Merry Christmas!

Experiencing Christmas alongside 27 children is loud and busy, but also a fun and magical business. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were very special for every person under the Love & Hope roof this holiday. The preparation for Christmas began months ago, but in the weeks leading up to Christmas, we spent a lot of time decorating, wrapping and celebrating. 

In El Salvador, Christmas Eve is when people do most of their celebrating. Our day started around 9:00am with food preparation. We had a turkey, a chicken, homemade rolls and several side dishes to prepare for our dinner later on. Because midnight fireworks are a tradition in El Salvador, the children all took a nap after lunch so they would be able to stay awake. Then at 3:00pm, the real fun began, and we had quite a full schedule:


After eating a snack, everyone went up to the terrace for some games.


The go-to game for us at Love & Hope Children’s Home is called “The Dancing Game.” When the music stops, every player has to find a new partner, and the last two people to find a new partner are out. It can get pretty intense.


When we finished games, it was TV time for an hour. FOCUS El Salvador was kind to give us cable for Christmas, which was installed on Christmas Eve! The kids are accustomed to watching a lot of movies in English, so it was a treat to flip through the crystal clear channels, all in Spanish.

Around 6:00pm, the children all gathered to prepare for something that has become a Christmas morning tradition at Love & Hope. Before opening their own presents on Christmas, we head out into our community to pass out gifts to other children. The kids all searched through their own toys and belongings to find things that were in good condition but going unused. They supplemented their gift boxes and bags with other odds and ends from our bodega. When all was said and done, every child had selflessly put together a nice gift of toys, knick-knacks and candy. Then the kids put their presents in the garage for safe-keeping until the next morning.  

Everyone recongregated in the kitchen at 7:00pm and separated by age to make candy houses. There were some very creative elements to the casitas they made: pools, penguins, chimneys and paths. Later the houses were set out on a table together and everyone voted for their favorite.



Meanwhile, the cooks finished preparing dinner.


At 8:00pm it was time for dinner! Some of the kids got dressed up and fancy. Before eating, Rachel and Jocelyn read the Christmas story for everyone. We prayed, then formed a line for the beautiful spread of food. It was delicious; the children preferred the turkey and corn, coming for seconds and even thirds.



After dinner, Rachel invited everyone onto the terrace for a surprise. When everyone was settled and sitting down, Santa and his elf walked down the steps from the roof! The little boys were especially excited. At one point, Antonio just couldn’t hold his excitement back anymore and said, “Yes, Santa exists!” Inside Santa’s bag was a new pair of pajamas for every child.



At this point it was getting pretty late. After doing chores and putting on their new pajamas, everyone brought their mattresses and blankets into the kitchen and spread out for a movie and sleepover. Some fell asleep right away, but others stayed up long enough to head up to the roof at midnight for sparklers. From our high perch on the roof, we could also see the fireworks below for miles!



On Christmas morning, the kids woke up and walked right onto the bus, pajamas and all, to hand out the gifts they had prepared the night before. We also brought along a few boxes of rice to give away. Everytime the bus happened upon a child, we stopped to present them with a gift. The enthusiasm of our children was wonderful. Everyone wanted to be the first to step off the bus and give their present away.



When we got back home, everyone filed off the bus and headed up the stairs onto the terrace. The Love & Hope kids were so excited to see the bottom of our Christmas tree filled with presents. The stockings offered more surprises, full of candy from sponsors! Love & Hope Children’s Home was so very blessed this year by many donors who provided our children with school shoes, clothing, toys and even some extra spending money for Christmas. 



We finished off Christmas morning with a late breakfast of pancakes and bacon, then relaxed for the rest of the day, playing with new toys, trying on new clothes and eating candy. In the evening, we sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus and enjoyed some cake.


Thank you to everyone who made this Christmas special for the children at Love & Hope Children’s Home. We enjoyed every minute. Feliz Navidad! 





Fiestas de Navidad!

The staff and volunteers here at Love & Hope must not be the only ones who think our children are irresistable. Over the last two weeks, we have been blessed by several groups who wanted to celebrate Christmas with the kids. These parties and visits have included everything from clowns, swimming and piñatas, to manicures, dancing and Christmas cookies. The children also recieved early Christmas presents, some specifically picked out just for them!


One of the groups that visited wanted to have a party with 50 children. Since we only have about 27 kids, we were priviledged to be able to invite children from the Platanillo community to our house in Los Planes de Renderos one Saturday. The missionaries and children at Love & Hope visit Platanillo every week to teach and Sunday school and English class. When we got to Platanillo to pick them up, all of the children were bubbling over with excitement, dressed in their best and ready to go. Every single child in attendance at the party recieved lunch and a gift, and it was a great blessing to see how much the children from Platanillo treasured what they recieved. The older Love & Hope kids helped take care of the littlest visitors, and after the party all 50 kids had fun watching a movie, playing games and running around the house together.


It has been fun to celebrate the birth of Jesus with so many old and new friends that have come to visit. To thank all of these wonderful people, Mandy worked hard with the kids to make Christmas cards. Then we visited a few of the people and businesses that have been so giving towards us.


Thank you to all of the groups who made this such a special Christmas for us at Love & Hope Children’s Home. We feel blessed by your support and presence. We send the love of our Savior right back to you. Feliz Navidad!


Family Beach Day

This Christmas, a generous donor provided money for our children to buy Christmas presents for their families. Last week, all of the kids went shopping at the dollar store for their moms, dads, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters. It was heartwarming to watch every child hand pick gifts for each family member. Many of the children picked out gifts that were more necessity than “fun” because they knew it was something their relation needed. A few days after shopping, the kids carefully wrapped their gifts and prepared to give them to their families on Sunday at the beach. 


The children at Love & Hope maintain regular contact with their families through monthly visits. This visit was special though, as everyone piled onto a school bus and we headed to the coast for a fun day at the playa (beach). It was fun to see the children have fun and interact with their families. Everyone spent plenty of time playing in the pool, waves and sand. 


After lunch, it was time for the kids to surprise their families with the Christmas gifts. It was great to watch our children find so much joy in giving! Each family also recieved a basket of food to take home, provided by another donor.


The last thing we did before leaving the beach was take some family portraits:


Our Christmas beach party was a great success. Thank you to those who helped make it so! Please continue to pray for the relationships between our children and their families.  

As always, you can see many more photos by friending the Love Hope Kids on Facebook!

Libere las Torgugas!

Last Saturday, we were invited by ViVAZUL to release sea turtles into the ocean. ViVAZUL is an organization in El Salvador that seeks to change the thinking and attitudes of Salvadorans about the conservation of the ocean. Part of that vision includes restoring the population of sea turtles from Salvadoran beaches on the Pacific Ocean. ViVAZUL works with local communities to form incubation sites for sea turtle eggs and when the eggs hatch, they invite groups to come and help release them. We were blessed to be able to share in this exciting, educational experience!

Before leaving the house, the kids colored pictures of turtles and signs that said “Libere las Tortugas!” (Free the Turtles!) and taped them all over the cars. When we got there, the women who had started the organization talked to us about sea turtles and gave us the opportunity to ask questions. Here are some interesting things that we learned about these adorable, facinating creatures: 

-Only one in every 1000 turtles survives to adulthood.

-In its lifetime a sea turtle will lay 3500 eggs. That means only 3.5 of those eggs will survive to adulthood.

-Allowing turtles to make their way into the ocean themselves is important because they need to learn and remember the beach. In 15 years, turtles will return to lay eggs on the same beach in which they were born.

The kids were so excited to release the turtles and even gave them names before putting them down in the sand. The baby turtles knew exactly what to do and walked right into their new home in the Pacific Ocean. 


Thank you to Club Activo 20-30 of San Salvador for sponsoring and coordinating this activity, and thank you to ViVAZUL for a great day! 

What’s Been Happening: November


Social Work

Gloria (our full-time social worker) has been working with the caregivers to better their skill in taking care of the children. She is also working with the kids to teach them to care for our property and facilities better.  

Gloria is organizing different “workshops” for the children. The caregivers are helping with this also. The main idea of the workshops is to encourage the children to learn new skills and give them structured activities to do during vacation. Some examples of the workshops include: drawing, cooking, making Christmas cards and money management.  


Jessica (our full-time psychologist) is using the extra time that the children have at home (due to vacation) to work with them in groups. She created a weekly schedule just for the next couple months. She also continues to work with the families of our children.

Some of the children are also receiving individual therapy to prepare for starting at a new school or children that are exhibiting behavior problems at the house.


The children that attended Kinder Carussel and CEFAS during the 2012 school year had final exams beginning the week of November 5th. There were so many visitors at Love & Hope during the week of exams, we were able to match each child with a volunteer who helped them study everyday. 

Gloria and Kirsten began the process of re-enrolling or enrolling all of the children in their respective schools. Mandy and Kirsten have been organizing donations for the supplies needed for the coming year.

The eleven children that will be starting at Colegio Luz de Israel in the next school year began a summer course there on November 20th. The children are required to attend every weekday for one month from 8:00am-12:00pm to prepare for the coming school year.

One of the older girls won an award for finishing the year in 2nd place for her class at Colegio CEFAS. We are so proud of her!

During their “summer” vacation, the children have been participating in a house-wide reading competition. The children who have logged the most time spent reading will get to go to Pizza Hut in December.


On November 3rd, the entire house (children, caregivers, staff, missionaries and visitors) was invited to our social worker’s, Gloria, wedding. Six of our children participated in the wedding. The rest of the children all wore their best and attended as well. Everyone enjoyed the ceremony and dinner. There was even some dancing and swimming afterwards!

Two of the older girls went to a retreat with the youth group from the Union Church of San Salvador on November 9th and 10th. They came home with a lot of stories, clearly having enjoyed the weekend! Several of the girls have been attending youth group at the Union Church regularly and have begun forming friendships with the leaders of the youth group, who in turn enjoy having our girls attend!

Leodina’s quinceanera dinner was on November 10th at Toscana in Los Planes de Renderos. Two of Leo’s sponsors were able to visit El Salvador specifically for her special dinner.

During the week of November 26th, three of the younger children had their “clausuras” at CEFAS. Clausura means “closing” in Spanish. The children usually put on some kind of Christmas program, receive academic awards and collect their grades.

The children have been enjoying their “summer” vacation from school that began at the beginning of November and will last until mid-January. Some of the activities that the children have been blessed to enjoy so far are:

The older boys and girls, along with their caregivers, went to see The Rise of the Guardians in 3D. They really loved the 3D movie!

Some of the younger children visited Santa Claus.

We decorated for Christmas and put up our Christmas tree at the house.

FURESA, a zoo in El Salvador, donated 30 passes to Love & Hope Children’s Home so that our children could visit (see pictures in previous post).

On Thanksgiving, we celebrated with the children by cooking a traditional meal. Mandy organized a special round of “Turkey Bingo” and the kids all wrote down what they were thankful for on handprints to create leaves for a “Thankful Tree.”


The microbus that is used everyday for school runs and other driving got a new interior.

A good friend of Love & Hope donated money to purchase a new oven. This is a huge blessing!


Gary Klubnik, Justin Klubnik and Phillip Miller’s climb in Ecuador has raised over $13,000 for the education fund so far. On November 22nd, the three climbers made it to about 18,000 feet on the Cotopaxi Volcano!


We met with people from Mark 2 Ministries and The Supply Change. The Supply Change even bought us most of the notebooks we needed for the coming school year!

A deputy army section chief for the United States military in El Salvador came to speak to the children at our first “Career Night.” This is a connection we made at the Union Church. The children were very interested in what he had to say, enjoyed trying on his gear, and were especially excited about his therapy dog. This friend is interested in staying involved at Love & Hope and working with some of our children.