Something New

In August, Love & Hope Children’s Home welcomed Molly. Molly is from California and was connected to Love & Hope through a friend. During her stay, Molly helped with homework and filled in as a caregiver when necessary. Her free spirit and energy was mesmerizing for the kids; they constantly sought her out to read a story, dance, play a game or just talk. Below she shares some of her personal experience at Love & Hope:

Molly 1

My month-long stay at Love & Hope challenged some of my beliefs and helped me find ways to draw on strong currents within myself as it brought me close to a special community.

Before I came to the home, I had negative feelings towards two of the essential identities of Love & Hope: children’s homes and Christian missions.  I had heard only criticisms of children’s homes, either because they fail to address root causes of unhealthy family environments or because they themselves, in famous cases like the Romanian orphanages, are often damaging.  The community I live in—one that is quite academic and Leftist—is cautious of faith, and several people had told me before leaving “not to get converted.”  I was raised Jewish but am currently examining my spirituality.

Love and Hope made me feel differently.  The institution and the people in it are loving and thoughtful; the warnings I had received about organizations that provide kids with shelter but overlook their broad life context did not ring true.  Instead, the staff strives to understand and work with the cultural and personal currents that contribute to the life of each family associated with the home. Furthermore, the home’s employees are conscious of the dual cultural influence (American and Salvadoran) with which it is raising the children and tries to make the best of this potentially confusing circumstance. Workers share a deep desire to create a personalized, full, and nurturing life for each child, and they form a strong, caring foundation at Love & Hope as a result.

The way that the home’s employees and volunteers regard their Christianity is similarly personal and formidable.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity to speak extensively with many Salvadoran and American individuals about their faith and I consistently received thoughtful, unique answers to my trying questions instead of the dogmatism I had been prepped to encounter.  I was inspired by the commitment to service, compassion, and exploration of self and God that those with whom I spoke felt called to embody through Christ.  In the end, the services we attended weekly at the Union Church as well as the Love & Hope Youth Ministry were one of my favorite parts of my Salvadoran excursion.  The grateful, celebratory, and musical atmospheres made me feel joyful and thankful, and coming together with the same welcoming communities each week was a memorable ritual.  I don’t feel comfortable declaring myself a follower of Christ, but I have a newfound respect for those who do.

My other substantial encounter with something new was that which I had with Salvadoran culture.  I felt warmth and generosity there, evidenced by, for example, an invitation to a birthday party for a neighbor whom I had never met.  I also noticed a sense of interpersonal relaxation, which I came to see as an absence of a salient part of U.S. culture: the cult of personality.  In the States—especially in San Francisco, where I’m from—there is a popular belief that within every person rests a colorful and interesting identity waiting to be expressed.  This sentiment allows for great diversity and creativity of self but also causes pressure to be unique, always fascinated and fascinating.  In El Salvador, there is instead a satisfaction with the current moment and with it the current self.  People are accepting of difference, but do not demand it.

For our part, we also learned a lot from Molly! Her inquisitive nature and beliefs about childcare and psychology made us think and consider our reasons for doing things. Molly’s originality and confidence also demonstrated to our children (and adults!) the importance of being yourself.

In our next posting we will share the second half of Molly’s reflection.

The United States Navy

Over the last few weeks, we’ve enjoyed visits from members of two different departments of the United States Navy stationed here in El Salvador. The Love & Hope kids were pretty excited at the prospect of a visit from la Fuerza Naval  (the Navy). One of the groups brought a personalized gift for each of our children, book bags, and cake to celebrate a few birthdays.


Best of all though, we’ve had fun getting to know them. Those that have visited have played soccer with the kids, toured the house, learned about our ministry, and sat down and talked to the teenagers. We knew that they were great as soon as they had the older girls engaged and laughing!

After learning about our ministry here at Love & Hope Children’s Home, the members of Navy have brought us groceries and cleaning supplies on several occasions and will be helping us prepare and move into the new house. What a blessing! We are so excited to have made this connection and look forward to working with members of la Fuerza Naval de los Estados Unidos.

Sports Days

Over the last few weeks, several of our children have had “Sports Day” at school. In the United States, this would be the equivalent of a field day at school.

Leading up to sports day, the kids usually come home requesting two things: first, money to buy a t-shirt. The classes or grade levels form teams and they get very creative and a little silly with their names and mascots. The mascot for Eliseo’s class was Mike Wazowski from Monster’s Inc. Jeremiah donned a blue shirt and hat with Blue from Blue’s Clues on it. Brenda’s shirt resembled the logo from Dollar City, and such was their team name.



Second, the Love & Hope kids come asking for spectators, wanting to make sure that someone will be there to watch. Of course, we are happy to oblige (and take a lot of photos).



The schools do a great job of keeping everyone, students and parents, involved and excited. The kids compete against other classes and grade levels in events like relay and sack races, soccer games and long jump. Microphones, announcers and costumes keep everything loud and colorful. There are plenty of food concessions to buy too.





Antonio and Chamba had a fun time at their sports day too, both coming home with gold chocolate medals around their necks.

The last few Saturday mornings have been a blast for the Love & Hope kids, as well as for the adults who got to be spectators! We are grateful to our supporters and sponsors who provide the funds necessary to send our children to schools that host great events like sports day.

From the Mountain to the City

Every year, our children grow and Love & Hope continues to grow with them. Our home has been filling up with more teenagers these past few years, and life just keeps getting busier and more exciting! In addition to all the usual school related activities, we now have several children participating in extra-curricular activities such as soccer, Tae Kwon Doe, art classes, and youth group. And of course there are all the usual errands as well – grocery shopping, doctor appointments, and dropping a child off at a friend’s house for the afternoon.

With all this activity, we find ourselves driving to and from our home in Los Planes down to San Salvador several times each day. Those of you who have visited us in the past few years know the journey up and down the hill very well. I’m sure many parents can relate to feeling like you’re in the car more than anywhere else! Even with all the driving, we’re excited to see our kids develop their own interests and become involved in so many activities.

Three years ago, we moved from Nejapa to Los Planes. Living here in Los Planes has been such a blessing. The weather is cool, there is a park close by, and some of the kids have been able to join a local soccer team and make friends in the community. It has been a beautiful chapter in the lives of our children. We definitely feel like we’ve spent the last three years exactly where we were supposed to be. And now we’re seeing more and more that the time has come to move closer to the city. It will help us serve the kids better, allow them to explore and engage in their own lives, and it will also help lower our expenses in a few areas by cutting down on driving and bringing us within range of city water.

Moving is never easy, but it can be exciting! When we first decided to look for a new house, we began by creating a list of communities that fit our requirements. We wanted something close to the schools and all the other activities the kids are involved with. We wanted something safe and secure. We wanted something that would serve us now, and in the future. And we wanted to find some of the same great amenities we had in Los Planes, like a nearby park. Basically, we wanted it all.

Well, after a bit of looking, we found a great house! And we got everything we asked for.  The neighborhood is safe, secure, and populated by some of our friends from church. The schools are only 15 minutes away (the kids are excited about how much later they’ll get to sleep in!), and believe it or not, there is a big, beautiful park just around the corner!


The house itself is bright and filled with natural light. It’s surrounded by a small yard, and has a courtyard as well. It’s a bit smaller than our home in Los Planes, but that’s a fine compromise to make for being closer to the city. We think the new home is warm, inviting, and a great place for our kids to call home!

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There will be a few other small changes with the move. One, is that we will no longer be hosting our teams and visitors onsite. There is a cute little hostel down the road, and several hotels nearby. We’re excited about teams and visitors getting to explore the area and experiencing a little bit more of Salvadoran culture.

Even though teams and volunteers will not be able to stay at Love & Hope, there will still be lots of opportunities for them to interact with the kids and have the experience that so many people have enjoyed over the years. Volunteers will be spending many hours at the home assisting with homework and projects, and teams will have time built into their schedule for getting to know the kids and creating a connection with Love & Hope. One thing we don’t plan on changing is Love & Hope’s personality.

We plan to move into our new home on September 28th. Leaving Los Planes will be hard. We’ve built so many great memories these past three years – a lot of them with teams, visitors, and friends! This house on top of the mountain will always have a special place in our hearts, and we know we will be back in Los Planes from time to time to enjoy the delicious pupusas and the amazing views. That said, we can’t wait for this next chapter of our lives to begin.

See you in the city!

There will be a few costs associated with moving. If you’d like to help out, you can always make a donation!

Our Incredible Staff – Rachel and Gloria

Today’s post introduces two more members of the great staff we employ here at Love & Hope Children’s Home (you can read the previous blogs about our staff by clicking here, here and here). “Staff” might not be an appropriate word to describe the following two people, Rachel and Gloria. They are so much more. This is a long blog, but stick with us. Rachel and Gloria have some great things to share about childcare and faith.


For most people who are familiar with Love & Hope Children’s Home, Rachel’s name is synonymous with our ministry. Her vision guides our decision making and childcare practices. Rachel founded Love & Hope almost 10 years ago (our 10 year anniversary is this October). Her official title here is “Director,” but Rachel is so much more; the kids refer to her as “Mami” something that she says is an “honor.” When you get right down to it, Rachel has been the only consistent presence at Love & Hope since the beginning. Rachel remembers the day that children became a part of our ministry:

I remember the day I went to pick up Angel, Alcy and Rene at their grandma’s house. It was one of the best days of my life. I had known them for about 3 years. I first met them at the garbage dump and then when that closed they moved to a tin shack on the side of a busy road in the city. When they left the garbage dump they just kept getting thinner and thinner. Angel was three years old when they came to Love & Hope and weighed 15 lbs.

As director of Love & Hope, Rachel’s daily activities include meeting with the leadership staff to approve decisions, share ideas, solve problems and brainstorm. She is the main point of contact for our state-side and Salvadoran boards. As “Mami,” to the kids, Rachel drives to appointments, attends soccer games, helps with homework, listens to stories and gives advice. The children often come looking to her for a little extra love or attention.

Rachel’s favorite part of being “Mami” is spending one-on-one time with the kids. She says that she loves to tell stories with them. Their favorite stories are about the day they came to Love & Hope. Rachel tells them about their clothing on that first day, the way their hair was styled, her first impressions and “what made them each instantly special.”


When asked what she has learned about God in her years here working with the kids, Rachel says:

He loves the kids more than I do. I remember my mom telling me when I was little that she could barely believe it, but knew it was true, that God loved me more than she did. Now I understand why that was so important to her. Every time a child’s hearing doesn’t have the results I hoped for, or I see kids making decisions that I don’t agree with, or I see them hurting and there’s nothing I can do to stop it, I have to take hope in the fact that they have a heavenly Father that cares for them even more than I do and He is in control.

Rachel’s presence at Love & Hope Children’s Home is indispensable and her dedication and vision to care for “the least of these” will have a lasting impact on these beautiful children. It is clear that she considers them her own. Her favorite Bible verse is John 16:33. Here’s her explanation:

In serving in El Salvador we see a lot of pain and suffering. Whether it’s a heart wrenching outcome at a child’s court hearing, seeing the sick or disabled being neglected, or the elderly begging on the street corners, we’re constantly surrounded by trouble. John 16:33 has an amazing promise that almost gives me the chills when I read it: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

To read more about Rachel’s story, visit our website.

Gloria has worked at Love & Hope for about two years. She is our Director of Childcare and a licensed social worker. At the home, she works together with Rachel to make sure our children are receiving the best care possible. As the Director of Childcare, Gloria enjoys her job of leading our childcare staff. This involves training our childcare givers every Thursday, scheduling and organizing health care appointments and managing behavior. Gloria works with and directs our psychologist and educator to be sure that our children are receiving the psychological and educational support they need.


As a social worker, Gloria also advocates for our children on a governmental level, always looking out for their best interests and keeping a close eye on every case. She organizes family visiting days and visits home for our children. Gloria says that one of the best parts of her job is knowing both our children and their families, aiding in the process of restoration between the two parties. She does this by maintaining constant contact with the biological family members of our children, organizing counseling sessions and “Parents’ School.”

Gloria is always sure to make time to spend time with the children by doing homework, helping them with chores, teaching them life skills, accompanying them to doctor’s appointments, and organizing fun events in the house (she loves having costume contests). Gloria even shared her wedding with the Love & Hope kids, inviting every single member of our household and including some of the youngest children in the wedding. She has been able to connect with some of our most challenging children and consistently seeks them out, offering them love, patience and support. Gloria says the greatest blessing she has received at Love & Hope is having so many “nieces and nephews” to love with the love God pours through her. In the two years she has worked her, Gloria says she has learned many things about caring for children:

What I have learned about children in all of this time is that as you give them love, you should correct them so that they become successful people in the future. There are moments when they get mad at me because I call attention to them but with time they realize they have done something wrong and return to spend time with me as if nothing happened. Another thing I have learned is to always give love without expecting anything in return. In the end, they will realize the the lessons and memories I left with them, and above all, to love and respect God.

Rachel and Gloria are a great guiding team for Love & Hope Children’s Home. They are both truly and completely dedicated to providing our children with the best care possible. We see it in them everyday as they advocate on behalf of our children and deal with the politics of Salvadoran institutions, then sit down and spend the afternoon helping with homework and playing. Gloria says  the verse that inspires her work here is Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off in the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Rachel and Gloria are a huge part of making this a reality!