer! Her house was probably no more than half a football field away. Furthermore, the little café where her mom works and where we sat for our visit, sits in between their home and the church, so it’s even closer than that. I thought it was great when I found out how close she lives, because I know that it will allow her to stay very involved in all of the activities there!

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Helen was so much fun and she had us all laughing throughout the visit! Her parents were incredibly kind and loving, too. She is their only child, and you can tell that she’s their world. Sitting out in the shade on the cool of the patio, visiting with this lovely family, was one of those home visits that I could have easily stayed for hours.

Helen wanted to know everything about me. I loved hearing her say “Chicaaagooooo” whenever she’d ask again where I was from. I gave her her bag of gifts, and she took each thing out with so much excitement. I had gotten her a few Frozen things, and she is a big Frozen fan. She even sang a little of “Let it Go” for me 🙂 She absolutely loved the barbie doll, changing her clothes, switching out her accessories, doing her hair… Her giggles were infectious, and she is such a little ray of sunshine.

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One of the other gifts I had given her was a journal set, a Frozen one, with a lock and keys and some accessories like stickers and a gel pen. She loved writing in it right away, and had each of us write our names in it. She wrote hers, and started writing out a whole string of numbers, which she concentrated really hard on. She was so proud to show them to us!

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Helen’s parents shared with me how school is a challenge for her. Now in the 3rd grade, she struggles with reading and writing. She has such an energentic personality that I don’t think she’s one to sit still for long. I was able to talk with her parents a little about different types of intelligences and learning styles. As a teacher, I’m used to having similar conversations with parents, so I was glad that I had something within my “realm of expertise” to offer. Helen is clearly gifted in her social skills and making others happy. This is where her strengths lie the most, and she can go very far in life with them. Furthermore her parents do still continue to make school a priority, which is awesome. The teacher works with her individually, her mom and dad work with her at home, and they’re doing everything they can at their end to give all the support she needs. I just can’t say enough how much I fell in love with this sweet little family!

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Later in the afternoon, before we left Betania, we ate lunch at the Cafeteria Betania, where Helen’s mom works. I had some delicious tacos, although Honduran tacos are very different from Mexican tacos that we are more used to. They are like what we would call taquitos, with a corn tortilla rolled up around the meet and fried so it’s crunchy. Helen also came out to bring me pineapple juice, which was really good and even had little pineapple pieces in it.

 

Click here to continue on to Heydi’s home visit.