Tutoring Time

When the Love & Hope kids come home from school at 2:00 p.m., they settle down in the kitchen to eat lunch, then eventually make their way into their rooms to change out of their uniforms. By 2:30, everyone is expected to be outside of their rooms, ready to do homework.

In addition to homework, we maintain a tutoring schedule that starts at 2:30 p.m. every afternoon. Kirsten, our educator, is in charge of planning this time for the kids. Every child gets between 1/2 hour and two hours every week to spend individually with Kirsten, working in areas of academic weakness. Tutoring takes place in our play/therapy/tutoring room. This room has been set aside specifically as a place where the kids can work quietly and individually on academics or talk privately with Jessica, our psychologist.


With the help of a few teams last year and this year, our tutoring room has become a very welcoming and fun area. There are a lot of books, special toys, educational materials, board games and two computers available for the kids to use for homework or play. Because this room is separated from the main house, it usually remains a quiet and calm area. One volunteer even created a chalkboard wall, a beautiful mural based on Salvadoran art, and a word search that includes everyone’s name!securedownload-3


Some are more enthusiastic about tutoring time than others. The little boys, for example, are always eager and excited to trabajar, or work, in the tutoring room. It has become an everyday after school ritual for Tonio and Chamba to ask Kirsten, “¿Hoy me toca trabajar contigo?” “Is today my turn to work with you?” Irene and Moises are also enthusiastic studiers in this context; they love to read and play math games. A few of the others take a little more coaxing and encouragement to get them downstairs and ready to learn.


The kids work on different things during their tutoring time. To separate it from homework and motivate the kids, they do very little work on paper. Instead, they play math and English games, use the computer to make study guides on Quizlet, manipulate magnetic letters to practice the alphabet and make words, answer writing prompts, read novels and poetry, reverse roles to reteach concepts to Kirsten on the white board, use beads to make patterns, etc. In the case of a few kids, not much educational support is necessary as they are already performing so wonderfully in school. With Brenda, for example, we have encouraged her to use her time to start learning something new: French!

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The frequency of this intensive, purposefully educational time with the kids is new for us at Love & Hope Children’s Home. We are eager to see what the results and benefits will be. We hope to see an improvement in grades, and would also like to use this time to teach better study habits, increase English fluency, learn keyboard typing, and foster career exploration. But more than that, we realize the importance of the extra and individual attention the kids are receiving during their tutoring time. Living with 20 other children can be difficult sometimes, so we hope that the kids are enjoying the little oasis of quiet and attention that can be found when studying, playing or just hanging out to use the computers downstairs.


Rice Milk, Cubbies, an Earthquake and Hiking

It is always fun and refreshing for us to see El Salvador through a visitor’s eyes. We who live here full time forget the romantic perspective with which we originally took it all in: the food, the language, the color, the natural phenomena, the landscape.

Today’s blog is written by Calvin, a visitor and cousin to Kirsten, one of our staff members. Calvin, his father Jody, and their friend Erich visited Love & Hope Children’s Home in July. The three of them accomplished a lot while they were in El Salvador, formed great relationships, found some time for adventure, and enjoyed some of El Salvador’s best pupusas.

I really enjoyed visiting Love & Hope! Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I did not know what to expect of the trip and how the kids would react to me. I have to say, my favorite part was playing with the kids and helping them with their homework. It was very fun to hangout and play with the kids. I found it to be a difficult challenge to talk with them in Spanish, but since they were able to speak some English and I could speak some Spanish, it made it easier to get over the language barrier. All of the staff at Love & Hope are very nice. I admire what they are doing there! They are making a difference in the lives of these children every day. My hope was that I would make a difference on a much smaller scale. I enjoyed meeting other missionaries like Madelyn and Brandon. I would love to do it again! I wanted to share some of my key memories.


On the first day I arrived, I was sort of worried about meeting the kids, but right away Esau picked up a soccer ball and started passing with me. That was when I knew this was going to be a fun trip! The next day we started getting into the school routine. The kids woke up at 4:00 in the morning to get ready for school, ate breakfast and left. I woke up later, because I was exhausted from the plane ride the day before. When I woke up we had leftovers from the kid’s breakfast which consisted of milk, sugar, and rice. It was delicious! The school routine each day allowed us to work on the project during the day, and then when the kids arrived home from school, we could help them with their homework. Being with the kids each day was the best part! I worked mainly with Herberth and he worked hard. The kids were very friendly and enjoyed talking and spending time with us and all of the other missionaries. Most of the children were very open to allowing us to help them with homework and play with them.

The second day, we began our project for Love & Hope which turned out to be very rewarding! We refinished three tables and built 24 cubbies for the children. What I did not expect was how hard it was going to be to purchase our supplies! But, we did it and did not have to go back to the store many times. The language barrier made it difficult to purchase our supplies, but with the help of other customers, we were able to get through the language barrier. My friend Erich, my dad and I worked very hard every day on this project while the kids were at school. At the end of the week, we hung the cubbies in each of the kids’ rooms. It was so rewarding to see how excited the kids were with their own cubby! Some of the kids decorated them and put their names on them. I knew when I was coming to Love & Hope that I was going to do this project and it turned out to be so much fun and rewarding and I know I made a difference for the kids!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother highlight for me was the earthquake! This was the first earthquake I have ever experienced. It was a 5.9 earthquake and we felt it at about 9pm at night. It made it even more exciting because the kids were excited. We had just gotten them down to sleep when the earthquake happened. Thank God nothing bad happened and we just got to experience the quake and tremble! I will never forget this brief moment in time during my stay at Love & Hope!

We also got to enjoy many other parts of El Salvador like hiking a volcano, surfing at a really cool beach with big waves, shopping in the market place, going out to dinner, hiking La Puerta del Diablo, running into the fat bunny at 2:00am on the way to the bathroom and playing Banana Grams in the evening! So many great memories but the best will always be the kids and the staff and what they are doing there each day to help them! Thank you again for what you are doing there and letting me be a part of the lives of the kids there. I really would love to come back again some day!


Thank you for visiting, Jody, Cal and Erich. The refinished tables and new cubbies have been such a blessing already. We had a blast getting to know you and look forward to seeing you in the future!

If this blog made you want to experience El Salvador for yourself, visit our website for more information about visiting Love & Hope Children’s Home individually or with a team.


August 1st is always a joyous day for Salvadoran children, as it marks a week of vacation from school! We tried to keep the Love & Hope kids entertained for the week planning a variety of activities like going to the park, seeing a movie and had a day at the beach. We also did something quite original and off the beaten path: we visited an indigo hacienda that dates back to the late 1500’s.

Most of us who visited Indigo Hacienda San Juan Buena Vista were unfamiliar with indigo and its history in El Salvador. The indigo plant, or añil in Spanish, is grown in El Salvador and other countries with a similar climate, which form an indigo-growing belt around the world. It grows into a small bush, the leaves being the part of the plant that bare the blue color it is famous for. Indigo used to be one of El Salvador’s biggest exports until a synthetic dye entered the market in the late 1800’s. When authentic indigo lost its appeal, coffee took over as El Salvador’s major export.

Grace, the owner of San Juan Buena Vista and our tour guide, took us through the whole process of harvesting indigo and extracting the brilliant blue color that is hidden inside its leaves. On our way to see the indigo plants we enjoyed taking a look at the farm’s donkeys, cows and a giant ceiba tree. DSC_6731

Grace led us to a pavilion where she taught us about the indigo plant and then had us guess which plant it was. She encouraged everyone to pick a few leaves and showed us how to extract some of the color. We hammered indigo leaves into fabric to see the jade green stain it displays before being processed. Some of us were excited about the pretty design and others were excited about the hammers.



Next, Grace showed us two gigantic cement tubs that hold what she described as an indigo “tea.” Once the leaves are harvested, they are mixed into one of the tubs with water. After “steeping” for a while, the brightly colored “tea” is drained into a separate tub where a fine, deep blue power can be collected from the bottom.


After a short hike around the farm, which featured distant views of the San Salvador Volcano in one direction and the Pacific Ocean in the other (hence the name of the farm – Buena Vista), Grace led us into the dyeing room.


The walls of the dyeing room held beautiful examples of indigo-dyed fabric as well as all the supplies we needed to make our own t-shirts. The most important elements in the the room though, were five vats brimming with dark blue water. When asked how much dye was put into each vat, Grace said she didn’t know. Every time a group visits, she adds more dye and more water; she has been doing this for 10 years!


After learning a few techniques for tie-dyeing, we put our marbles and rubber bands to work. Once the design was set on each shirt, everyone had to soak their shirt for one minute. While the water appears blue, the shirts came out of the vats looking jade green. The green only needs a little oxygen to turn blue, so after one minute soaking in dye, the shirt had to spend one minute in the open air. We repeated this process at least six times, depending on the hue of blue we wanted: one minute in, one minute out. DSC_6790


When the color was right, we allowed the shirts to dry off a bit in the sun. Finally we took the rubber bands off, and had some great, very blue designs to show off. Opening every shirt was a surprise, but everyone seemed happy with the end result.  DSC_6833

Visiting San Juan Buena Vista and learning about such a rich part of El Salvador’s history was a wonderful opportunity for our children, thanks to the generous donation of a visitor. Living so close to San Salvador makes trips to the campo (country) even better. The quiet, the animals, the indigo, the trees and the great view all combined to make it a memorable and fun day!

Kevincito Update

In Spanish, when one adds “cito” or “ito” to the end of a word or name, it indicates that the thing, animal or person is small. For example, a baby cat, or gato, is a gatito. A small cup of coffee, or café, is a cafecito.

From the time little Kevin entered the gate of Love & Hope Children’s Home, until he was adopted last March, we called him Kevincito. This was partly to distinguish him from big Kevin (one of our older boys), but adding that “cito” ending also described Kevincito’s obvious physical state: he was  small – really small.


Not anymore. If we are going to continue calling him Kevincito, it will only be for sentimental reasons. Since moving to Ohio, Kevin has gained over 12 pounds and grown an inch. Dan and Christine, his adoptive parents, periodically post pictures of him on Facebook. When we show these photos to our children and caregivers, their reaction is always the same: wide eyes, disbelief, and then an animated, “¡Kevin! ¡Que gordito!” or “How chubby!”


Besides reaching a healthier weight, Kevin is strong, rolling over, very active, and prefers to sit up rather than lie down. He loves to play with his adapted toys and gets more interactive everyday; Christine says that “he is the happiest and silliest boy we know.” Kevin is learning to bear weight through his legs and arms and will be getting new camouflage colored ankle foot orthotics (AFO’s) soon. He says the word “Go!” when he is excited and mimics talking on the phone.


Kevin just finished his first adapted baseball season and has two trophies to show for it. He also participates in a boy scout pack for children with special needs. This fall Kevin is going to start school!


According to Christine, “Overall, we say that he is an entirely different child than who we thought we were adopting…in a good way!” Our Love & Hope family is in awe about how far Kevin has come in the short time he has been in Ohio. Please pray with us for his continued improvement and health, especially as he is scheduled for a surgical feeding tube in September.


We love and miss you, Kevincito!


Serving at Hospital Saldañas

Just down the road from Love & Hope is Hospital Saldañas. It’s a place we’ve had occasion to visit from time to time when someone falls off their bike and needs stitches or has a stomach bug that just won’t quit. Like all public hospitals in El Salvador, the medical care is free, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. The doctors are kind and helpful, but the hospital itself is old, and the lack on investment in the facility shows. The emergency room is dirty and warn, and the bathrooms are dark and wet. Since Saldañas is our nearest emergency care center, we decided to do what we could to make it a better place. Not only for ourselves, but also for our community.

In March, a team from Ohio Wesleyan University worked on the emergency and examination rooms. They cleaned and painted from 6 to midnight all while patients were coming in and out for critical care. The change was dramatic, and the staff was excited about how clean and bright everything looked. They said it, “Looked like Heaven.”

This June, we enlisted our Summer Team to tackle an even bigger project: the bathrooms. Of all the tasks we’ve asked a team to tackle, cleaning and rehabbing the emergency room bathrooms in a public hospital (while in service) is perhaps the least appealing. They were undeterred, and dove in head first! The results were remarkable.

This is what the bathrooms looked like before our team got started.



We began with a good cleaning from top to bottom.



The old toilets had to go.


Next we put down a new tile floor, and also tiled up the walls in the toilet stalls and shower room.






Finally, we put in new toilets, a mirror, and a shower head.



Finally, a few finishing touches.


The hospital staff was excited by the transformation and grateful for all the hard work done by our team. We know their efforts will benefit the thousands of patients who visit Saldañas for years to come.