A Week at Love & Hope: Creative Painting and the Basura Brothers

Dr. David Eastman of Ohio Weslyan University (OWU) continues his reflection about OWU’s recent trip to Love & Hope Children’s Home. (The first installment can be found here.)


In addition to helping with the children at the home, our group was also scheduled to do some painting in the emergency room at a hospital just down the road. We were going to be painting Monday through Wednesday, but at night from 7 to midnight, when the ER was expected to be less busy. One of our student leaders, Katie Jacob, and I went with Rachel and Mandy from Love and Hope to meet Dr. Santana, the head of ER, before going to get paint and supplies. What a difference from a hospital here in the States! We walked into the ER directly from outside through an open entryway about 15 feet wide. There was no door, only an iron gate that was always left open. One entire wall was covered with windows, and they were all wide open. This was no sterilized American hospital with no fresh air. This was basically open air medicine. We returned on Monday night with our team of 10 OWU painters and Mandy. Try as we did, there was no way to prepare ourselves for working in a fully-operational ER. The patients were equally unprepared for watching 11 crazy Americanos moving furniture, climbing on ladders, and painting. I spent most of my time on the 10-foot ladder doing trim along the ceiling, and never did I look down and fail to find at least one person staring up at me in bewilderment and/or bemusement. I actually hate painting – I do. I would rather watch reruns of C-SPAN or a marathon of Barney the purple dinosaur. But knowing that we were serving the community was great motivation, and I was happy to provide entertainment for those awaiting treatment. The doctors and patients moved around us seamlessly, not bothered or complaining about our presence. In fact at one point I was painting near the trauma corner (a corner of the ER surrounded by a curtain where they put the most critical patients), and the doctor asked me to hand him some medical supplies. On another occasion I had my ladder set up to paint above the entryway that led outside to the bathroom. (Yes, patients had to go outside to the bathroom, and it was, frankly, disgusting.) Did my ladder bother anyone? No, they all just ducked underneath it and went on their way. All the doctors were thankful we were there and helped us move tables, beds, and even people so that we could paint. Even the patients happily got up and moved their chairs when they saw that we needed to get to a certain part of the room. We did a lot of laughing about that.


But it wasn’t all fun and games. This was a working ER, so we saw everything that came through the front door – uncensored. There was blood, urine, vomit, women going into labor, loud moaning, a guy rolled out of a police truck in handcuffs, and just plain misery. This was probably the hardest part for members of our team. As much as we found levity in some things we saw, the reality was that everyone who came in was there because they or a loved one were in pain. One man brought in his young grandson and sat with him in his arms for hours, waiting for treatment. A middle-aged woman sat in the trauma corner next to her aged mother, who had the pallid look on her face that does not suggest recovery. The concern and fear I saw in their eyes was every bit as real as what I’ve had in my eyes when one of my family members has been ill. This was as real as it gets. By the time Wednesday rolled around, some team members were really struggling with going back one more time. I understood. We rallied around the theme of simply serving others, even if we may not see some dramatic and immediate impact. That night we finished the walls in the main waiting room and 4 side treatment rooms – everything we had hoped to get done, in fact. The team left Wednesday night exhausted but with a sense of accomplishment. On Thursday Mandy and I went back and did the lettering identifying the various treatment rooms, and the job was done, at least for now. Many times on Wednesday night and Thursday, I gazed back into the observation rooms, which we did not get to but the doctors had hoped we might. They looked even more run down than the rooms we had painted, and I found myself wishing I had more time . . . more time. On Friday our team stopped by the hospital and had the chance to see the final product and meet Dr. Santana, who was very grateful. “It’s like heaven,” he told Mandy at one point. The meeting and picture-taking with Dr. Santana made no more sense to the curious ER patients than the painting had, but it was a nice time for closure for the group and, I hope, some happy images to balance other things we had witnessed in that place.

I also took on some projects at Love and Hope itself, and one of these was cleaning and organizing the garage. Okay, so true confessions. The garage at our house needs cleaning, but I have a hard time getting motivated to do it. Somehow cleaning someone else’s garage was much easier. Isn’t that always the way it is? And this was something Mandy was really hoping would get done. So I took it on and chipped away at it over the course of the week. I found all kinds of little “treasures” along the way. Now, I’m a person who likes to throw things away as a I clean, but Mandy warned me that Salvadorans are very creative re-users, and that the guards may take things out of the garbage that I would try to throw away. She was not kidding. After all, who was I to say that a broken coffee maker didn’t have a higher purpose? One of the guards was different, though: Daniel. Daniel seemed happy to see me cleaning the garage. He mainly kept his distance at first, but he also didn’t stop me from throwing useless and broken things away. He said only a few words to me, but Mandy commented to Rachel a few days into my time there that she thought Daniel must like me, because he usually doesn’t talk that much to anyone. Finally Friday came, my last chance to finish the garage. I was fully locked and loaded into “finish the project” mode, because a partially-cleaned garage is still a dirty garage. I knew the word “basura” (trash), and I managed to enter that mystical place called the “basura zone” – whether I was in the body or not I cannot say (shout out to the apostle Paul). Daniel watched me for a while and then finally came up to me and started talking. I can understand some Spanish, and body language told me all the rest. He was happy that I was cleaning, because sometimes people would just throw things into the garage and not pay attention to keeping it clean. After that I noticed Daniel beginning to pick up some things and throw them away himself. I had found an ally. Before long I would pull out some broken old auto part and look at Daniel. He would scowl and point his thumb toward the garbage cans: “Basura.” You’re speakin’ my language, brother. I was nearing the end of the project as Daniel was about to go off duty. I wouldn’t see him again. I didn’t catch most of what he said to me next, except that he said he was glad to meet me. Then he came up and gave me a big hug. I’ve never been hugged for cleaning a garage before. It was a beautiful moment shared by two men and their beloved garbage cans.


But have no fear, good reader, for the fate of those discarded items. The garbage men sort through the trash when they pick it up, looking for things to save, so I’m sure that junk has found a home in someone else’s garage.


Now I can’t wait for Mandy to come back to Ohio for a visit, so that she can come and clean our garage.


Our garage certainly looks better! We were so impressed by David’s dedication to the job. David will share with us once more about OWU’s time at Love & Hope. Stop back later this week!


A Week at Love & Hope: Initial Impressions

This week’s posts will be written by Dr. David Eastman, assistant professor of religion at Ohio Weslyan University (OWU). A group composed of eight OWU students and two faculty members visited Love & Hope Children’s Home last week, their main task being to paint the emergency room of our local hospital. Read a summary of their entire trip here. David (he wouldn’t let us call him Dr. Eastman) shares his thoughts about the first 24 hours of their trip below.


In the pre-dawn hours of a Sunday morning, the air is abuzz with the sounds of animals – thousands of cicadas and their constant buzz (announcing the approach of Easter, according to local lore), various birds, and roosters. Oh, the roosters. I have it on good authority from cereal boxes and children’s books that roosters are supposed to crow to wake up the farmer in the morning. Will someone please buy these guys a watch? They kept me up half the night. Otherwise, all is calm as I gaze out over the valley below. The trucks and buses have not started, so the pervasive bouquet of diesel fuel has yet to fill the air. And the house is quiet. Our team members are recovering from yesterday’s early, eventful, and long day of travel to get here and be introduced to the home. (We almost missed our flight out of Columbus, so things got off to a roaring start.) The staff of Love and Hope is still asleep, enjoying a weekend day that does not start with waking up the kids at 4 a.m. to get them ready for school. My mind is awash with impressions and images, and one thing has struck me already: the work here never stops. I think in terms of systems and am overwhelmed by the sheer logistical challenge of managing all the moving parts. So many things have to happen on a daily basis, and from my conversation with Rachel and Kirsten at dinner last night, it’s clear that no two days are the same. Many of the children have particular needs that put substantial pressure on the staff to be, literally it seems, two places at once. Even when the kids are in the house, as they were yesterday, they’re still kids, and that means they need help and sometimes correction. I’ve been in a number of care facilities in my life, and I’ve learned how to spot right away staff members who put on a good show when outsiders visit but slack off otherwise. There is none of that here, and the key ingredient that I have already observed is love. The staff of Love and Hope truly love these children, and the children know it and respond to it. You can see in a child’s eye the look that says, “Even in my craziness, I know I am loved – deeply and unconditionally.” And sadly, you can also see the look of a child that is denied that sense of being loved. These children are loved. 

I didn’t know what to expect when I came down here, but as I await the sunrise I feel my heart being warmed for the work and the workers here – and also strangely pricked for the same. I sense that God is preparing me for something.

Catch-up with us again later this week to hear more about the OWU trip from David’s perspective. In the meantime, consider planning your own trip to Love & Hope Children’s Home by joining a team. Start your journey by visiting our website!

Photo Policy

In an effort to align more with a Salvadoran law titled LEPINA (Ley de Protección de la Niñez y Adolescencia), Love & Hope Children’s Home will be no longer post identifying photos of our children on the Internet. LEPINA is a relatively new law to El Salvador and was drafted in the interest of protecting children and adolescents. The law has affected Love & Hope Children’s Home in several ways and we are trying our best to make our policies and procedures fall within its parameters.

Over the next few weeks, we will be removing photos from our website, blog and facebook page that could be used to identify our children. This mainly means photos and portraits that show their entire face. Unfortunately, our posts in the future will be less photo-driven, but we hope to be a little more creative in our picture taking so that our supporters can still connect with us via our blog and facebook pages. We like sharing our daily life with you and plan to do so the best we can!

If you are a sponsor of a specific child and would like to receive photos from time-to-time (beyond our mailings), send an email to contact@loveandhopechildrenshome.com with your name and your sponsored child’s name. We would be happy to connect you to your sponsored child in a more private manner. We also invite everyone to join our email list to receive updates. You can do this by clicking here.

We also would like to ask that those who know our children personally or have visited Love & Hope Children’s Home in the past to refrain from “tagging” or posting your personal photos to the LoveHope Kids profile or Love & Hope Children’s Home page on facebook. Please also refrain from naming children in descriptions or comments.

Maintaining the privacy of our children is a team effort! We appreciate the understanding of our supporters and facebook friends. If you have any questions regarding our desire to adhere to LEPINA in the way we are using social media, please feel free to send an email to contact@loveandhopechildrenshome.com.

Spelling Bee

For the last few years, some of our children have participated in the spelling bee at CEFAS Biligual School. Here’s the catch: the spelling bee is in English! For the last month, our two participants have been practicing two times a week. Since we also have some native English speakers to spare at the house, we have been sending helpers when possible.

At times, the spelling words have taken everyone by surprise. Could you correctly spell harmonious, erstwhile, buccaneer, romanticism or augurs if you under pressure and in front of a judge? Probably yes, but now imagine being in 7th grade and memorizing those words in a foreign language that has completely different spelling patterns and irregular rules (and those were only the “average” words)!

This past Thursday was the actual competition. CEFAS competed against a few other schools that are members of the Association of Christian Schools International. Our younger participant made it to the second round. This was his first time participating and we are so proud that he wanted to compete and would like to try it again next year! Our older participant made it to the 8th round! She was a little disappointed, but we couldn’t be happier for her as she made it much farther than last year.




Thanks to great schooling and a steady stream of American volunteers and teams, our children are making great strides in their English language skills. It is really interesting to watch them learn, get better and discover how to express themselves in another language. The opportunities our children have to learn English is all thanks to our supporters and sponsors! You can learn more about monthly sponsorship by clicking here.

La Puerta del Diablo

Love & Hope Children’s Home calls the city of Los Planes de Renderos home. We are lucky to live in such an interesting place as it is a popular weekend destination for Salvadorans. This is for several reasons, the most impressive being La Puerta del Diablo, or the Devil’s Gate. It is located at the top of our mountain, Cerro Chulo, and we can walk there in about 10 minutes!  

La Puerta del Diablo sits at 3250 feet above sea level and boasts a beautiful view of El Salvador in all directions. Salvadoran families like to hike to the top to picnic, enjoy the attractions (there are carnival rides and a zip-line), eat traditional food, check out the artisan crafts, and admire the landscape. Visitors to Love & Hope also take advantage of the “Puerta” and usually take some of the children along for an afternoon out. It has become somewhat of a tradition to enjoy sunrise at la Puerta del Diablo with teams that come to serve with us in El Salvador.

From the top of la Puerta del Diablo, one can see the San Salvador Volcano, the San Vicente Volcano, the historic town of Panchimalco, Ilopango Lake, the Pacific coast and many other landmarks. It is beautiful!


Welcome Abby and Sara!

In mid-January we were blessed to receive two new long-term volunteers, Abby and Sara. Abby first visited Love & Hope Children’s Home on a summer team in 2007. We are happy that she chose to return and spend five months with us! Abby has been covering caregivers’ shifts when needed, helping with homework, tutoring, and has even become our in-house seamstress. She is also a great cook and has supplemented our menu with some great new meals. It has been fun to watch Abby form bonds with the little girls as she helps them with homework most afternoons!  

Sara had never been to El Salvador but made the brave decision to come stay at Love & Hope for the next year! She is specifically helping with the little boys every day. Sara helps with homework, plays, accompanies them to the tienda, and gets them ready for bed (among many, many other daily tasks). She even gets up at 4:30am every morning to help them get ready for school! Sara’s quiet spirit and good sense of humor are perfect for the job and everyone is happy to know that there are some extra hands helping with the little guys.

Welcome Abby and Sara! We are so glad you are here!

Kevin’s Story: Part III

Psalm 68:6 says that God “sets the lonely in families.” We are so excited to announce that after a four-year adoption process, Kevincito (little Kevin) is finally going home to be with his family! Last week we started telling Kevin’s story: how he arrived at Love & Hope Children’s Home, how he has grown and improved, how he has taught every person in this home about love.

Christine first met Kevin in 2007 on a short-term mission trip. She had come with a team of women to do community outreach and other projects, but would leave with a calling. Kevincito caught Christine’s eye and she loved him right away. Shortly after that first trip to El Salvador, Christine and her husband Dan felt a nudge to pursue Kevin’s adoption.

International adoption can be a long, frustrating and unpredictable process. It took Dan and Christine four long years to get everything in order to be able to take Kevin home. They continued to visit during this time, sent him special toys, and kept in contact with us about his health and therapy. Dan and Christine also prepared everything in Ohio for Kevin’s arrival. They didn’t know exactly when their new son would arrive, but they have known for quite some time who his doctors and therapists would be.

Once the process was complete in both the United States and El Salvador, things moved fast. Dan and Christine had about a month’s notice before they had to be in El Salvador to stand before a judge. After said court date last Wednesday, Kevin was their son!


Saying goodbye to Kevin has not been easy. Thankfully, he was able to spend some special time with his grandfather and his caregivers before leaving our home. Kevin’s grandpa came to Love & Hope the day before the court hearing to say goodbye. He has faithfully visited Kevin since he arrived at our home, even bringing food for Kevin to every visit. The staff and volunteers at Love & Hope have always admired the obvious love that Kevin’s grandpa has for his grandson. We are confident that he brought Kevin to us six years ago out of pure love, selflessly sacrificing their close relationship so that Kevin could live and be healthier.


Kevin also went to the beach for a day with his two caregivers. Both of them treat Kevin like a son, and letting him go has been no easy task. They are happy to know that Kevin will have a family and receive state-of-the-art care, but heartbroken to see him leave. These two women cared for Kevincito with a gentleness and affection that demonstrated nothing but pure love and dedication. We know that Kevin will miss them too.


The night before the court hearing, we held a despedida (farewell) for Kevin at home. First, we played some Kevincito themed games. The little kids did a relay race: pop a balloon as fast as you can in front of Kevin’s high chair. Then some of the older children taste-tested some of Kevin’s food. They had to guess what each food was! 

Next, Rachel allowed time for the kids to talk about Kevin, share stories about him, ask questions, and then finished with a prayer. We sang and recorded Kevin’s favorite song, “Alabaré,” so that Dan and Christine can play it for him in Ohio. We finished the party with some pizza and a cake in the shape of an airplane. 


This past weekend we were fortunate to see Kevin one more time at Pizza Hut. The kids had fun playing on the playground, eating pizza and greeting Kevin. When it was time to leave, everyone took a moment to say their final, bittersweet goodbyes to Kevincito. ¡Te amamos, Kevincito! 


This story is far from over. We here at Love & Hope cannot wait to see how God fulfills his abundant promises for Kevin in Ohio. The kids are excited to talk to Kevin and watch him grow via Skype. We are hopeful that one day he will be able to return to El Salvador to visit.


More than that, we look forward to the day when Kevincito will have a perfect body. The day that Kevin and his Salvadoran brothers and sisters will run and play together down streets of gold, then sit down together at the foot of their Jesus.

Kevin’s Story: Part II

Earlier this week, we started telling the story of the smallest member of our family, Kevin. Kevincito (little Kevin) arrived at Love & Hope Children’s Home in 2006 at three-years-old. Now nine-years-old, Kevin has been responsible for fostering feelings and actions of patience, gentleness, acceptance and love in our children, staff members and volunteers. 


The stimulation and attention that Kevin has received at Love & Hope has helped him to thrive. Kevincito loves to sit in his highchair in the kitchen, watching the “show.” He laughs and smiles as the other kids run around, talk to each other, play, complete their homework, help cook, sing before meals and do their chores. 

Kevin is not just a bystander though; the kids’ love for Kevin is apparent in their interactions with him. The others hide behind his highchair, then pop out and growl to surprise him. They stand in front of him and let him wrap his hands in their hair. They slap his hands against their own as they sing his favorite song. During birthday celebrations, the kids pop balloons on purpose to make him laugh. They give him kisses and raspberries and nuzzle their noses into his ears to make funny noises. Kevin basks in all of the attention.


If Kevin kicks his shoe off, the other kids pick it up and re-secure it on his tiny foot. They offer to help feed him a spoonful or two of his meal. If Kevin is sick or coughing, they alert his caregivers and help to pat his back. The kids love to help push him around in his stroller and counter his sounds and yells with their own. 

The kids know that Kevin is different, but they don’t care. They have learned to interact with him in gentleness and patience. Quite often they wonder out loud, “Do you think Kevin will walk one day?” The kids love their hermanito (little brother) so much, and it shows in how they greet and play with him everyday. Kevin has been a teacher of love in this house. 

Kevin also shares a special relationship with his caregivers. These two darling women love Kevin like a son and know him inside and out. They know the meaning of every sound he makes, the purpose of every medicine and the benefit of every food supplement he takes. His caregivers entertain him, offer him his favorite toys, give him physical therapy, spend hours making homemade baby food and feeding him. They sing songs to him and whisper the love of Jesus into little ears. 


In 2007, a team of women from Ohio came to serve at Love & Hope Children’s Home for a week, doing community outreach and projects. Kevin (irresistible as he is) captured the heart of one of these women, Christine. Her affection for him was a pure, undefiled, love-the-least-of-these kind of love from the beginning. Now, almost six years later, Christine is taking Kevin home to the United States as her son! 


In a few days, we will continue Kevin’s story and adoption journey, our goodbyes and his new hellos.