What a crazy start we had! Having been on previous trips I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but there's always new obstacles to overcome! Frank Garrott, President of the Gladney Center for Adoption, and Pattye Hicks, Director of Post Adoption Services, and myself, Beth Whitacre, Intercountry Adoption Caseworker, were the staff accompanying 5 Gladney families on a life changing trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Let me start with a few caveats. First, you'll see throughout the trip that everything was planned out methodically and that is a huge thanks to Pattye, Wendy Lee, and Fabiola Pineda. However, when it's game time things don't always go as planned so I'll be leaving out all the sitting around and waiting that occurred and the "it'll just be 15 more minutes." It's a part of the culture that I absolutely love, but that also drives me crazy at times.
Frank, Pattye, and myself met at the DFW airport at 2 pm on Thursday to start the trip. As soon as we arrived at the airport we tried to check in at the TACA ticket counter, only to discover it didn't exist. We wandered around for 15 minutes before we were informed that TACA is now Avianca. Arriving in San Salvador at 7:50 pm we were supposed to have a 40 minute layover in San Salvador before boarding the plane to Tegucigalpa. We were off the plane and walking across the runway to enter the terminal at 8:20pm. As soon as we entered the terminal we were informed our connecting flight was departing and we were automatically rolled over to the next flight which departed the following morning at 8:30am. As soon as the shock at frustration wore off we were shuttled to the hotel and had a very pleasant evening at the Quality Hotel near the airport. I cannot say enough wonderful things about the hotel and their staff. They made an otherwise disappointing evening into a great experience! El Salvador is now on my list of places to visit in the future.
Finally arriving in Tegucigalpa Friday, the 27th, at 10 am we dropped off our bags at the hotel and met up with the 4 families to head to Casitas Kennedy. Casitas Kennedy is a government run orphanage in Tegucigalpa. When we arrived we were greeted by the foster families and children in the foster care program. One very amazing little girl and her foster brother performed "Noche de Paz" for us. A video of the performance will be available on the Gladney facebook page shortly. The foster families were absolutely amazing. Many of these Moms have had more than 50 foster children and were currently caring for 2-5 children each. They receive very little funding from the government and many months receive nothing. They are extraordinary individuals.
For lunch our team, the kids, foster families, and orphanage staff all had pizza and soda and then the foster families had to go home to take care of their families. After lunch we handed out the Christmas presents to the kids. You would have expected mass chaos, but it was a very calm and orderly process! There was no shoving or pushing or fighting or any of it. Some of the kids didn't even want to open their presents, they were just excited to have something. One little girl was so fascinated with the wrapping paper and bows she didn't realize there was anything else inside. The kids put away their toys and then we then started our project working in 2 gardens. Each of the teenage girls were allowed to select "their" flower to plant and water and that they'd be responsible for. It would give them a project to keep caring for the plants after we arrived. The ground was like concrete. Little kids, big kids, and adults pounded at the ground for hours trying to dig a whole big enough to plant a small flower. I don't know how many gallons of water it took to loosen the dirt, but I'm amazed at the determination of everyone to get those plants in the ground! At the end of the day we headed back to the hotel and had dinner at a Mexican restaurant just 5 minutes walking distance from the Intercontinental.
The highlights of the day for me were handing out Christmas presents and working in the garden with the girls who didn't say much, but wanted to help us plant flowers and several smaller children probably 4-7 years old who had so much personality it bubbled over! Below are some photos from day 1: