Friday, July 15, 2011

Day 1 in Honduras

Blogspot takes too long to upload pictures. Please view my facebook page for the pictures.
I want to explain in detail my first ever orphanage visit, but I’ll start from the beginning. The day started at 4am in the DFW airport. After using the self-service machine to check in I headed to security. After going through the new security scan and making the Mickey Mouse ears, I had to be pat down and my hands swabbed because there was a shadow on the screen. I know everyone says it, but make sure to give yourself plenty of time to check in and get through security for international flights!!
The hour layover in Miami was more than sufficient to change gates. After 2 hours we began our descent into Tegucigalpa. I was holding onto the arm rests prepared for the worst. We got closer and closer to the ground, made a smooth left hand turn, and gently touched down on the runway. I couldn’t believe it!!! I was ready for sudden drops, sharp turns, and extreme braking and instead had a very pleasant and uneventful landing! I will say that when you make the final left hand turn the plane is much closer to the ground than in normal airports, but if it hadn’t been pointed out to me I would have never noticed.
Immigration was quick and easy. All counters were open so I waited less than 2 minutes in line. After immigration you go through the glass wall and collect your baggage. 20 yards from baggage is the customs agent who takes your customs card and then you exit. It would have been quick and easy, however, I had about 100 little race cars and 40 red t-shirts which I'm taking to Costa Rica. The metal race cars set off the bag x-ray machine and they had to go through my entire suitcase to make sure I wasn't hiding anything. The airport is small so the whole process just takes a few minutes from the time you exit the plane until you are in the parking lot. Fabiola, Gladney’s incountry representative, was waiting to take us to IHNFA.
The IHNFA adoption department is comprised of 2 psychologist, 2 social workers, 2 secretaries, and an attorney who is the Head of the Adoption Department. One of the psychologists spoke perfect English and let us know that she’d be doing the psychological evaluations for the adoptive families. Everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming. They asked Gladney for help which I am in turn going to ask for your help. They told us that they have lots of families waiting for healthy infants which is great. However, there are children 2 years of age and over, sibling groups, and children with special needs that are available for adoption and deserve to have a forever family just as much as the healthy infants. They let us know that if we had families interested in these types of adoption which they refer to as “difficult cases” they would expedite the process. If you or someone you know is interested in adopting a toddler, older child, sibling group, or child of any age with minor to severe special needs, please have them contact me at or by phone at 817-922-6082. As we were leaving the adoption department the secretary called us over and showed us her mousepad… it was a Gladney mousepad she has had for the past three years!
After leaving IHNFA’s adoption department, we went to Orphanage 21 de Octubre or “21.” It’s name October 21st after the neighborhood where it is located. The neighborhood is called October 21 because that is the date it was founded. 21 is a transition orphanage for boys 12-18 years of age. It’s a transition because the boys are only at this orphanage while waiting to be reunited with their family or moved to another facility. The assistant director gave us a tour of the facility. Now that I have toured an orphanage I have to admit that it’s not my favorite place to visit, and yet I feel drawn to go back. Seeing the boys living conditions, how hard the staff works and their passion for their job, and the lack of funding and resources available it literally makes my heart break. Their capacity is 32. They currently have 36 boys living there. She explained to us that it is a violation of the children’s rights and therefore illegal to turn a child away so they have had between 60-70 boys living there at any one time. They receive their funding through the federal government , but there is just not enough. The building is old and completely run down. There is a shower room, but the water lines are broken so the shower room is used for storage or an extra bedroom if needed. The boys “shower” at the end of the hallway using a gallon milk bottle by tipping it into a tub of water. The electrical wiring in the building is completely broken so there are no lights in the hallways or bedrooms. They director told us they try their best to improvise and bring in lamps when they can, but the hallway and some rooms are completely dark at night. In one room we met a boy who was curled up on his bed. The director says from the time he was born he was tied up like an animal. His mother didn’t go outside so he was never around other people. She explained that he has no mental illness diagnosis, but that his issues are cultural. He doesn’t speak because he doesn’t know how. He doesn’t like to be around the other boys because he doesn’t know how. She said they have worked with him since he entered their care and he can now hold a spoon to feed himself and use the bathroom by himself, but he still spends his entire day curled up on his bed. He is 16 years old.
The kitchen has an old gas stove which they said could explode at any time and will eventually, but it’s what they have and it works so they do the best they can. We arrived just before dinner time and were able to see the two cooks preparing the meal of rice, sausage and eggs, and some type of soup. Everyone kept saying, “Praise God that we have the ability to cook good meals for the kids. It didn’t use to be that way.” Behind the kitchen is the wash room where a lady was washing laundry by hand. That tub is also where the boys wash their hands before meals and brush their teeth afterwards. They eat in the multipurpose room. The large room is lined with benches and they bring out folding tables at meal times. In between meals we saw the boys laying the concrete ground and the benches watching a small TV mounted on the wall which was a donation from a local electric company. Apart from the TV there are no other pictures, decorations, or furniture in the room. Outside the multipurpose room is a recreation area. There are soccer goals at either end and a basketball hoop without the hoop. In the food pantry there were eggs, powder milk, cereal, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies. The eggs are a monthly donation secured by the Director of IHNFA, Suyapa Nunez. The powdered milk was a one time donation from a local church. The other items were all purchased on their budget and would last about a week and a half. In the back of the pantry was a large plastic bag full of bouncy balls. The director said they had received a donation of the balls which is great and they were very thankful for, but they are trying to feed and care for 36 teenage boys on a small government budget so their needs are much greater. At the end the day my mind is racing with a list of all the things I take for granted like light bulbs, clean water, warm blankets, so much food in my pantry that some of it gets thrown out because it hasn’t been eaten, having a place to call home, and a mom and a dad who love me. The next time you sit down for a family meal please remember these boys and the 49 staff members at orphanage 21.

1 comment:

  1. Of course I have tears in my eyes!
    Pam Cheek