Learning to Serve

The older girls at Love & Hope Children’s Home have now been regular attendees of the youth group at the Union Church of San Salvador for over three months. It has been great to see our girls enjoy their time there, making new friends from all over the world and getting to practice their English (the Union Church is an English speaking congregation). 

The Union Church does outreach to the Mascota community which is within a stones’-throw of the church building. This past weekend, that outreach entailed a goal of gathering 100 people, painting the front of 25 houses and cleaning up garbage in the community. After the project was announced in church a week ago, the girls asked if they could participate. So on Saturday afternoon, they showed up to help and jumped right in to the work!


When we arrived, the community was littered with garbage and graffiti covered the outside walls of the houses. Some of the houses had never been painted before. Our oldest came in her paint clothes, picked up a brush right away and worked for two hours straight. One of the other girls painted windows the entire time, alongside one of our good friends from church. 


After painting, our oldest hopped from one job to the next, picking up garbage on the playground. Her initiative motivated some of the other girls to join her, and then some of the local kids started helping them too! 


At the end of the two hour work window, the community looked like a new place! So many people from the Union Church came to help that they exceeded their goal of painting 25 houses and actually finished 35! 


We are so, so proud of the beautiful young people that our children are growing into (we aren’t biased or anything!). More and more we see in them a willingness to serve God and others by giving of their time, energy and sometimes even material things. We can’t help but think that they are taking cues from the many sponsors, caregivers, teams, volunteers and donors that have given to us so generously over the years.


Mid-January is an exciting time in El Salvador as children get ready to go back to school. Our preparations at Love & Hope Children’s Home started way back in November as a team effort. We filled out registration forms. Our drivers picked up birth certificates to accompany the forms and then we printed school-size pictures that the schools required. Our administrator made sure all of the registration fees were paid. We all had to remind ourselves that getting 21 children ready to start school is a whole lot different and a lot more work than just one or two in a “normal” sized family. We also began collecting school supply lists and securing donations for school supplies and shoes. 

The end of December was when the big push really began. We took the kids to be fitted and measured for uniforms and purchase their books. One of the biggest jobs that had to be completed was covering books and notebooks. Volunteers helped the kids wrap the hundreds (literally, hundreds) of books and notebooks that they would cart to school everyday. This took a couple weeks to finish, but we were blessed to have motivated volunteers and children that were eager to help!  


A school in the United States provided each child with a new book bag for 2013. A Girl Scout troop assembled pencil cases for each child, and another school provided new Bibles for most of the children. These were all stored downstairs, then put together according to each child’s school supply list. It was like we had our own papeleria (paper store) of supplies in the tutoring room! We made several trips to the store for odds and ends that weren’t donated or are a little hard to find.

When mid-January rolled around, even the few that weren’t so excited about going back to school wouldn’t leave us alone about receiving their book bags, pencil cases and new supplies. Finally the big night arrived. We talked to all of the children about homework hour and school expectations. Then everyone received their book bags, overflowing with supplies! Their new uniforms were still fresh and clean inside the bags they were bought in.  


The children that attend Colegio CEFAS started gradually during the week of January 16th, including our littlest child who went to school for the first time ever. On January 21st, 11 children started at a new (to us) school called Colegio Luz de Israel. Two of our other little guys started their last year of kindergarten at Kinder Carrusel, so excited to get back to their beloved teachers.


The Plaza Sesamo has been used every morning and afternoon for school runs. Homework time is in full swing everyday as the children are already bringing home plenty of tarea (homework) to fill their afternoons. Communicating with teachers is a top priority for us this year, and we’ve already gone to a couple school meetings and met most of the teachers.   


The children have come home from school in good moods with stories about old friends, new friends and teachers. Everyone seems to be adjusting well to their new schools or classrooms and are generally motivated to complete their homework. Please pray for our children, caregivers, staff and volunteers as we all work together this school year. We are excited to share stories of academic success with you during 2013!

La Plaza Sesamo

At the end of 2009, a bus was donated to Love & Hope Children’s Home. This was a great blessing, to be sure, but the bus was donated in Ohio, obviously very far from Central America. In order to get the bus to El Salvador, arrangements were made that it would be driven to Florida and shipped here. Once the bus arrived in El Salvador (by way of Guatemala) on November 27th, 2009, it was immediately taken into customs. The children saw it once and waved as it was driven past our old house in Nejapa, from one customs location to another.


For the next 2 years, the bus was stuck in customs. Every few weeks it seemed there was another form to be filled out, another estimated period of time until we got the bus. By the time we finally had permission to take the bus home on July 13th, 2011, we thought we no longer needed it! Our little microbus and other vehicles were sufficient for school runs.


In preparing for this school year, however, we realized that a bigger vehicle was needed to transport the kids to school everyday. Unlike last year, all but one child would be attending class in the morning. We also have a few more kids under our roof during the week who need transportation to school. The bus turned out to be the solution! However there was still a bunch of work left to get the bus running, and paperwork to be filed before we could start using it. 



We went round and round with the Transportation Ministry until finally on December 14th, 2012 we got permission to drive the bus.Two days later, our microbus was in a small fender bender and was stuck at the mechanics for almost a month. Some of the kids were still in summer school for two more weeks, and a visitor was gracious enough to rent a van for one week until we could get the new bus fixed up, insured and road ready. By the time we had to turn in the rental, the new bus was ready to go! It was amazing how everything worked out just right. After three years of never knowing when or if we would ever get the bus, and then not knowing if we even had a use for it (we almost sold it!), it turned out to be just what we needed! 


Somewhere along the way, the kids started calling the bus “la Plaza Sesamo” or, “the Sesame Street” bus. The name has caught on, and even the adults refer to the bus by its nickname. Everyone has a lot of ideas of how the Plaza Sesamo should be painted or decorated (there are a lot of votes for a giant FC Barcalona decal). Last week at our family meeting, the kids helped make rules for the bus like: no eating, pick-up your garbage and stay seated.



We have already been able to use the Plaza Sesamo a few times for outings and this week we started using it for school drop-offs and pick-ups. While some of the older children have expressed some sheepishness at having to go to school in a big bus, no one can deny the Plaza Sesamo is more spacious and comfortable than our other vehicles. Here’s to some sunny days in the Plaza Sesamo! 

Rooftop Fun

Today the little boys took advantage of a new “toy” built for us by our new friend, Ben. Ben stayed with us for a couple weeks, and along with some other projects, he built us a sandbox…on the roof! The boys were pretty excited at the prospect of being allowed to play on the roof. We found some sand toys, dinosaurs and animals in the bodega to add to the fun.


How to Clean a Giant House

Love & Hope Children’s Home occupies a four-story house in Los Planes de Renderos, El Salvador. As you can imagine, it is a group effort to keep our house clean. The children all have one or two daily limpiezas (chores) and the caregivers chip-in for the spaces left over.

Many of the floors are swept and mopped twice a day. In a country with little grass and a lot of dust, brooms and mops are a necessity! Add in white tile floors and 20-plus children who run, play, do homework and eat snacks throughout the house, and you can understand the mess we face everyday. Don’t worry though; chores are always done with a smile (well, most of the time).  

Dishes are another issue. Three meals per day for the children, caregivers and missioraries equals a lot of work in the kitchen. The responsibilty is shared between everyone. The adults wash their own dishes and the kids take turns washing the cups and bowls of their counterparts. One group of children is also responsible for serving the others and then cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast and dinner. We have a schedule that rotates the groups meal-to-meal and day-to-day.  


Laundry is the last big area that needs constant attention. The older children all wash their clothes by hand in the pila, then make their way to the roof to hang clothing on the line. Sheets, towels, and school uniforms are washed in the machine, and when it is dark or raining outside the dryer is usually occupied. The caregivers are incharge of cleaning the laundry rooms and bathrooms. 


Our children, caregivers and missionaries work pretty hard to keep the “Casa Cristal” (the “Crystal House,” Antonio’s nickname for our house) clean. It is a daily fight against dirt and dust, and it might not look like crystal, but we feel blessed to live where we do!  

The Children’s Museum

Last week, we were given free tickets to visit Tin Marín, a museum for children in San Salvador. Most of our group had not been there before and we discovered that Tin Marín is a hidden gem in our city. Everyone found something interesting to do despite the wide range in ages. There were so many things to do and helpful people to learn from.


Many of the children tested out the bed of nails. It wasn’t very comfortable. 


There were a couple of young doctors from Love & Hope Children’s Home that spent time in the hospital exhibit. One of our little guys played doctor for a very long time, welcoming and checking people into his clinic, giving shots and prescribing medicine.


After learning about the color wheel and rainbows with a staff member at the museum, the kids got to put a hand print on an old Volkswagon Beetle. In the electricity exhibit, the kids rode bikes as fast as they could to see how much power they could produce. 


Everyone’s favorite exhibit was the old Taca Airlines airplane. After a short talk about passports, the kids told the guide where they were going; most of our children said Spain and the United States. After boarding, the kids learned about the different parts of the plane and the purpose of everything inside the fuselage. Then the Love & Hope kids got to enter the cockpit! They loved sitting in the captain’s chairs and playing with all the different knobs and buttons to see what they did.


Some of the other exhibits included a pretend grocery store (one of the boys filled his entire cart with meat), a technology exhibit with computers (the boys loved this exhibit), a giant set of teeth and toothbrushes, a volcano to walk inside of, a butterfly garden, a fire truck and fire pole to slide down, a pretend produce market and space exhibit. Thanks for the visit, Tin Marín. We learned a lot!