Jocelyn’s Story

Jocelyn is everyone’s big sister. She knows very well the weight of being looked up to by all the kids at Love and Hope. And she’s been quite a role model.

Jocelyn never loved school and it did not come easy for her, but she worked hard and graduated from Luz de Israel in 2014. This year Jocelyn will become the first college graduate from Love and Hope Children’s Home with a degree in Interpretation and Translation! But college is not all Jocelyn has been up to for the past few years.

In 2016, Jocelyn began a two-year internship program at the Intercontinental Hotel in San Salvador. She would often go straight from her university classes to training at the hotel. Saturdays were usually filled with events at the hotel, leaving her little time for social activities. But she stuck with it and completed the program in 2018. At that point she was able to apply for a job cleaning rooms at the hotel.

It was not her dream job, but she believed that there was a future for her at the hotel. One day she came across a posting for a position in “Instant Service” where she would be booking hotel reservations. When she saw it she said in her mind, “This position is mine!” She applied and sure enough, she was given the job. Jocelyn has now been working for the hotel for over two years. She’s finishing up her last year of university and is living on her own. She was even featured in the Central American periodical El Economista with the owners of the hotel!

We are so proud of the young woman Jocelyn has worked so hard to become. She continues to be an example and a role model for all of her younger “siblings” at Love and Hope.

But Jocelyn’s story could have looked very different. Once, when asked about how she believes Love and Hope has influenced her life, she said “If it weren’t for Love and Hope, I probably wouldn’t have finished high school and by now, I’d probably already be a mom.”

At Love and Hope it is our mission to equip the kids in our care with the necessary tools and opportunities for success. One of the greatest tools we can give them is an education. We have seen time and time again how education can completely transform someone’s life. The public schools in El Salvador are underfunded and dangerous due to gang activity. As a result, all the children at Love and Hope attend private schools that are geared to their individual needs and talents. This is a huge investment, but we firmly believe it is worth every penny we spend. Jocelyn is evidence of that!

We are currently in the middle of a huge education fundraiser with an amazing matching gift. Every dollar we raise for education between now and the end of the year will be matched up to $15,000. This means that with your help, we’ll be able to raise a grand total of $30,000 for education! Please join us in investing in the lives of the youth at Love and Hope in El Salvador.

Today, Love and Hope celebrates 17 years of ministry.

Thank you for being part of this adventure and for watching our young people reach their full potential!

Matching Grant for Education

At Love and Hope, education has always been one of our top priorities. It’s an asset we’re able to give the kids that can never be taken away from them. We have seen education pull so many people up out of poverty and place them on a new path to a better life.

We’ve been investing in education for years, and it has been a joy to watch so many of our young people take advantage of the opportunities that investment has opened up. We currently have seven young people studying at a university level: five of them in El Salvador and two of them in Ohio! Our younger kids continue to receive a quality education at safe, bilingual, private schools in San Salvador.

As of March, the president of El Salvador mandated that all schools, public and private, provide remote learning for all levels of education, including university. Of course, for many young people in El Salvador who do not have internet or a home computer, this brought their education to a halt. We are so grateful that at Love and Hope, we didn’t skip a beat. We are fortunate to have the resources to make online learning a success. It has been interesting to see all the different techniques and methods used by the different schools and to watch our kids adapt to this new normal.

At first, the kids had to take turns using our computers depending on who had to be online for a class at any given time. It worked, but was not without its challenges. We shared the need for additional devices with a couple of our faithful local donors and their response was overwhelming. One donor shared the need with some friends and with their donations we were able to buy a brand new laptop for our transition house. A couple weeks later FOCUS Call Center donated 6 laptops that have been distributed in our three homes.

Of course providing this solid, quality education to all of our kids is not free! Every year we do a large fundraiser in order to raise the funds needed for our annual education budget. This year, just a month before the event was supposed to be held, we were forced to cancel the 2020 Love. Hope. Dine. education fundraiser due to COVID-19.

By June, the country of El Salvador was not only facing the impact of the pandemic, but also torrential rains, floods, and landslides from two tropical storms. Many people were forced to evacuate, losing their homes and all of their belongings. Seeing this devastation, we knew that we had to shift our focus from our education fund to the immediate need in front of us: disaster relief.

Many of you contributed to those efforts, and with your assistance, we were able to provide food, clothing, and building materials to families affected by both COVID-19 and the tropical storms. Your donations made a huge impact on the lives of those who were affected.

Six months have passed since we canceled Love. Hope. Dine., and our education fund has been depleted. We are currently $15,000 under budget for education in 2020, and will need another $15,000 to start the 2021 school off with all of its fees and expenses. Although this sounds discouraging, we have some very exciting news to share! We have been given a $15,000 matching gift for education! This means, if we can raise $15,000 those funds will be matched for a total of $30,000! This will not only cover our expenses for 2020, but get us off to a great start in 2021!

Will you join us and continue to invest in the education of the amazing, talented young people at Love and Hope? Will you reach out to your friends and family and ask them to join this campaign as well? Remember, no donation is too small and every dollar will be matched! $50 becomes $100. $100 becomes $200! Please consider taking this opportunity to have your donation instantly doubled! Every dollar raised FOR EDUCATION from now until the end of the year will be matched up to $15,000!

We can’t thank you enough for taking the time to stay connected to Love and Hope, and for your investment in all the kids that are not so little anymore! From each of them, to each of you, thank you so much for your support! We could not do it without you!

“The Least of These”

We are so grateful for the overwhelming response we received to support Love and Hope’s disaster relief efforts and we want to let you know how your donation was used! 

During the storms we were able to provide some immediate relief through meals and food baskets. The support reached over 150 families to start, and is still helping to support about 70 families. 

Our second phase of assistance was to help with rebuilding in the homes that suffered the worst damage due to the tropical storms. We provided block, cement, gravel, sand, wood, rebar and roofing materials. The community worked together to help one another in the rebuilding process. 

Lastly we provided some of the larger household items that were lost in the storm. We asked each family what their greatest need was. Some requested a bed or a bunkbed. Others asked for stove tops. 

The people of the communities that we were able to assist were so grateful for the support. As a thank you gift they gave us handmade masks for everyone at Love and Hope. 

In addition we have been able to continue to support all of our kids’ families throughout the quarantine with twice the amount of food we normally provide and we were able to give a special bonus to our workers who continue to work so hard during this difficult time. 

Thank you so much for being the hands and feet of Jesus to so many people in El Salvador! During this season we have been reminded of Matthew 25:35-40: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Fiestas Agostinas

Every August El Salvador celebrates the week long “Fiestas Agostinas.” Normally the week is filled with trips to the beach, volcano climbs, city fairs and lots of traditional Salvadoran food. However, because the country is still under quarantine, we had to get creative and find ways to celebrate within the walls of Love and Hope.

The kids were of course thrilled just to have a week off of school. Remember, the Salvadoran school year runs from January through November, so they are going on their fifth month of remote education. They of course are missing school, friends and all their extra curricular activities, but a week of sleeping in late and extra free time was welcomed by all. Here’s a little peak at how Love and Hope enjoyed the August Festivals…

Painting contest!

A picnic that had to be moved indoors due to heavy rains!

A cookout with carne asada, shrimp, chorizo, veggies, chimol and grilled tortillas!

Elote Loco! Corn on the cob drizzled with mayo, ketchup, mustard and salsa negra and then covered in shredded cheese.

Minute to win it game day!

Riguas! Ground corn stuff with cheese or beans and grilled in banana leafs.

As much fun as everyone had, we hope that next year’s Fiestas Agostinas we can celebrate on the sandy, pacific beach once again!

Update on Disaster Relief

Two weeks ago we started sharing about the tremendous need forming in El Salvador. The combination of COVID-19 and Tropical Storm Amanda were creating a desperate situation for many people. Food was scare, and storms were washing away entire communities. Many of you responded to the call and helped us raise over $4000 to provide much needed relief and assistance. With the help of many other organizations we have been able to distribute food, clothing, and other donated goods to several communities in need.

In coordination with the Union Church and Hope Chapel, we’ve been able to deliver food baskets to the Mascota Community.

States Diner helped us deliver a hot meal to folks in El Tanque who had lost their homes and were sheltering in a local church.

Now that the water has subsided, it’s easier to see the extent of the damage in many homes. As you can see, people tried to get their belongings as high off the ground as possible, but sometimes the water was just too high.

We’re continuing to provide food baskets to both the Mascota and El Tanque community, as well as assist the families of our children. Additionally, we’ll be working with the local leadership in each community the help with other recovery efforts like home repairs.

Thank you so much to each and everyone of you who gave over the last few weeks. Your support has made it possible for us to respond quickly to the needs of many families who are suffering under the twin tragedies of COVID-19 and Tropical Storm Amanda.

Donate to Disaster Relief

Two Tragedies

Donate to our Disaster Relief Fund

Last week we reached out with a request to help provide COVID-19 relief baskets to the Mascota Community. The response has been amazing. We have raised nearly $2000 – almost half of that in just the first 24 hours! Many of these baskets have already been delivered and are helping families survive during this difficult and unprecedented time. Thank you for rising to the call. Love and Hope is blessed with an eager and generous donor base.

Below are some pictures of the food you helped provide reaching those in need.

As the epicenter of the fight against COVID-19 now shifts to Latin America, El Salvador finds itself confronting yet another disaster. This past weekend, Tropical Storm Amanda barreled across Central America unleashing torrential rains, floods, and landslides. At least 14 people have died in El Salvador. The pictures and videos of the devastation are heart-breaking. After 77 days of lockdown, many are fleeing from their homes and communities as they are overrun by the water.

Images like this can be difficult to process in the abstract. The people and places are remote and distant. The scale of the damage seems unreal. It’s horrible, but our own lives remain unaffected as we often lack a personal connection to the people caught in these tragedies.

If you gave last week, you now know the Mascota Community. It lies the end of this flooded street.

Calle 4 is flooded.

50 people in the community lost their homes to landslides. In the neighboring community of Jesus de Nazereth, police deemed the homes of another 50 people unsafe due to the threat of landslides. Altogether around 100 people are now staying in the community house in Mascota and a few small church sanctuaries.

Those of you that have visited El Salvador, will recognize some of the following places. Below are images from the El Tanque Community where many teams have held VBS days and worked on community improvement projects. The kids at Love and Hope have spent many Christmas mornings here handing out gifts.

A man wades through chest-high water in El Tanque.
The community house is almost completely submerged. The pink doors show how high the water has risen.
The creek behind El Tanque has risen several meters to the rooflines of many homes.

Many of you know the children at Love and Hope. Some of you have supported them for years. In addition to caring for these children, Love and Hope also cares for their families. We provide counseling, educational assistance, medical care, food baskets, and more. Over the last several months we’ve ramped up our material support to make sure all these families have enough to eat during this difficult time. Last week, we asked them to share some pictures of their homes and how they’ve been getting by.

Many of their homes lack proper drainage and will suffer greatly from the storm.

When tragedy piles on tragedy it can be difficult to know what to do. We often feel helpless and useless. But we can act.

The fight against COVID-19 has had real and painful economic consequences. People are hungry. We can feed them.

There rains are wiping out communities. People are homeless. We can help them rebuild.

During our last 16 years in El Salvador it is hard to think of a time when there was so much clear material need. The people of the Mascota community, the Jesus de Nazereth community, the El Tanque community, the families of our children, and many more are all in great need. El Salvador is in the fight of its life.

For this reason we are opening a Disaster Relief Fund. We’ll continue to work with the Union Church, the leadership of these communities, and other well-positioned ministries to serve the tremendous need being created by these two tragedies.

We expect food basket programs to continue for months as people get back on their feet. We know many will reach out for assistance with roof and home repairs. There will be requests for mattresses, blankets, shoes, clothing, and more. Again, in this hour of great need, we want the body of Christ to be there to answer the call.

To start, we’ll be sending $200 to El Tanque to buy food for people sheltering in the church and also be sending extra blankets and sweatshirts. Food baskets will continue at Mascota and Jesus de Narareth. As the leadership of these communities assess the damage we’ll continue to provide assistance.

You can contribute to the disaster relief fund on our website. We’ll continue to post updates about recovery efforts and the ways your support is making a difference in El Salvador. If you have any questions or concerns, or want to know about additional ways you can help, please email us: contact@loveandhopechildrenshome.com.

Donate to our Disaster Relief Fund

Waving the White Flag

El Salvador continues to live life under lockdown. On May 7th, president Nayib Bukele further increased restrictions on movement in an effort to curb an uptick in COVID-19 cases. Public transportation was suspended and all private companies allowed to remain open need to provide private transportation for their workers. Additionally, residents are only allowed to leave their homes on specific days that are determined by the last digit of their government issued ID, and are only permitted to travel to the nearest grocery store, bank, or pharmacy.

While support remains strong for Bukele and his fight against the coronavirus, many Salvadorans are struggling to survive as resources run low. The government continues to distribute food baskets, even into remote parts of the country, but meeting everyone’s needs is a difficult task. Many Salvadorans work in the informal economy which has all but disappeared. Taking a cue from their Guatemalan neighbors, some Salvadorans have started hanging white flags outside their house signaling that they are in need of food.

Love and Hope is fortunate that our donor base has been so supportive during this difficult time. We’ve been able to continue to pay our staff, the children have been able to continue their school work, and we’ve been able to continue assisting the families of the children with food baskets and other necessities. But as the needs in El Salvador grow, we feel called to do more. As Salvadorans begin waving the white flags, we want the body of Christ to be the one who answers their call.

The Union Church is an english speaking body made up of missionaries, expats, and locals “following Jesus in Grace and Truth.” We’ve been members there for over a decade. The church property is adjacent to a low-income neighborhood of about 210 homes known as the Mascota Community. The Union Church has worked with the Mascota Community for years: running kids clubs, scholarship programs for the youth, and helping with community improvement projects. Many in the Mascota community are currently out of work and running out of resources. The church has partnered with the leadership in the community to identify the families most in need. The easiest way to help is to provide food.

At current prices, a basket of food costs about $16 and will support an average family for 7-10 days. A basket contains:

  • 4 pounds of beans: $3.60
  • 4 pounds of rice: $2.40
  • 2 pounds of corn rice: $1.20
  • 2 pounds of sugar: $1.20
  • 1 pound of salt: $0.15
  • 1 bottle of oil: $1.75
  • 1 bag of powder milk (350gr): $2.50
  • 2 packs of spaghetti (200grs each): $1.24
  • 1 bag of oatmeal (200gr) $0.69
  • 1 bag of tomato sauce: $1.62

Love and Hope will be contributing 10 baskets to start, and we’d love to invite you to provide a basket too! Our hope is that through its network of missionaries and expats the Union Church can provide for our neighbors during this difficult time.

You can donate on our website and the money will be transferred directly to the Union Church to help provide these baskets.

As always, we cannot thank you enough for your support. Next week we’ll be talking about how we’ve been supporting the families of the children in Love and Hope during this time and how you can help with those efforts. If you have any questions about providing food baskets, or are interested in other ways you can help during this time, please email us: contact@loveandhopechildrenshome.com.

Quarantine Continues

El Salvador is now 6 weeks into a lockdown that was originally planned for just a month. During this time the virus has continued to spread, but at a very slow rate. As of May 1st, El Salvador had just 446 confirmed cases and 10 deaths. During the nationwide quarantine, the government has been upgrading and improving all the hospitals in the country and working to secure and deliver medical supplies. If you’re interested, you can track El Salvador’s COVID-19 stats at https://covid19.gob.sv

It has been difficult for many people in the country, but Salvadorans are largely united behind their president and the fight against COVID-19. Even before they became mandatory, nearly everyone was wearing masks when making one of their limited excursions out of the house for groceries or medicine. Likewise, most businesses that have been allowed to remain open offer hand sanitizer to use at the door. Some even take temperatures upon entry. However, like many people around the world, Salvadorans are anxious to get back to work and some semblance of a normal life.

Our staff have been exceptional during this very unusual time. The office staff works on-site one day a week and packs everything they can into that single day. The rest of the week they work from home communicating via email and text to keep everything running. And our kids continue to receive counseling through video calls. The caregiving staff is working one week on and one week off in order to limit travel and exposure. Can you imagine being locked in a house with a group of teenagers for a whole week!?

While the schools may be closed, class is still in session. All of our kids have had to adjust to remote learning as they juggle computer time and online calls with the rest of the house. Assignments are completed via email, through an online learning platform, or sometimes just printed out and sent with a picture via WhatsApp! Between classes during the day, and Netflix at night, our poor internet connection never gets a break!

After being stuck in the house for so long, most of our kids are eager to get back to life as usual. Even getting up for school, or heading out to a doctor’s appointment sound like fun. But a few of our kids are enjoying the slower pace of life and embracing their inner introvert.

One treat for the boys has been a lack of haircuts. Most of the schools are very strict about hair length, so during vacations they often let their hair grow wild. Quarantine has been no exception. We expect many barbers will make up for lost business when El Salvador goes back to school.

To break up the days and add a little something for everyone to look forward to, we’ve turned Saturday night into Take-out night! The kids (and staff!) eagerly await the weekend as each house gets to choose their own meals. Popular picks are Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, KFC, and the neighborhood burger joint, Charlie Boy. We’ve had donors generously treat everyone each week during quarantine. The kids are already asking if this is a tradition we’ll keep going once the quarantine is over! If you’d like to sponsor a Saturday night dinner, just get in touch via email.

We so much appreciate your continued support during this time. The work Love and Hope does would not be possible without you.

Family Update

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” – James ‭4:13-15‬

Lately it seems like as soon as we make plans, something changes and our plans are flipped upside down. I’m sure many of you know the feeling lately.

Before I begin, let me explain our situation. We are a family of five and a half: Rachel, Justin, Aly, Jeremiah, Hannah, and a baby due in September! Justin, Hannah and Rachel are U.S. citizens. Rachel has permanent residency in El Salvador. Justin and Hannah have temporary residency in El Salvador. Jeremiah and Aly are citizens of El Salvador, and travel with U.S. tourist visas. Our situation is complicated to say the least!

Before the pandemic, our plan was to head back to Ohio in July and wait for the baby to arrive. As we did when Hannah was born, we’d spend a few months at home and then return to El Salvador. However, due to the coronavirus, we’ve had to change our plans.

The U.S. Embassy in El Salvador has advised U.S. citizens to either return home now, or be prepared to “shelter in place” indefinitely. And although ideally we would stay here for a few more months before heading home to give birth, there is no guarantee the option to do so will be available in the future. After much prayer and seeking counsel, we have decided to head back to Ohio on April 15th. The airport in El Salvador is currently closed to all commercial traffic, but limited repatriation flights are being arranged through various embassies.

Leaving is never easy, but this time feels especially hard. This is the first time we’ve left without knowing when we’ll be able to return. We don’t know when flights to El Salvador will open up again. We don’t know when this pandemic will be “over.” We have to say goodbye without giving hugs and without knowing how long it will be before we again see the faces of all the kids we leave behind.

There are many unknowns, but this is what we feel led to do right now and we are trusting that this is God’s prompting. We have asked him again and again to show us his will and to shut any doors we are not suppose to walk through. We hold fast to Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Please pray for our family over the next couple of days as we prepare to leave and make the journey home. Pray for wisdom, safety and peace. Even getting to the airport will be a challenge as they do not allow more than one passenger per row in a vehicle and there are 5 of us!

As for Love and Hope, the kids are doing well. Because the school year here runs from January through November, they’re nowhere near done with their school year! The president announced a fifteen day extension to the very strict quarantine and rumors are it might be extended again.

El Salvador has responded to the pandemic with strict measures and is reaping the benefits. At this point there are only 137 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the whole country! Of course these measures come with significant sacrifices. Many people are facing each day without sufficient food. Love and Hope continues to support the biological families of each of our kids through food baskets, and we have doubled what they receive since the quarantine began.

We know that many of our donors have lost their jobs and are not able to give right now. We sincerely wish that we could be there to help you during this difficult time to give back to you for all you have done for us. Thank you so much for your faithful support over the years. You are in our prayers.

If have not been financially affected by COVID-19 and have the means to send in an extra gift this month, we would be so grateful. We appreciate each one of you so much! Now, more than ever, Love and Hope is serving a country in need.

With love and hope,

Rachel and Justin

30-Day Quarantine

On March 21st, El Salvador shutdown. In a televised address, President Nayib Bukele announced the country would begin a mandatory nationwide 30-day home quarantine. His announcement followed previous preventative measures that included suspending school, closing businesses, and sealing off the borders. He made the case for the quarantine by sharing the data. He presented graphs from countries like Spain and Italy, and projections of what would happen to El Salvador if action was not taken immediately. “We will not have enough beds,” he said.

Essential services would remain open, restaurants would still be able to deliver food, and the most needy in the country who survive day-to-day by working in the streets would be given a cash payout to allow them to survive without work for the next month. Additionally, one member per family is allowed to leave to buy groceries and other essential goods. Otherwise, everyone is to remain at home.

The government is also making sure that prices for basic foods remain fair and accessible to all.

On the first day of the quarantine, police detained over 250 people for violating the rules. These people were arrested and will be sent to quarantine facilities for the next thirty days.

Love and Hope provides an essential service, so our staff are allowed to travel to and from work, and our driver is still allowed to transport them. However, we have dramatically changed our schedules to limit the number of trips that must be taken. For example, our care-giving staff will now work one week on and one week off for the next month (more than doubling the length of a typical shift). Additionally, we have prepared letters and ID cards for them to present should they be stopped by the police when traveling.

We will all be stuck indoors for the next month. We cannot move freely between the boys home and girls home, but we are fortunate to have homes with ample room for many people and backyards that can provide us with fresh air. Many in El Salvador are not so lucky.

Finding ways to occupy everyone’s time will be a challenge, but we’re off to a good start!

We’ve been exercising:

Continuing with school:

Cleaning up the yards:

Playing:

And Skyping with distant friends and family:

Once a week we’ll be ordering food as a special treat. We want to help support the local economy and also give ourselves something to look forward to. If you’d like to treat the kids to a carry-out dinner, I’m sure they would love it! Just let us know!

As always we appreciate your support of Love and Hope. Especially during these difficult times.