She just has this zest for life and doesn’t want to miss out on any opportunity that comes her way

¡Feliz Año Nuevo from One Family HondurasWe hope you all had a relaxing and family-filled holiday season. At One Family Honduras, we’re back in full force—students are turning in homework, mentors are preparing activities for a new year, and teachers are already knee-deep in grading. One of those mentors and teachers is Alina, and we’d like to highlight her this month. From Estefany’s mentor to our new coordinator for secondary students, Alina has been an important support for OFH.

Alina is from a small town in Ontario, Canada. She grew up in a woodsy area and loves being outdoors, just like Ada and Estefany. In addition to these interests, Alina is trained in sociology, anthropology, and history. After college, Alina volunteered for women’s shelters and on the crisis line for a sexual assault support center. These experiences, in addition to her innate ability to care for others make her an excellent friend and an excellent mentor.

Alina officially joined our team last year, but she created relationships with the Ramirez family long before that. Alina first became acquainted with the family through Sergio and Karla. Alina explains, “Some of the other teachers at the time introduced me to Sergio and Karla when we would see them working at the hotdog stand in the evenings. From then on, every time I walked by I would usually stop and talk to whoever was working at the time.  More often than not, the younger kids were hanging around as well, so over time I grew closer with all of them.”

When the opportunity arose for a new mentor tutor for Estefany, Alina was the perfect choice.

5

“[From the beginning,] I knew what a little fire-cracker Stef was, I love her spirit. She’s so headstrong and never takes ‘no’ for an answer.  When she wants something, she will find a way to get it done.  Even at eight years old, she’s so driven and I have no doubt she will get whatever she wants in life… She just has this zest for life and doesn’t want to miss out on any opportunity that comes her way.  It’s been really amazing to see Stef grow over the past year.”

Estefany and Alina enjoy many activities together beyond just her classroom assignments. Together, they like bird-watching, doing yoga, and going for walks outside. Alina notes that Estefany is becoming more responsible and will often be the one to notify Alina of homework she has to complete. She has also taken more responsibility at home with the baby twins, too! Alina says, “My heart just feels so full when I think about how much Stef has grown and how much of a responsible little lady she’s becoming”

Even though Alina has such a strong bond with Estefany, we see that she has such strengths as an advocate and leader for Karla and Sergio. Starting in January, Alina will begin a new position as the International Education Coordinator for Secondary Students. She will work with Karla and Sergio and encourage them in their studies as well as balancing family responsibilities.

“My goals [as Secondary Coordinator] are to help Karla and Sergio continue with their education in a manner that works best for them and does not feel forced.  I think this is important in order for them to feel empowered through education, and not view it just as a chore.  My goals are that they will see the benefits of continuing their education and that they will maintain an interest in their studies, so that they have the knowledge and ability to pursue anything they want, and that they don’t ever feel limited.  I think that Karla and Sergio are at a challenging time in their lives, and they need guidance with balancing their education, work, and families.  I believe that OFH will play a crucial role here, and I’m eager to be a part of this.”

We recognize that the older students have needs different than the younger students, and we’re thrilled to have Alina as the point-person for the helping OFH develop the right programs and strategies for our older students. In this way, Alina has been a wonderful support for not only our students, but the organization as a whole.

Thank to Alina for all you have done and continue to do for One Family Honduras! We’re grateful for everything you’ve given, and excited for all that’s to come.

Advertisements

As Ada’s teacher, I developed a very strong bond with her from the beginning

This month, we are honored to highlight one of our incredible supporters on the ground in Gracias, Miss Amanda. Amanda is Ada’s mentor-tutor, and has been working in Honduras since August of 2017 when she began teaching Ada’s fourth grade English classes. That’s when she first got to know the Ramirez family.

Living and working abroad is not new for Amanda. She went to primary and secondary school in Abu Dhabi where her parents worked. After that, she attended University of South Florida (Go Bulls!). Upon completing her undergrad studies, Amanda worked in an orphanage in Indonesia while attaining her TEFL certification. It was then that she decided to enroll in a masters program in Education. After some work in social services, she decided to pursue her passion for teaching at the Minerva Bilingual School. We are so excited to have her international education expertise on our OFH team.

Working as Ada’s teacher last year, Amanda says that she immediately connected with Ada, and really hoped to become her mentor-tutor. When we approached Amanda about the role last summer, she says, “As Ada’s teacher, I developed a very strong bond with her from the beginning. It was a no-brainer for me to take the opportunity to continue working with her.” 

In addition to education, Amanda is passionate about health and fitness. Amanda has been a great example for Ada in this way; the two enjoy practicing yoga and creating nutritious afternoon snacks together. This has been a great opportunity for Ada to learn healthy living habits with Amanda as her role model. Amanda told us this story:

“Recently, we have been enjoying “make your own yogurt” bowls after school with yogurt, cheerios, nuts, raisins (she is obsessed with raisins), cinnamon, and apples. However, the supermarkets have been out of the natural, plain yogurt that I always buy. Ada came to the store with me recently to look for it and saw there were many types of sweetened, flavored yogurts, but I told her they didn’t have what I was looking for. She looked up at me and said, “WE like it ‘sin sabor’, right, Miss?!” I loved that she saw natural, non-flavored yogurt as “our thing”. This definitely made me smile.”

We’re also thrilled to announce that Amanda is our new International Education Coordinator for Primary School students! In addition to her work with Ada, this month Amandawill also manage the delivery of our services on the ground in Gracias for our three Primary students — Ada, Estefany and Kenneth. From managing mentor-tutors, making tuition payments, to interfacing with Minerva Bilingual School, Amanda is our point-person to make sure these kids have access to everything they need in order to be successful and to feel loved and supported. 

And Amanda doesn’t just see her work with Ada and the other primary students as a service in the short-term. She has big dreams for Ada and the rest of the family. Like us, she believes that education is empowerment. She told us,”It would be impossible for these children to attend school without OFH. Period... Without the assistance of OFH and her bilingual education, a real career in her future would not be possible.”

Amanda is an invaluable asset to the OFH team, and we all look forward to seeing her continue to impact Ada’s life, and lives of all OFH students. Stay tuned!

What are we thankful for?

This Thanksgiving, we hope that each of you and your family will take time to reflect on what you’re grateful for. We’ve been doing the same thing at One Family Honduras! We worked with just a few of our mentors and students in Gracias to compile a list of the things that matter most to us, and we wanted to share them with you.

As a team, we’re especially thankful for:

  • Family:
    • “My family is the most important thing to me. Mom and I always laugh and have fun, and Dad watches movies with me. I am thankful for my brothers and sisters because they always play with me and I love them.” – Estefany
    • “What matter most to me are the people in my life who continue to love and support me wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. I love and appreciate my friends and family in Canada for trying to understand and accept my decision to be here.” – Alina, Estefany’s mentor
    • “My family is very important to me because I love them very much, and I an grateful for God for bringing me a new morning every day.” – Sergio
  • Education:
    • “I am grateful for the opportunity to go to school.” – Ada
    • “I am thankful to be able to go to Minerva and for the nice teachers, who always have fun activities to do.” – Estefany
    • “Education is about way more than getting a degree. I’m so thankful that my family gave me such a variety of educational opportunities growing up; those opportunities opened my whole world. My hope for OFH has always been that we use the classroom as a backdrop to teach self-awareness, critical thinking, and responsibility. Ultimately, we really believe that these things are empowering and creates a sense of agency.” – Sarah, OFH co-founder
  • Relationships: 
    • “I’ve developed many strong relationships with people here in Honduras, and some of those people have since moved back to their respective countries, but they care about me and stay in touch as if the distance were nonexistent.  Lastly, the people I have here with me in Honduras: fellow teachers, students, and friends who they treat me like family, pick me up on my bad days, make me smile, and always remind me why I’m here. These are the people I am most thankful and appreciative of; they matter the most.” – Alina, Estefany’s mentor
    • “The meaningfulness of relationships is what matters to me. Spending time away in different countries for work can be tough, but my time away has really made me appreciate the relationships I have in my life, both here and at home. The relationships that last are something I’m super thankful for.” – Branden, Sergio’s mentor
    • “I am grateful for the good friends I have at school. I am thankful that I get to spend time with Miss Alina because we do fun things like play with makeup and we always learn new things too.” – Estefany
  • Personal Development:
    • “What matters to me is being a person I’m proud of. I want to surround myself with people who inspire me, make me laugh, and help me grow as a person.” – Amanda, Ada’s mentor
    • “It matters to me to be part of something that matters – something greater than myself and something that makes a difference. I want to commit my life to serving others and not just myself.” – Charlie, former OFH mentor

At One Family Honduras, our aim is to eliminate barriers to education for the children we serve by providing the necessary resources for nutritional, personal, spiritual and educational development, both inside and outside of the classroom. Thank you to everyone who has joined us in support of this goal. We are forever grateful for you!

We wish each of you a warm, sincere, family-filled Thanksgiving.

Summer is officially over, and OFH is launching headfirst into the new school year!

Photo Jun 05, 3 27 06 PM

This week, Karla turned 18, which is hard to believe since we first met back in 2011 when she was only 11 years old. Karla is in her first year of a health and nutrition-focused high school program, which she hopes to complete in three years. Her classes are only on Sundays, which means that she has time to earn money doing odd jobs during the week. As always, Karla amazes us with her work ethic and commitment to family.

ramirez twinsAt the beginning of the summer, Mary gave birth to twins at the hospital in San Pedro Sula. There were some complications prior and Mary had to be rushed to the hospital a few weeks before they were born. Santos stayed in San Pedro Sula to look after Mary at the hospital. That meant that Estefany, Ada, and Kenneth all moved in with their older sister, Karla. What an incredible older sister she has been. Mentor tutors Alina and Anna spent time with the girls during this time and were very impressed with Karla’s willingness to help the girls with homework and provide for them as a parent would. We are so proud and grateful for her.

The babies are home, and everyone is happy and healthy. Please welcome Enrique Jose and Olga Rosario into the family. And join us in praying for their continued happiness, stability, and health.

Photo Jun 05, 1 35 48 PM

Karla’s younger brother Sergio is currently in 7th grade, and he will be graduating to 8th grade after Christmas vacation this year. He really hopes to get a mentor-tutor from the U.S. once the new teachers arrive and get settled, partially because he is not very challenged in his English classes at Ramon Rosa. It’s always more difficult for us to find male mentors than females, so we’re praying for the right man to come into Sergio’s life this year.

Photo Jun 05, 1 30 26 PM

The younger girls can’t wait for school to get underway, as usual. Ada is in 5th grade, and is excited to work with her new mentor-tutor Amanda, who was Ada’s teacher last year. It’s such a joy for us to see that Amanda and Ada already have a close, loving relationship. Right now, Ada wants to be a veterinarian. And just like her little sister, Estefany, Ada loves animals and enjoys nature.

Photo Jun 05, 1 30 40 PM

Just one year behind Ada, Estefany is going into 4th grade. We’re thrilled and grateful that Alina, her mentor-tutor from last year, is going to continue to work with Estefany for another year. Alina says that Estefany has been doing more homework independently. She also says that Estefany is getting better at trying new things.

20180605_151156But that’s not all. Little Kenneth is starting school at Minerva for the first time! Our in-country coordinator Irma says that Kenneth is so excited about his first days of classes. Irma and her husband Walter took Kenneth to get school uniforms a few weeks ago, and they reported that Kenneth was so happy and could not wait to start school, just like his siblings.

Photo Jun 05, 1 34 00 PM

These kiddos are amazing. The whole family is amazing. They are strong and faithful as one unit helping and supporting one another. Thanks to each of you for your support and prayers for OFH, for our students, teachers, and tutors. And thanks for helping us kick off the 2018-2019 school year!

Photo Jun 05, 2 10 19 PM

image

 

Reflecting on my Time with Estefany

IMG_6089[1]

Me (Charlie) with Ada and Estefany

During my time in Honduras, I had the amazing opportunity to be Estefany’s mentor through One Family Honduras. The times I spent with her have become my fondest memories of my year in Honduras. Learning and playing with Estefany gave me such joy. She has a way of capturing the hearts and attention of people around her. She has completely stolen mine. In our short year as a mentor-mentee, she became such an important part of my life, my heart, and my mindset. Since my experience as her mentor, I have yet to be blessed in quite the same way.

We did so many things together: fun outings and academic ones, homework in the hallway behind her apartment, homework at my apartment, movie nights with Miss Anna and Ada, tie-dying t-shirts, walks around town, snack walks, “beauty salon,” playing at the park, visiting the hot springs, and even spending time in class when I was her teacher.

One of our regular favorites was going to the park. Unless she had homework, we usually got mangadas (a frozen mango popsicle) and played at the playground. She sure can climb those monkey bars! Sometimes Ada and Kenneth (her baby brother) would come too, and although it could be a lot of little ones to keep track of, we still enjoyed ourselves a good bit. Ada is so good at caring for her younger brother, too. On certain occasions, we would get a special snack like cotton candy or popcorn and go share it with Sergio while he worked at the family hotdog stand. It was precious to see how they interact with each other – sharing food, playing, smiling, teasing, caring. These kids are a beautiful example of how siblings are meant to interact. It’s like they are a united team against the world. For a moment on that corner, I remember thanking God for bringing me into their lives and for allowing me to walk with them.

IMG_5902[1]

Another fun memory I have with Estefany is our swimming lessons. Miss Anna and I would take Ada and Estefany to the hotel pool to practice swimming every Tuesday afternoon. It was something the girls truly looked forward to. Each day they would ask us, “We swim today?” Initially, they were cautious about getting in and taking instruction on how to move in the water. But after a session or two, they wanted to jump in as soon as we arrived, and at the end, we couldn’t get them out! The girls dutifully practiced kicking and scooping, but jumping and blowing bubbles underwater were their absolute favorite skills to practice. They would jump in over and over again, sometimes into my arms and sometimes into the empty space in front of me. After practicing in the big pool, they liked to race in the kiddie pool too.

As we laughed and learned, I was regularly reminded how incredible it was that they were learning all this in English! (Except for one particular time when Miss Anna was trying to help them stay afloat by elongating their bodies. They had a hard time keeping their backsides up so they didn’t sink down. “Keep your nalgas up!” she said. They died laughing, but made improvements with the little pointer.) We had so much fun. It was a perfect way for us to be outside, be active, and be together. Miss Anna is a kind leader to me and the girls. She became somewhat of a mentor-friend to me during my time in-country with One Family.

Now that I am home in the states, I realize just what a huge part of my life she had become. I miss joking around with her and having a constant companion. Whenever I needed a buddy, she was more than happy to come along. On many occasions, she accompanied me on trips to the market or the store or just around town. One time, I was looking for flower seeds in town and she became my self-appointed helper. She took me to all the stores that could possibly have them. (In the end, we settled for vegetable seeds which grew just as well.) She loved showing me around her town. She takes to leadership easily and having a teacher as her student was all the more fun for her.

IMG_5594[1]

Throughout these experiences, I could see her developing personality and characteristics. Her curiosity and intelligence, strength and persistence enable her to be a natural leader. She never forgets and always works hard for what she wants. I know that because of these qualities, she will accomplish incredible things. Estefany is kind and genuine. She is interested in photography, art, and animals. I hope that she will get to explore these fields more as she grows up.

One Family gave me the chance to truly get to know an incredible young girl and her family. I was able to spend quality time with them, which allowed me to grow personally and relationally. I didn’t know before I started what an incredible impact she would have on me. She became an incredibly important person to me and I am forever and ever grateful for my time with her. I hope one day she and I will be able to spend time together again.

IMG_4792[1]

Resilience

Resilience

 

Our OFH family has been in transition this past month. They have moved to a new apartment (again)! The change was quick and a bit chaotic, but the family is adjusting well. Packing and moving is a big challenge, and we observed how each of the children showed extraordinary leadership and grace during this transition.

Both Ada and Estefany’s mentors, Anna and Alina, have expressed how proud they’ve been of the girls this past month. Anna said, “Ada has been so mature during the move, and is very happy in the new apartment.” Ada is regularly helping out with Kenneth (her baby brother). Alina has been working on teaching responsibility and respect in her sessions with Estefany, and she’s happy to report that Estefany is showing more and more maturity over time. We are constantly amazed at how these kids shoulder duties at home and in school.

Back at school, Ada and Estefany enjoyed some on-on-one time with their mentors last week. Ada is learning about and creating lasting friendships with her peers at school, and Estefany is enjoying her growing strength and coordination. Alina commented, “Steph really enjoys the monkey bars (of course, because she’s such a little monkey herself!) and being pushed on the swing.”

The older kids are also doing well. Sergio is successfully running his portion of the family hot dog stand business, and we’re hoping to hire a mentor for him soon. And Karla has just started up classes again last week. She is working on her bachillerato degree (the equivalent of a high school diploma) at a local school in Gracias. She will be in 10th grade, and her program of study is focused on health and nutrition.

When we heard about the family’s big move and everything else going on, Charlie (Estefany’s former mentor and OFH volunteer) said, “Wow… these kids are the most resilient people I have ever met! I love them and miss them so much.”

This is so true.  Our OFH kids have to be tougher than most to handle what life and school throws at them.  Poverty is a high-stress, ever-changing environment, requiring flexibility and a resilient spirit. Resilience has become a hallmark of this family. We have no doubt they will continue to inspire us with their maturity and grit.

New Semester at Minerva

Hello everyone!

As the first quarter at school ends, we’ve been able to see how the two younger girls are doing academically this year. ​Minerva Bilingual School (where Ada and Estefany attend) follows the U.S. academic calendar, so they’re about to start their second semester.

The girls have done impressive work, and we’re so proud of them! Ada’s overall average was 90% with high scores in English, Reading, and Writing. Estefany’s overall average is 87% with high scores in Reading and Computer.

These highlight some of the girls interests. Ada always has a book with her, and she loves to read and communicate in English. Rarely does she ever fall back on her Spanish to communicate with us. Because of all of this practice, her English is fantastic! Estefany also loves books, but she is even more interested in technology. She loves to use our phones to take photos and investigate new apps. We joke that someday she might be a photographer. Both girls need some extra help in Math, and now we are devoting some time during tutoring sessions to fill these gaps.

As a fun activity, OFH took the girls and their mentor-tutors to visit the Botanical Gardens in town. This is a newly updated area in Gracias with an absolutely beautiful garden and sitting area. The girls loved seeing the birds and interesting plants.

A big update for our group is the change in mentor-tutor for Estefany. Charlie, Estefany’s mentor-tutor, needed to return to the United States for family reasons. However, another international teacher close to the girls has taken her place as Estefany’s mentor. Miss Alina teaches English classes in secondary and is part of the team that runs Girl Scouts (which both Ada and Estefany participate in each week). She is close friends with Miss Anna and Miss Charlie, and has already spent a great deal of time with our OFH family. She is the perfect new addition to our group. She has already been working with Estefany on mentoring topics like Estefany’s personal goals, and academic material too. Welcome, Alina!

We’re excited to get the new semester started!

Feliz Navidad!

IMG_6656[1]

Christmas in Honduras means one thing—the big school Christmas show. This month, the Christmas show at Minerva took over everyone’s attention. After much practice and rehearsal, the show was a great success. Estefany performed a choreographed dance number with her classmates, and Ada participated in a short skit. She read two lines in English to the whole audience! Go girls!

As part of celebrating Christmas, OFH mentors have devoted time to teaching the girls the importance of showing thankfulness to others. In Girl Scouts, the girls wrote thank you notes to staff at Minerva (cleaning staff, administration, maintenance, and secretarial staff), the girls also wrote personal Thank You/Christmas cards with Miss Alina and Miss Anna.

When we ask the girls, they tell us that the biggest thing they are thankful for is their family. They enjoy writing notes to their parents and siblings. And Mari (the girls’ mother) has recently shared something exciting—the family is growing. Mari is expecting a new baby, and is currently in her second trimester. The family is very excited about this and preparing for the arrival of a new baby into the house. Our in-country advisor Irma has been an amazing support during this process, and is helping all of us in any way she can.

From the One Family Honduras staff, we would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for your continued support and prayers. We truly enjoy our time and experiences with our OFH family and we are grateful to you for helping us make that possible.

Happy Holidays, and see you in the New Year!

IMG_6527[1]

 

Safety Update – Honduras Elections

As many of you may know, the country of Honduras has been experiencing  political and social unrest these past few weeks, as the presidential election was widely and vigorously contested by citizens. 

As of now, the town of Gracias has stayed safe during the elections. There have been protests and riots in other major cities in Honduras, but Gracias has remained relatively secure and calm. Our students, family, OFH mentors, and staff at Minerva have all stayed safe during this transition. We practice safety by walking in groups, keeping alert, and hosting outdoor activities only during daylight hours.

We continue to pray for peace and safety in Honduras, and we encourage everyone to learn more about the situation. Consider reading the following news reports:

Learning Perseverance through Goal-Setting

IMG_5787

Hello everyone! Charlie here, Estefany’s mentor.

This month in OFH, we have been focused on setting goals with our students. Anna (Ada’s mentor) and I decided to help Ada and Estefany set both personal and academic goals to teach them about perseverance, and to help them articulate some of the things they want to accomplish. After some encouragement, they both got into it!

IMG_5775

For this year, Ada set the personal goal of strengthening relationships in her family. She also wants to go to a beautiful place with her family (she loves nature!) and help her parents by keeping the house clean. Ada also wants to make more time to go bird-watching and do more art. Academically, Ada is aiming for stellar grades. Get it, girl.

IMG_5776

Estefany set a personal goal of this year of respecting others. She will be working on saying “excuse me” when she needs to interrupt, and also accepting the word “no” from others, especially adults. When an adult says “no” to a request, Estefany will work hard to respond positively and politely, instead of begging or whining.

Academically, Estefany’s goal will be responsibility. She and I will determine how different homework assignments should be completed– with help, alone at home, or in the morning at school. It will be her responsibility to check her daily planner each afternoon and complete the solo activities independently. It will also be her responsibility to visit my classroom in the morning to complete any work she wasn’t able to do at home. As always, I’m happy to help!

IMG_5727

All of the mentors and children get together every few weeks for a fun, social outing. During our last outing with our OFH students, we talked to Sergio about some of his goals, too. He talked about wanting to travel more, and also about exploring medicine as a future career. We were so excited to hear this! From there, we were able to help him prioritize his academics and English acquisition. Often, Sergio works late at night to help his family earn money from their food cart, so we worked with him to come up with some strategies to give him more time to study, and to help make his study time as effective as possible.

Great things ahead! These kiddos are incredible 🙂

IMG_5676