We've reached the end of our time in the country, and the end of this project. Many thanks to all of you for a wonderful contribution to 14 of the most vulnerable children in Copan Ruinas. A quick summary of what your generous donations have been used for:
At Angelitos Felices children's home:
- New water system and renovated bathrooms
- Ceramic tile throughout the two-storey building
- New smoke-free and fuel-efficient wood cooking stove
- Renovated laundry area
- Roof raised in children's bedroom to end chronic and extensive leaking during rains
- Rain collection system to augment water supply
- Cement patio in front of the home where the children can play safely away from the street
- New doors and window shutters
- Four rounds of new and gently used casual clothing and shoes for the children
- Three rounds of school uniforms, school shoes and school supplies
- Weekly outings with the children, including twice-monthly visits to the local pool
- Steady stream of supplies to the children's home - food, cleaning products, diapers, craft supplies and more
- New beds/mattresses thanks to the efforts of a group of Louisiana visitors
- Two sets of sheets for every bed
- Medications for staph infections, minor pain, foot fungus
At Juan Ramon Cueva public school:
- New roof and other renovations for a dilapidated classroom that was in such disrepair it couldn't be used
At Sendero Maya kindergarten:
- New water system so the school would have running water and would no longer have to travel significant distance to the river anytime water was needed (including for the bathrooms and kitchen)
- We've supported all kinds of smaller causes, from helping a local teacher get the supplies she needed to be able to teach, to buying backpacks and school supplies for other Copan children in need. We've also helped build new houses for two impoverished families, bought medication for families in urgent situations, and supported other good causes in the community including Casita Copan day care and family support centre.
Thank you again for supporting us on this adventure. Know that you have been part of something amazing, and that many people's lives have been changed for the better because of your help.
Please consider Casita Copan if you want to support a similar cause in Copan Ruinas. Emily and her crew are doing excellent work. Here's their Web site: http://www.casitacopan.org/
We're in the last 6 weeks of our placement in Honduras and the time is going past so quickly! We've finished up all projects at Angelitos and from this point on will solely be doing activities with the kids until we leave at the end of March, and I fear even those activities are going to be dwindling due to all the things Paul and I need to attend to before we leave the country. Still, we got in another great trip to the pool last Sunday, and hopefully another on the coming weekend.
Thank you all so much for the wonderful gift of support you have given the children at Angelitos during our two years here. We have been able to get so many things done because of your help and thoughtfulness. I feel we are leaving Angelitos in a much better physical condition than we found out, but I am saddened by what I fear will be a decline in weekly activities for the kids after we go.
Unfortunately, the lack of transparency in how the money is handled at Angelitos makes it very difficult for me to recommend that people continue supporting the hogar after we leave. However, a Canadian friend is now paying for monthly deliveries of purified water and milk, and we are making arrangements for that support to continue after we gone. And I am very sure that other people will come to Copan and help the Angelitos children directly while here, as that is what has always happened over the years long before we arrived on the scene.
In the end, your donations allowed us to invest almost $24,000 in building improvements, clothes, food and household goods, and activities for the children. (Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to see the spreadsheet.) That is an amazing achievement. Paul and I won't be here to witness "the rest of the story" for the 16 children living at Angelitos, but I feel sure that their young lives have been changed for the better because of your support.
I continue to have great hope for Casita Copan, the project started by Emily Monroe and doing so well in providing a really good day care and early-child development to more than 40 children, and working very hard to support their mothers too. Those who want to carry on supporting impoverished families and children in Copan Ruinas can rest assured that their donations will be well spent at Casita Copan, which one day soon hopes to be providing homes for orphans as well. Here's the Web site: http://www.casitacopan.org/
Amazing support from the employees of North American Tungsten in the Northwest Territories, who donated $1,265.00 to Angelitos Felices. Big thanks to these generous folk, who don't even know me or the Angelitos kids but responded to my son-in-law's request (he works at North American Tungsten) for donations to buy school uniforms for the kids. He and my daughter Regan Jamieson had the money with them when they arrived in Honduras for their 10-day visit last weekend, and we went shopping with the kids on Monday.
There are 9 school-age children at Angelitos. This donation has let us buy each of them two full uniforms (tops, bottoms, belts, socks, underwear, shoes) and a backpack, and we've still only spent half the money. We'll be using the rest for school uniforms for other needy children we're connected to - the kids start their new school year in February - and for clothes for the 5 smaller children at Angelitos.
Brad and Regan were troopers during the shopping trip with the kids, which took a fairly painful 3 hours. Man, was it crazy trying to get all those kids into the right size of uniforms. We were very grateful for the store staff, that's for sure - they were so patient and helpful. These uniforms mean a great deal to these children, because many public schools won't let them attend if they don't have uniforms. All the school-age children at Angelitos are passing into the next grade (many children repeatedly fail in the schools here) and are proud of their achievements. And they're wild about their new backpacks.
So...way to go, North American Tungsten! You've just made a big difference in the lives of impoverished Honduran children.
Look for us today eating cake and baleadas at Angelitos Felices, marking Christmas with the kids before we head out for our own travels.
We'll be taking up 40 baleadas (a flour tortilla filled with eggs and beans, and one of the most popular dishes in Hondurans) and a whole lot of presents thanks to everyone's generosity. We know each of the children well after this much time together, so it made the selection of gifts a lot easier this year.
I really want to see more books and creative toys in that place, and was happy to find a hard-paged word book in Tegucigalpa in our last trip to the city that will serve well as a gift to the orphanage overall. And I found a copy of a Ramona book in Spanish - perfect for Rosario, the 10-year-old girl who shows such an interest in reading and writing.
Photos of the big day to follow, but here's a compilation of all the videos I've made so far of the kids. One of the gifts to the woman who owns the orphanage will be a DVD with this video plus all of the hundreds of photos I've taken of the kids in almost two years of hanging out with them.
Merry Christmas to all, and thank you again for the support that has allowed us to do so much for these children!
Best of the Christmas season! We're just finishing up 3 projects this week - one to raise the roof in the bedroom and end the chronic problems with the drainage canal (see below for more on that), one to put in a cement patio out front that stops dirt from contaminating the water cistern, and a third to paint the two bedrooms one more time - this time with oil-based paint and a dark colour on the bottom half of the wall. It's about $2000 worth of work and should be the last big projects we do up there, although I always seem to say that and then something changes!
A couple of my relatives have generously donated $650 for Christmas activities. We'll be using some of that for sheet sets for 14 bunk beds, some for presents for each of the kids - I want to get some books into that place and picked some sturdy cardboard-page types up in Tegucigalpa last week - and some for a special meal. But that still leaves us with enough for clothes and shoes for the kids, which is a chronic need. I also splurged on a $10 eyeshadow/blush kit for the young woman who is "staff" at Angelitos, as much as that word can be used to describe a girl of barely 14 who is there mostly because she needed a safe place to get away from her abusive stepfather.
No pool days recently. This time of year is the "chilly" time - greyish, often drizzly, temps down around 18 C (brrr!). But we took colouring books and crayons/pencils up to Angelitos for a craft day last weekend, and I'm hoping the sun might pop out for a swim this weekend.
Thanks for your ongoing support for our work at Angelitos, and thanks as well to those who have supported Casita Copan. Casita is a different childcare organization here in Copan and not connected to Angelitos but it's the one that I have the most hope for in the long term, as it's very well-run and organized. In the meantime, we're doing what we can for the 14 residents of Angelitos, thanks to the generosity of all of you.
We're back into another couple of small projects at Angelitos, one to fix an incessant leak all along the back wall of the sleeping area and another to put a concrete slab out front to get rid of the dirt pile that keeps contaminating the water cistern.
I thought we'd fixed the leak several months ago when we put in a new drain pipe along the top of the wall to replace the inadequate concrete canal that up until then had been channeling the runoff from the roof. Alas, the new neighbour didn't like the drain pipe pouring water near his back yard, so he capped it (unbeknownst to anyone at Angelitos). What's been happening since then is the water has been going in and just staying, to the point that the concrete wall is really damp and mouldy from the constant moisture. Worse still, in a heavy rain the water just pours straight into the room via the overflowing pipe.
Suffice to say, it's an urgent situation, and we've remedied it by raising the roof at the back so the rainwater now all drains toward the front, where it's caught and augments the water supply for Angelitos. All in, the two projects will total about $1,500. I'm hoping that will be the end of the big projects, as we're coming to the end of our time here in Honduras and I'd like to concentrate on outings for the kids and building up the clothing supply! Sounds like we might have a long-term supporter from Canada who wants to fund purified water (about $45 a month) for Angelitos and also milk ($75/month provides 5 litres a day). That will be welcome news to Angelitos after we're gone.
We're off to the pool tomorrow with the older kids - photos to follow!
The cooler, drizzly weather has arrived in Copan, so we opted for a lunch at the market today with 7 of the kids rather than our usual trip to the pool. Without the sunshine, the little ones just get too chilled.
So off we went for pupusas instead, which are tasty little pockets of fried corn dough with different kinds of fillings. We brought along 10-year-old Rosario to help us but otherwise just had the 3-5 year olds along with us this time. They're pretty sweet, and were quite stunned by all the activity in the market. They tucked in, but more than anything they went crazy for their big glasses of jamaica (hibiscus) juice, powering through two glasses each.
Then we headed over to a local bakery for dessert and after that dispatched most of them in a tuk-tuk for home, although Rosario lingered downtown with me for a bit to go clothes-shopping. She's right at that age of developing a healthy interest in slightly more fashionable clothes. especially skinny-legged jeans.
Found a great new second-hand-clothing store that has much better quality children's clothes than the new clothes you can get here. Over the last couple of days I bought about $150 worth of shirts, pants and shoes for the kids, as they were starting to look darn scruffy lately. It seems like they always need new clothes but when you think about it, they've probably only got 3 outfits each, so just getting an accumulation up there will be a good thing. The new baby also really needs clothes, and needed $25 worth of medicine recently after getting quite ill with diarrhea (poor little thing's only 2 months old). She's looking a lot better now.
Thanks for all your support! We're going to be making the most of these last 5 months.
I'm back from work travels in the Moskitia and will soon be back on track with excursions and such at Angelitos. But I wanted to do a quick accounting of finances for all of you, seeing as you've been so kind to support us in this work.
Since starting this page in July 2012, we've raised $23,029 for projects here in Copan Ruinas, much of that through this site and $10,000 from a special friend in Victoria who prefers to remain anonymous. As you know, with the exception of the 8 per cent admin fee taken by the operators of this site (only on the $13,029 raised on-line), all of these donations go directly to the projects. Paul and I are working as Cuso International volunteers here and receive a monthly stipend for that work, which means we can use every cent of YOUR donations for projects.
The bulk of the money has gone to projects, excursions, clothing and more at Angelitos. But we've also done other community projects: A new roof on a classroom at the city's biggest school, Juan Ramon Cueva; a new water system at a daycare for 45 children that had been scooping the day's supply out of the contaminated river up until then; contributions to various other projects that some of our acquaintances here are doing, whether that's Emily Monroe and Casita Copan ( http://www.casitacopan.org/), which received $750, or co-workers of mine who have built small houses for impoverished families in their neighbourhoods.
As of today, we have about $4,000 remaining to spend. And we've got 5 months left in our placement, so we feel that's sufficient to be able to execute a few more small projects, cover the costs of excursions to the pool, and probably buy another round of clothes for the kids before we go. It's going to be very, very hard to walk away from the Angelitos children, but I can only hope that we're leaving them in a cleaner, healthier and more comfortable environment, and that two years of spending time with the kids will leave its mark. As I've mentioned before, the nature of Angelitos operations makes it impossible for us to continue to support the home financially from a distance, as there's no transparency at all in the financial processes and I have no faith that the money we might send would be used as intended.
The Casita Copan project has done some remarkable work in its first year, and I continue to hope that at least the smaller children at Angelitos will soon be able to benefit from time spent in the rich learning environment at Casita. Paul and I will be putting effort into building bridges between Casita and Angelitos in these final months in hopes of connecting the Angelitos kids to a great place. I know Emily would love to be seeing more of the children!
Thank you again for all you've done for these kids and this community. We've still got 5 months of excursions to do with the gang, so stay tuned for updates!
We're shaking up our routines a little with more visits to the river for the bigger kids. This time of year it's muddy (sometimes the kids surface with a ring of dirt around their faces!) and fast, but it's also very shallow so they can safely drift on the current. They love it! We'll be doing a trip to the pool for the 2-6 year-olds this coming weekend, though, as the river's a bit too much in the rainy season for those little guys.
On the playground front, I did get the opportunity to present to Copan municipal council recently on the idea, and everybody looked very enthusiastic. But that doesn't actually mean a thing in whether anyone will offer up some land and the permissions to get the project underway, so I'll continue to be hopeful but not surprised if things don't work out. I know, I know - ridiculous to think that someone offering to pay AND plan a playground can't get things moving, but that's just how it is with the municipal government here. I am not alone in my frustrations.
So...given all that, we're moving ahead with some other small projects. There's a kindergarten with 45 children that doesn't have a water tank or system - they just lug all the water for the school up from a nearby river every day. For a $500 investment, that sounds like a great project to take on. My co-workers also took me to visit a family in the little village of San Rafael in a very poor housing situation - five children and the mom, really struggling since the dad and main earner died in August. They have no walls for their kitchen, no real enclosed inner space other than two very small bedrooms where everyone sleeps. So we're looking into what might be possible to help them.
Hope you enjoy my little video below of the Angelitos kids (and other kids in Copan) enjoying Dia Del Nino on Sept. 10. Thanks for your continuing support - we really feel like we've been able to accomplish a lot through all your help!
We got in a lot of pinata-whacking yesterday - Sept. 10 is Dia Del Nino (Day of the Child) in Honduras, and they celebrate it by having candy-filled pinatas at the schools, in the streets and at parties for neighbourhood kids. Check out the little video I've attached here for a taste of this crazy event!
The day is bigger than Christmas in terms of how excited the kids get about it, seeing as there's no tradition of giving gifts at Christmas so Sept 10 is really the day that Honduran children claim as theirs. We marked it at Angelitos with a pinata and a gigantic platter of Chinese food! A local pastor brought up a cake, too.
It was a landmark day as well because Dona Daisy gave the OK to take a few of the kids to the other "guardaria" - the day care run by the young American woman I've mentioned here, Emily. Daisy has not been happy about that new place, but it would be so great if we could find peace between the two so that the Angelitos children could benefit from some of the great programs and child development at Casita Copan.
Many of the Angelitos kids are already attending Casita Copan, in fact. When Emily opened a year ago, 10 of the children who had been in day care at Angelitos switched over. Another boy, Jairo, switched over a couple of weeks ago when he moved back in with his grandmother and aunt.
I have high hopes for helping transition other Angelitos children to Casita Copan before we leave next March. It's a beautiful, well-run facility. Even if the Angelitos kids can't go there full-time, any association would be good for them. Check out Casita Copan at http://www.casitacopan.org/- if you're looking to support Honduran children over the long-term, it's an excellent choice.
Thanks so much for all you continue to do for the kids of Angelitos! We had a pool day for 12 on Sunday and are making a plan to take some of the kids to the Independence Day parade on Sept. 15.
(Sorry - reposting this because the original had a typo that made it sound like Daisy's husband had broken Daisy's ankle!)
Back from our RV travels with the grandkids and back to activities with the Angelitos children.
This past Sunday was our first weekend back in Honduras and we'd arranged an outing for the older kids at the great riverside finca of John and Marianne Bodrug. They'd been dying of curiosity about the river, what with the smaller kids having gone there twice already. So we ended up with 12 kids stuffed into John's car! I did up a little video of the occasion, as the kids had a total blast - I've put the link in this update so you can check it out.
Things are complicated at Angelitos right now (OK, they've always been, it's true), as the woman who runs it broke her leg 2 months ago and now her husband has broken his ankle. That not only means they're laid up and not able to pay much attention to the place, it also means they're paying big medical bills, as they're having to access private care in Guatemala (closest hospital).
So against my better judgment, I paid the electric bill again this month, about $200 for the past two months. I work very hard to avoid paying running costs, because that's a sinkhole at a place like Angelitos, but you just can't leave those kids without lights or water, seeing as the water pump needs electricity to function.
My head's already turning to what will happen at the end of March when we leave Copan. I'll share my thoughts on that in the next update, as you all have been generous supporters of the Angelitos projects but those of you who want to continue being supporters will need a new option when we're no longer here to do the projects.
Got a meeting next week with the municipality to talk about building a public playground! Here's hoping.
As promised, here's a one-minute video of the kids at the pool this past Sunday. Look at 'em go! None of them could swim when we met them, and they definitely weren't boldly jumping in. Some have taken longer than others to get comfortable with the pool, but ALL of them loved the place right from the start.
Just back from another pool day - stay posted for a video later of the kids swimming. I am endlessly impressed by how they have learned to swim. Even the ones who were most nervous have now got their faces underwater in the big pool and are experimenting with going a bit deeper. And the ones who were bolder to begin with are doing incredibly well. So happy that Eduardo has learned to swim - at 13 he's the oldest boy but had a heck of a time getting the hang of things, but all of a sudden he's swimming and in fact has one of the smoother strokes of all of the kids (well, except for Arnol - that kid's a fish!).
Here's some photos of the boys wearing the clothes that my friend Angela Mangiacasale and her friends shipped down. The boys are really happy to be getting some new clothes, as the last couple of donations had been heavily weighted toward the girls.
We won't be seeing the kids until later in August, as we're heading home for a couple weeks later this week, and looking forward to some camping time with our grandkids. But the Angelitos kids know we'll be back soon and were already pinning down the next pool date when we said our goodbyes today.
Nice to see that Paul and my constant attention to dogs is starting to wear off on the kids, who are now very happy to be petting the dogs we pass by, worrying if they're getting enough to eat, etc. That's a big change from total disregard and in some cases, mild abuse when we first met the kids. It's not that they were meaner than other kids toward dogs - it's that the culture tends to be quite dismissive of dogs and they just hadn't thought about how nice a dog can be to pet and love!
You guys have made a lot of kids happy this month, what with new outfits all round (tops, bottoms, underwear, socks, shoes), trips to the swimming pool, and another outing to the river for 10 of the smallest children.
We spent 12,320 lempiras - about $615 - on clothes in the last couple of weeks, taking everybody downtown in small groups to pick out their outfits. I decided it was better to stay away from the public market and aim for better quality this time, especially for the shoes. There's still two more kids to go, plus we've decided to buy clothes for the two staff members too, who work VERY hard for a salary of $75 a month.
I've also just received an excellent care package from supporter Angela Mangiacasale and friends, who packed up a big box of boys' clothes, underwear and socks to ship down to us. The four oldest kids at Angelitos, all girls, have recently left the home - three back to their father's home, one to her grandparents after almost 11 years at Angelitos - so there's quite a concentration of boys right now. They're going to love those Canadian clothes!
On Sunday we returned to the riverside home of Canadian couple John and Marianne, bringing 10 of the small kids, ages 2-5, for their second outing at the couple's citrus farm. Lunch, a swim, a chance to run around - small stuff, but a very big deal to kids who pass virtually all of their lives inside the small, dark space of the children's home. We're very happy to be able to do activities with the little ones, who so rarely get a chance to get out.
Thank you, thank you for your ongoing support. Wish you could all see what a difference your support has meant at Angelitos, which looks and functions SO much better now (still not good, but better!) than it did a year ago.
We're back into another round of clothes-shopping for the kids - one of those experiences that's sweeter when you're thinking about it than when you're actually in the middle of it! I took the first group of six - five of them boys of around 10-12, so you can imagine how lively that trip was - to Cruz Bueso store yesterday to buy school uniforms. Pants, belts, shirts, socks, underwear, shoes and a few random notebooks for everyone: about $200 all in.
Today some of the younger kids are meeting me at the park and we're going shopping for regular clothes for them. This time I'm staying away from the market stalls, as the clothing is just too poor-quality there and when kids are wearing the same outfits as much as this group does, nothing lasts. I'm especially being attentive when it comes to shoes, as the boys can burn through a pair of shoes in weeks, I swear.
Thanks for the continuing support that allows Paul ad I to keep doing these projects, big and small! Special thanks to Vickie and Don Sangster for this round of clothes-shopping - old pals from Tsawwassen who gave me a generous donation when we were back in BC for a brief visit in April.
A dream realized this week for the Angelitos kids - seven big-hearted men from the Calvary Baptist Church in Ruston, Louisiana, spent this past week building 24 of the most beautiful bunk beds you've ever seen. Each child at Angelitos now has their own bed, for what I suspect is the first time ever. The group also paid for 24 brand-new six-inch foam mattresses for the beds - the mattresses will be arriving this coming week and Paul and I will make sure they get up to the hogar pronto.
The beds are not only built to last through all the craziness those kids will put them through, but have big storage cupboards at the end of each set where the kids can finally store their own clothes and not just have to dig that day's clothes out of a heap of anonymous stuff. The beds are amazing gift to the kids from the congregation at Calvary Baptist. James Davis, Gordon Holley and friends, you have really done something wonderful for the Angelitos kids.
A couple of U.S. men who have lived and worked here in Copan Ruinas for many years (they own the Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve) really stepped up to help with the project. They've been friends for several years with one of the Louisiana men, Gordon Holley, and provided the group with a place to cut up the lumber, much support for locating and transporting materials, and even did an unexpected trip to San Pedro Sula to find more materials once things started running out in Copan. Thank you, Lloyd and Pat!
Here are a few photos from yesterday, when I first got a chance to see the beds (and the Calvary Baptist group) after being away for most of the time they were here. Happily, Paul stepped up too to smooth a few early problems out - like when we discovered the power had been cut off after four months of non-payment and that the kids had been without light or water (electric pump) for four days!!
But all is well now, and those beds are gorgeous. And check out the tie-dye shirts for each of the kids, made by the daughter of James Davis especially for the Angelitos gang.
Well, I started this page almost a year ago so that the kids at Angelitos would have better beds, and now they're about to get REALLY good beds.
James Davis, a Louisiana gentleman who I met last fall when he was in Copan Ruinas with a couple of other fellows from a mission group, was moved by the plight of the children at the home and said he wanted to do more. And now he's back in town to build 25 fabulous bunk beds, complete with big drawers underneath for storage.
I'm not sure which will excite the kids more - the beds or the storage. They've got no place to stash their clothes or their little trinkets and treasures, which means the clothes are just heaped in a big anonymous pile and their treasures are constantly going missing. They're going to be so happy to have their own space.
This will also be the first time that every child will have their own bed. James is building them off site with the help of some people he has connected with in Copan, and I'm hoping I'll get to see him when I get back from working in Tocoa later this week.
Dona Daisy - the woman who operates Angelitos - is currently laid up with a broken femur, but was delighted to hear about the bed project. Thank you, James, for coming back for the kids!
We had a terrific day today - our first swim outing with the little kids from the hogar. There's a Canadian couple who bought a lovely lemon orchard out of town on the river, and they invited us out with 7 of the littlest Angelitos residents for a splash in the river, a great picnic lunch, and boat rides. I have NEVER seen those little guys so happy! Big thanks to John and Marianne for showing us a lovely time. They're telling us they'd like to do it regularly, which is such good news because the trips come with transportation courtesy of John and that means the little ones will finally get a chance to get out of Angelitos once in a while. I think this might have been their first trip in a regular car, too! They were so well-behaved - not a complaint out of any of them, and they really tucked into their cheese and bologna sandwiches. They were just loving the whole experience. What a gift for us, to be able to share their happiness.
Took my little portable photo printer to Angelitos this afternoon and the kids went WILD for it! This crowd you see around the printer was basically how things looked until we were done.
I printed out a personal photo for each of them, and they were completely entranced for more than an hour as the machine magically printed out each picture. It's a little Canon printer and it is indeed pretty fascinating, as the photo paper passes in and out of the machine each time as it lays down first yellow, then red, then blue and black. The kids were captivated.
Took up a load of the usual miscellaneous things they need at Angelitos: Disposable diapers, liquid cleaner for the floors and bathrooms, soap for the washing machine (which is working brilliantly, apparently), soap for hand washing, clothes pegs. Basically, the place needs everything at all times!
But the kids are looking great right now and everybody seems happy. Jose Manuel, the 3-year-old boy who has had such problems walking, is now on his feet and starting to talk as well. And little Angie Nicole, who was as still and listless as you could imagine when she arrived at Angelitos a year ago at the age of 8 months, is now a wiggly, wriggly toddler.
That's the thing about resilient kids - they can bounce back against all odds with a little help. Thank YOU for being there for them.
It's a day for celebrating small miracles - like 24 pair of shoes arriving from Illinois courtesy of a young supporter and a beautiful new wood cooking stove finally in place at Angelitos. No more smoke-filled attic on the third floor where the staff and the older girls had to go to cook tortillas every day.
Came home from Canada last week to find the stove finished (much thanks to my CASM co-worker Edy Mendez for overseeing that project in my absence!) and the washing machine actually working upstairs in the new laundry room now that it's connected directly into the outside power box. No more smoke-filled attic room two floors above the kitchen - that's the new laundry room, and now the wood stove is right beside the kitchen.
Then Hannah's shoes arrived - 24 pair in a mix of sizes that were either new or gently used, donated by Hannah and her friends. The group paid the $100 mailing charges to send the big box of shoes through the mail to Copan. Many smiling faces when they saw those shoes! This photo shows some of them modelling their new footwear.
I've still got an amazing collection of little girls' clothes and shoes to distribute, sent down by Victoria pal Cindy Harnett. At least five of the youngest girls are going to be looking good soon, but I'm doling that gift out a little more gradually so as to not stir up the boys.
We went to the pool with 11 of the kids this afternoon. Virtually all of the kids 10 and up are now swimming, and a couple of the younger ones are coming along quickly now too. We all had a good time - not quite so sure about the other people who had come to the pool for a quiet afternoon.
Thanks again for all you've done - together we're giving them better health, cleaner and more comfortable surroundings, way nicer clothes and a whole lot of fun.
Big thanks to my old pal Kim Westad for holding a 50th birthday brunch for herself that raised $1,400 for the kids of Angelitos along the way! Now that's what I call a power brunch.
Paul and I are back in BC at the moment getting in a visit with friends and family. I was invited up to speak at the national summit for the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth, and it seemed a great opportunity to see everyone back home. And yay to Kim to fitting in the brunch while we were here and raising an amazing amount of money in a scant three hour event!
Just got an email message from my Honduran workmate Edy, who tells me the supplies for the new wood cooking stove for the hogar have all arrived and that the stove is being built at this very moment. Looking forward to seeing that beautiful new stove - with its big new chimney! - all set up downstairs where it will be so much easier for the staff and the older kids to use it for tortillas. Big thanks to all of you for your support in getting that project done.
One of the young Illinois women I met through a mission group last year has managed to collect 25 pair of shoes for shipping to the kids at Angelitos. Thank you, Hannah - those shoes will be arriving just about the time we get back and the kids will be thrilled. There are plenty of shoes available in Honduras but virtually all of them are poorly made and the kids go through them in no time flat. So Hannah is helping out by sending some sturdy U.S. sneakers down, and picking up the $125 shipping costs.
Thank you, thank you for all that you've done for those kids. I'm speaking about them today at the conference. Together we're making a difference!
The projects at Angelitos and at Escuela Juan Ramon Cueva are both almost finished after my fave contractor, Nelson Rodriguez, put a big push on to get them done during the Easter week. A lot easier to be putting a new roof on a school classroom when the kids aren't at school!
The Angelitos project involved ripping up the funny little attic room upstairs where the staff cook tortillas and turning the space into a laundry room instead, which allows us to move the washing machine closer to the water tank (more flow) and create a space for hanging wet clothes to dry. Up until now, the clothes have been hung all over the place, including in a scrubby little empty space across the street where any clothes that looked half-decent were prone to getting stolen.
We'll be building a bigger, better wood cooking stove downstairs near the kitchen. That will save staff the long, stair-filled walks up and down to the attic-kitchen, and this time the stove will have a proper chimney so nobody will have to work in dangerously smoky conditions.
As for the new roof on the Grade 1 classroom at Juan Ramon Cueva, it looks great! They haven't been able to use the classroom for a few months because of the danger that the roof would collapse on the kids. Another non-profit group recently built three new classrooms at the school, which has 1,000 students (including most of the kids of Angelitos), but that still left one class without a room. That's now been remedied, thanks to your donations and to the donated labour of Nelson Rodriguez!
Just back from Angelitos after trying to get the stove improvements back on track. We were all set to build a little shed out front to house a new wood cooking stove for making tortillas, but the new neighbour was REALLY unhappy about that idea so we had to abandon the plan. Down here you don't want to rile neighbours who carry big guns on their hips.
We were sort of stuck for how to do the project indoors, but now have a plan. The stove's going to be built in an area near the kitchen, and we'll rip apart the smoky little room upstairs where the current stove is and turn it into a washing area and place for hanging clothes. Total project's going to be about $2,000. The women who cook the tortillas will finally have a non-smoky work environment downstairs, and the home will finally have a place to hang clothes where they can't get stolen by the neighbours, which is what is happening now because the only hanging space is across the street. (Who can blame them? They're poor too.)
We're also going to put a new roof on the Grade 1 classroom at Juan Ramon Cuevez school, where all the Angelitos kids and about 1,000 other children from Copan go to school. Watch for pictures of the current roof next week after I visit the school and get some shots - it's in very rough shape. That project will be about $1,500, but the contractor I work with is donating labour so it's all going toward materials. And just think of those happy little Grade 1 faces, no longer having to worry if the droopy, rotting roof is about to collapse on them.
Off to the carnival on Sunday with 10 of the kids.
A good pool day - the boys had gone a couple weeks ago with another friend of Angelitos from Italy, so it was all-girls day for our visit! We took nine girls ranging in age from four to 16 and had a really nice time, although they down the bologna sandwiches and mangos with every bit of enthusiasm as the boys would have. The kids' swimming skills have come along amazingly - even the ones who were too timid to stick a toe in when we first started the pool visits are now venturing into the deep end. Johana, age 10, learned to float on her back yesterday and looked quite ecstatic to discover the feeling of floating on top of water.
The kids are all back to school now - and sadly, already wearing through some of their one-month-old shoes. Two problems: The shoe quality is really poor here; and when a child has only one pair of shoes for everything, they wear out fast, especially for the rough-and-tumble boys. Working on a new plan with an amigo in Canada to see if we can't get some good-quality runners sent down.
Work has been delayed by a week or so on the casita for the outdoor wood cooking stove, as the new neighbour is building a giant wall right where the casita is going. No problem in the long run - our plans were to build a wall anyway - but we have to wait a bit for him to get that project done.
I was checking out the town square yesterday as a possible site for that playground I keep fantasizing about. There's space, but is there willingness at the municipal hall? Guess it's time to find out.
Thanks for all your great support for the kids of Angelitos! Every time I see the children having a blast at the pool, I think of all of you.
The kids are back in school, and I've now got the long (and strange) list of school supplies they need. It makes you realize how disorganized the Honduras public school system is - not only because the lists are just now going out in the second week of school, but because the supplies vary significantly depending on which teacher drew up a particular class's list. All the elementary-age kids at Angelitos will be going to Juan Ramon Cueva school this year, which has 1,000 kids but is at least less of a walk for them than one of the schools they were at last year. There are also five older girls who will be taking a kind of distance education called "maestro en casa," where they go to the teacher's house on weekends and take courses broadcast on the radio. Books, materials and fees for those five totalled about $240 - thanks for your support in helping those young teens continue on with their education!
We're in the early stages of the next project - a small outdoor kitchen in front of the home where we can build a better wood cooking stove and oven. The smoke is unbelievable in the attic-like room where the tortillas are cooked every day right now, so it will be great to get a proper stove and chimney installed in an area that will be much easier for staff to access. The little casita will cost about $1,500 to build, and building the eco-stove and oven will add another $300 or so to that. Everyone will breathe easier - literally - once that project is done.
Great news from a Louisiana builder who came by the home in December and felt moved to do more. James Davis will be coming back in June and plans to build 24 bunk beds, all with storage drawers (much in demand so that the kids can separate their stuff) and high railings on the top bunks. Right now a lot of the kids sleep two to a bed, so we're looking forward to James's return!
The public schools are back in session on Monday, the start of the new school year. So we put a big push on this past week to get uniforms and backpacks for the 17 children at Angelitos who are returning to class. That included three children who live at the home with their mom Paula, as it's hard to separate the "orphans" from the just plain poor kids when it comes time to help out. This photo is of the boys' group, which was only SLIGHTLY easier to buy for than the very fussy and particular teenage-girl group we'd done the day before.
The bill was about $600 to buy each child a white top, blue pants or skirt, two pair of socks, black shoes and a back pack of their choice (rule was it had to be 150 lempiras - $8 - or less). I asked Dona Daisy how she ever managed getting everybody set for school in past years - apparently she has just always had to scrounge for used uniforms from her neighbours. So it will be quite a treat for the kids to be wearing new clothes that actually fit!
We've also been helping out a neighbour who gives support to some Maya-Chorti families in one of the villages. Today I bought $60 worth of school supplies and backpacks for three of those children, and will be buying at least some of the school supplies for the Angelitos gang once they've got their supply list from their teachers.
We're in a bit of a lull for capital projects while we get everybody ready for school. But soon we'll be starting on a little outdoor kitchen of sorts for the hogar - a glorified shed where we can build a new fuel-efficient wood stove for cooking tortillas and perhaps a wood-fired oven as well for bread. The staff are really risking their health right now cooking tortillas upstairs in a room that's so thick with smoke, the result of Dona Daisy having to block off two holes she'd had cut in the roof to let the smoke out. She had to cover up the holes after they discovered an inebriated guy who had broken into the home one night by squeezing through the roof hole!
I'm thinking more seriously about trying to get a children's playground built somewhere in Copan this year. First steps: Find somebody in city hall to talk to about donating land, then on to one of the long-time "gringos" here who has experience doing a playground at one of the local kindergartens.
Thanks so much for all your support! You've just helped outfit and supply 20 children with the things they needed to go to school (and they LOVE those backpacks). Great work!
Just did an update on my blog about how things are going at Angelitos. It'll be a year in April since I first laid eyes on the place, and it got me thinking about what has been accomplished in these 10 months.
GoFundMe doesn't yet give you the option of embedding links, so you'll have to copy-and-paste this link to check out my blog: http://closer-look.blogspot.com/2013/01/measuring-progress-one-pair-of-shoes-at.html
Next undertaking: Another round of clothes-shopping next week to buy school uniforms for the 16 school-age kids at Angelitos who return to class in February. Thank you for all your support - none of the work we've done at Angelitos would be possible without you.
The Angelitos kids have some new friends from the U.S. Gordon Holley, James Davis and Charlie Sell came bearing armloads of gifts when they visited the home yesterday after learning about Angelitos through my blog.
The travellers - two from the Calvary Baptist Church in Ruston, Louisiana, and a third from the International Mission Board for the South Baptist Association in Tegucigalpa - brought $200 worth of medicines and other necessities for the children. Here's a photo of me, Gordon and James in the pharmacy with a few of the many, many things they bought, from bandaids and gauze to antibiotics, fungal creams, lice shampoo, diaper-rash cream and pain medication ($200 goes a long way when buying medicines in Honduras!).
The trio also came with three big suitcases full of clothing from donors in their congregation. The kids and I went on an outing to Parque Central today and they were so proud to be wearing their new clothes - especially a couple tie-dye T-shirts that Naun and Eduardo quickly laid claim to.
Too chilly for swimming today so the Angelitos gang had to settle for sno-cones at the park. But we happened to run into a Copan clown, Fosforito, and he and his lovely lady friend kindly donated face-painting for all 15 kids. Thanks, Fosforito - you made the kids' day!
The festive season is over and the new year is underway, and now it's time to put the pleasures of the holidays behind me and get back to work at Angelitos. I bid a sad farewell to my son Daniel and two of our grandsons yesterday as they headed back home after six weeks here in Honduras - they sure did enjoy the chance to spend some time with the kids at Angelitos while here, even though Daniel ended up with a nasty staph infection in his hand after his visit. Staph and fungal infections are always making the rounds at Angelitos, putting visitors at a bit of risk if they arrive with any open sores on their skin (he had a blister). I'll make a point of taking some antibiotic creams there when we pick up the kids for a swim this coming Sunday.
Heard some excellent news from the young American woman who is trying to open a better orphanage here in Copan. She's currently got a small day care, but is now moving to a former hostel where she'll have the capacity to keep children overnight. I'm really hoping she can realize her plans for a new orphanage this year and maybe even transfer the Angelitos children over, as there are definitely limits to how much can be done for them at the current facility.
Learn more about Emily's work here: http://www.casitacopan.org/
We had our big Christmas pool party with the children yesterday - and how happy were we to have the sun shining down on all of us. We wanted to do something a little more splurgy than usual, so we rustled up a few more adult supervisors and brought 15 children to the pool. We treated the kids to a mototaxi ride there and back, which meant the smaller children who normally can't do the longish walk to the pool were able to participate this time.
We had a big lunch, too - bologna sandwiches (a real treasure for the kids!), tajaditas, cookies and many bananas, as fruit is always popular. And everybody got a candy bag to take back to Angelitos.
The kids are having another party at the home today, put on by a young Honduran doctor who has been helping out at Angelitos for the last eight years. And my family will be going up there tomorrow with small gifts for each of the kids and more fruit. (And maybe some cleaning products and disposable diapers - not too festive but badly needed!)
Best of the season to all of you, and thanks for making this such a memorable year for the children of Angelitos Felices.
I've just reset the goal on this page to $12,000, and want to give you a quick explanation why. Wouldn't want you to think I was just changing the goal posts without a reason!
Through your amazing support, we have surpassed the original $8500 goal and been able to do all the major projects we started out to do - and more - in much less time than I had anticipated. I'd expected to accomplish the water project and maybe one floor of ceramic tile, plus maintain a weekly activity with the kids. Instead, we've done the water project, laid ceramic tile throughout the home, installed two new doors, repainted the place, bought a washing machine, and are now working on a new window at the front and a gate or two to stop the smaller kids from getting into dangerous areas. We've also been able to respond with more generosity to daily needs like clothing, shoes, cleaning supplies and disposable diapers.
We're still here for another year and I figure we might as well just keep those projects coming as long as the support for our work continues. So I've kicked up the goal to $12,000 in order to add an indoor jungle gym for the kids to the wish list. The kids spend most of their time stuck inside the home, with very little to do. But there's a big space downstairs where I'm sure we can get something built that will provide them with a safe, fun place to burn off all that kid energy!
Thank you, thank you for all you've done to make this work possible. Your support has been well beyond what Paul and I anticipated. Best of the Christmas season to all of you!
The Christmas shopping has begun for the Angelitos children - I met up with the first four today at lunch in the centre of town and we headed to the market so they could pick out new outfits. Each child is getting pants (or a skirt if they'd rather), a top and a pair of shoes.
Here's the four oldest girls - Belkis, Carina, Marisol and Johana - sitting on the steps of the market with their purchases. They were thrilled to get new clothes, something that they virtually never have, and to have the ability to select things they really wanted. Today's purchases cost $120 but I figured this group of teenage girls was bound to be the most expensive! Much running back and forth to the change room to get the right fit - later I hope to take a photo of them in their new outfits, as they look pretty cute in their skinny jeans with bangles.
Tomorrow I'm taking four of the older boys shopping for their outfits. I can't IMAGINE how that's going to go. I'll work my way through the 25 of them four at a time over my lunch hours this week and next, although I think I might just size up the youngest ones and buy on their behalf.
And then next week, we're going to throw a pool party as a Christmas celebration (my kind of Christmas party) and put on a good picnic. I'll arrange for transport, too, so that the kids who can't walk the distance to the pool are able to come.
Thanks for all your support in helping provide a merry Christmas to the children of Angelitos. They've got their tree up now and are enjoying parties with other Angelitos supporters as well - one today and another next Friday. Hope your Christmas season brings much joy to you and your loved ones!
Very strange to be thinking about Christmas when I'm still wearing t-shirts and thongs, but the "arbol de Navidad" is up in the town square and everybody's putting their decorations up (including one of those big blow-up snowmen, an unusual site!), so the season is upon us.
Just working out Christmas plans for the kids - shopping trips for each of them next week to get clothes, thanks to a very generous donation from my cousin Terry. We're also planning a party at Hacienda Esperanza next Friday. The North Carolina man who heads up Paramedics For Children operates Hacienda Esperanza, a medical clinic, and will organize transportation, pinatas and some small gifts for the kids for an event at his lovely home in Copan. He has helped out at Angelitos for many years.
Here's a photo of the kids from Sunday, when I took 14 of them to the Parque Central (which sadly has nothing for kids except a lot of space). Each of them got a five-lempira "nieve" - a sno-cone. They sell for the equivalent of 25 cents each, so I'll definitely be remembering nieves for future affordable treats! I ended up buying 15, as there was one sad-eyed little boy who wasn't with us but had that look of sno-cone longing as he watched the other kids line up for theirs. Hey, for an additional quarter, who could resist?
Here's a look at that beautiful new ceramic floor, getting a bit of a cleanup with the help of Jose Manuel. This little fellow has lots of problems walking, but right now he seems to be up on his feet more - very heartening.
The work crew will be finishing up the ceramic floor upstairs this weekend. The new floors were $3,000 or so all in, with half of that for materials and half for labour. And it is WORTH it - turns out a bright new floor really changes the look of a place, not to mention makes it a lot easier to keep clean.
Tonight a local woman came by with a big bag of clothes for the kids - she has a second-hand store and brought by a load of clothes from one of her recent shipments from the U.S. Great to get the clothes, but even better to have people from Copan showing up to help out Angelitos, where the kids could really use more support and connection in the community. She wants to come up with me to see the place soon.
The ceramic tile floor downstairs is now done and looks really terrific - can't believe what a difference a new, bright floor makes. The painting is finished upstairs and down and work begins next week on the ceramic tile floor upstairs. I wasn't going to rush into that project but if you saw what a difference the floor made downstairs, you'd understand. The whole place instantly looked cleaner, cheerier, more livable.
The total cost for the painting project came it at around $700, and the ceramic tile floors will be about $3,000. That work uses up the balance of the $8,700 you kind people helped me raise, but the recent donation of another $5,000 from a wonderful Victoria couple will cover the $1500 ceramic-tile floor upstairs and more. Still contemplating how best to put the remaining $3,500 to use - possibly an indoor jungle gym downstairs? I'll be using probably $150 of that money this week for medicines as well, as there are two children with severe staph infections at Angelitos right now and almost all of them have fungal infections on their feet (damp, dirty conditions, everybody barefoot way too much of the time and spreading the infections around).
Had great support this week from a group of 15 Americans sponsored by the First Christian Church in Centralia, Illinois. They came in to do a stove-building project with my organization, the Comision de Accion Social Menonita, but along the way they came up to Angelitos and did medical checks on the kids (I've included a photo here of Dr. Rhonda with her long lineup of waiting patients) plus repaired six of the beds that were useless because they were missing the struts that support the mattresses. Thank you, Team FCC Honduras!
Another three little ones have arrived at Angelitos in the last couple of weeks, so the team also converted a couple of the beds into makeshift cribs to be shared by the seven wee ones who are now there.
Thanks again for your continued support!
The painting started this week at Angelitos - goodbye gloomy navy blue (whose idea was that, anyway?) and vile green, hello "Baby Rose" and "Fresh Peach." I popped up there today and the staff was doing a good job essentially holding the kids hostage on the veranda while the painting went on downstairs. Watching the painting crew at work sanding and filling in the gouged-up concrete walls, I was very glad that I gave up on my plan to do the painting myself. Great paint sale here that we were able to take advantage of - we bought all 22 gallons of interior/exterior paint for about what I would have had to pay for five gallons of the paint I first checked out. Once the painting is done, we'll start in on a ceramic floor downstairs, which is going to brighten the place up immensely and make it much easier to clean.
Thanks for all your support with this. Not only are you helping create a much better, cleaner and comfortable environment for the children of Angelitos, you're helping put food on the table for the dozen or so men who have been working on these projects!
Well, gang, we did it! Thanks so much for this incredible support. Your donations have already made such a difference for the children of Angelitos.
I took paint chips up to the home on Sunday before we went for our swim and it looks like they're leaning toward a light shade of rosy coral, which will definitely brighten up that gloomy place (currently painted a rather peculiar shade of navy blue, with an acid-green kitchen). Labour is cheap here so I'm pricing out how much it would cost to hire some people to sand the interior walls before we paint, as I would NOT like that job.
We took one of the little guys - Jairo, who is eight - to the doctor on Sunday after other volunteers raised concerns about a pretty big wound he got on his leg from tripping into a hole in the concrete while carrying water down the steep back steps. Unfortunately, too many days had gone by for him to get the stitches he should have had, but the doctor said the wound is healing well. I've now decided to keep a closer eye on any injuries the kids get, as the woman who runs Angelitos tends to lean toward do-it-yourself medical care as a way of saving money. The kids are healthier than you'd expect in that place, but a little more medical oversight would be a very good thing.
Took a beautiful new washing machine up to Angelitos on Friday, thanks to a generous donation from my cousin Terry Lisson. The good old albanil who did the bathroom project came up today to install a drain pipe for the washer, so I imagine the women at Angelitos are already putting that machine to good use even as I write this. This photo shows why they are so happy to have a washer - this is the stack of laundry they had waiting to be washed Friday, and this is small compared to some days.
We went through the how-to manual with the woman who will be in charge of using the washer, as my impression is that nobody who works there has ever had an automatic washer before. That is quite likely true of most people here in Copan! Thanks so much for the incredible support we have received for this project. Guess the time has come to start painting the downstairs, which I admit I have been putting off.
We've just passed the $7,000 mark in our fundraising, thanks to all of you! With the bathroom/water project complete now , I wanted to provide a bit of an accounting so you know where the money is going.
All in, the big project cost $5,386 - quite a lot of money down here but a fraction of what a project of this size would have cost in Canada. Most of that went to materials, with labour taking just $750 of the total (and there was a BIG construction team working on the project at its peak). There will be some ongoing costs associated with maintenance, as we've already had a few broken valves, tubes, toilet blockages and more - the price of bored kids without enough staff to monitor them.
We've been doing twice-a-month swims since July. Each swim is about $30 because the mean hotel guy won't give us a better discount, with another $10 or so for food (sandwiches, fruit, juice) for a little pool-side picnic. On the alternate Sundays I generally do some other activity with the kids but it's either free or pretty cheap.
We're also spending about $10 a week in other needs for Angelitos - vegetables, diapers, laundry soap, clothes for the kids, sanitary pads for the older girls. And every now and then, like for Dia Del Nino, we do a splurgy treat like spending $40 for a big fried-chicken lunch, as all those tortillas and beans get pretty boring. Paul and I are basically funding these swim/food/supplies costs, as it's clear that we'll need the donations generated through this page to cover the capital costs of the bigger projects at the home.
Next: Buying a washing machine for about $450, although I'll be using my own money for that, having sold a freelance piece in Canada! And we're in prep mode to paint the inside of Angelitos. I'll be enlisting some of the older kids to help with that, as I think they'd love to participate. After that, it's looking like there will be enough money to get that new ceramic floor laid downstairs, at a cost of about $1,500.
Thank you, thank you for all your support! And please feel free to ask any questions about how I'm spending your money.
I popped up to Angelitos today for the first time in a couple weeks, as Paul and I had been away on a little holiday in Guatemala. Aside from one of the kids turning off the valve in the big water tank and almost burning out the pump as a result, all is well! And the kids were so happy to see me, it made me realize that what's most important to them is that a pleasant, well-meaning adult comes along regularly to take them on some fun outings.
They had more of that going on in the summer months when there were several young Americans hanging out with the kids, but we're in the down season bow and the kids are feeling it. They'd really have no outings besides church on Sunday if it weren't for the "gringo" volunteers who come around.
Thanks so much for your donations that help us pay the $25 entry fee for the every-other-Sunday trips we take with them to the swimming pool - got one of those coming up this weekend. Your support is also helping pay for the various goods I bring with me whenever I visit. Today it was a pack of 50 disposable diapers and a couple packs of sanitary pads, two items that nicely demonstrate the age range at the home right now!
We hit the playground at the children's museum last weekend - it's a tiny, rusty place full of places to get hurt, but the kids love it and all 11 of them had a blast!
Nothing but raves from the children about the new bathrooms, especially the hot showers. The home smells so much better now that there are proper traps on all the drains, and the staff are greatly relieved to be able to count on a consistent water supply now that we've got sufficient storage in the big new tank.
I'm off to Guatemala for a week's holiday today and then will be getting onto the next two projects - a new washing machine (well, they don't actually have an OLD washing machine, and just wash by hand right now) and then painting the downstairs. Thanks for your support!
The water's flowing! It all came together on Saturday, when the big tank upstairs finally filled. Hallelujah! Because of the undersized water pipe in the street that the city put in, there could still be water problems from time to time, but the big new pipe that catches rainwater from the roof and directs it into the cistern will help with that for much of the year. We took the kids swimming on Sunday and several of the older ones were talking happily about being able to have showers, a total luxury - especially with hot water, which is possible because of the funny little shower heads they use down here that have tiny electric burners built in to heat the water as you use it (surprisingly effective - we've got one at our house). Thanks again to everyone for all the support, and as soon as I rest up from this project we'll get going on painting the downstairs. I also sold a freelance piece back in Victoria recently and am going to use that money to buy a washing machine for the place, as it's just plain crazy to be hand-washing so much laundry every day.
Almost there! The new doors are on, making it SO much nicer to be able to get into Angelitos without first having to fight your way through the six inches of space that the creaky door would allow. And the bathrooms are finished except for the installation of the toilet downstairs (waiting for delivery). The giant new water tank is in place and the cistern out front looks great, and now has a big lip and a proper lid so the street runoff doesn't just pour in.
However, there's no water at the moment! We thought the problem was a broken or clogged pipe in the street, but it now appears that it's a problem either with the pump or with the tubes that run from the cistern into Angelitos. Nelson's taking a look today. We're also exploring running a pipe from the roof into the cistern so the rainwater collects there, as water problems are common at Angelitos.
Big party up at the home yesterday for Dia Del Nino - we brought the fixings for fried chicken and potato salad and the woman across the way cooked it. The photo with this update is of the kids digging into their chicken lunch - they loved it! And that's the new door in the background, made out of cedar so it will last. Thanks to all of you for making this project possible.
I suspect anyone who has ever gotten involved in a big renovation project can empathize with the little clutch of dread I feel whenever my phone rings these days and I see that it's the contractor calling. He's a great guy doing exceptional work, but in a rundown place like Angelitos, it seems that every improvement just pulls back the veil on six other things that really need fixed, too. Just cleared the way today for the contractor to to fix a sub-standard runoff pipe that spills rainwater into the children's bedroom in every storm - and there are storms pretty much every day here during the rainy season. He's also going to build a small sink upstairs in a kind of kitchen area (the room pictured in this photo) so that the staff don't have to run up and down two flights of stairs carrying water and dishes every time they're at the wood stove cooking tortillas.
See that new concrete floor in the photo? That's the reinforced floor where the new 2,500-litre water tank will be going later this week. And that's Rosario and Chola helping out at the little wood stove. Bathrooms are looking marvelous - in a few days I'll post before/after photos on my blog, as this site doesn't have great options for displaying photos.
You know a project's on when the credit card comes out, which happened this morning. Here are my new buddies Nelson Rodriguez (right) and Ovidio Mayorga, manager of Casa Constructor, where we just bought $2,500 worth of materials for the bathroom/water system renos. Nelson is the albanil - the mason - who will be doing the work, which he hopes to complete in two weeks. I now know more than I ever wanted to about urinals, different types of flushers on toilets, the best size of pipe for moving water, and how to make a sink child-resistant. I'll head up to Angelitos tomorrow for photos of the work in progress. Thanks again for all your support - this exciting project wouldn't have happened without you!
Patience was never my strong suit, but I hope we'll soon have a resolution to where to locate the water tank. Once the project is underway, the work will go quickly, the albanil promises me - 15 days. We went around to the local construction store to get the estimate done for all materials, so it feels like we're moving (slowly) forward. The albanil walked me through the bathrooms he built at one of the local schools to demonstrate that he knows how to build them tough!
It'll be so great when the children finally have functioning bathrooms, showers (how can they possibly manage without showers or baths?), and a water supply that isn't just pumped up from what's essentially a hole in the street that catches all the filthy runoff, animal manure, crop chemicals and garbage that flows down the hill every time the rains come.
Glad I braced myself for unexpected challenges, seeing as a fairly significant one has already emerged around getting the bathrooms fixed. The real problem is the water system at Angelitos, which requires a new 2,500 litre water tank to set things right. But the locals working with me on the bathroom renos note that the upstairs floor at the hogar likely can't support the 5,000-pound weight of that new tank - and wouldn't you know it, the children's bedroom is directly underneath where the tank would be located! So it appears we'll now have to look for a way to put the tank outside Angelitos on its own support pillars - not an easy problem to resolve when there's no obvious place to do that. But hey, haven't I always said I really enjoy solving problems?
A happy day today - I've finally found an abanil (a mason) and we toured through Angelitos this morning so he could get a look at the two bathrooms and the inadequate water system. As you might expect, the bathrooms looked even worse when I was seeing through the eyes of strangers paying their first visit to the hogar.
The albanil is going to give me an estimate in the next few days and hopefully we'll get started soon. I'm expecting the whole thing will be quite an adventure, and probably not always a good one, but the albanil comes well-recommended by both the locals and some "gringos" here in Copan who have worked with him. Apparently he built some very sturdy bathrooms for one of the biggest schools in town - 1000 kids - so I'm going to go to the school next week and take a look.
Great to be connecting with other volunteers here in Copan who are also supporting the children of Angelitos. There's a New Zealand woman - a special education teacher - who is in town for the next five months doing programs four days a week at Angelitos for the children under five. She came with us to the pool yesterday and brought peanut butter and jam sandwiches and veggies for the nine kids we had along with us. Amazing to see the changes in the children as they blossom under all this attention! Now to get on with some of the physical improvements to the rough building where they live. It turns out to be VERY challenging to organize trade work in Copan - it's all about working through someone you know to find a good person and then hoping they show up as planned. All of which means having to wait for others to make your project a priority - never easy. But hey, I'm persistent.
The kids loved their visit yesterday with a big Canadian contingent in Copan for a couple days - former Cuso International volunteer Gaetane Carignan and her family. Here in Honduras for Gaetane's marriage to a Honduran man, the family came to Angelitos bearing giant suitcases full of clothes, toys and other goodies they'd brought from Canada for the children.
We're at the halfway point in our fundraising - thanks for all the support! I've got a meeting with a plumber next week to get a quote for getting those two bathrooms functional.
The mattress project will soon be underway, although there's less urgency at the moment because another donor has wrapped some thin foamies in plastic and all the beds at least have some kind of mattress on them. Some of the plastic is already falling off, unfortunately - the smaller kids really work away at the tape, underlining why we want durable plastic that's already in a tube shape so we don't need to tape it.
I think we'll add new toilets as a project. Did a bathroom tour at Angelitos today (not pleasant!) and only one of the three bathrooms is in any kind of functional order. One doesn't even have water pipes - just a big barrel of water that the kids scoop into the toilet to do a flush. There are no functioning showers, and the sink in one bathroom has been torn off the wall. We'll get a plumber up soon to give us a quote and see what can be done.
We've got the swims going. We went to the pool yesterday with 13 kids from Angelitos - quite a handful, but a couple of young American women who are here volunteering in Copan joined us and helped out. The kids had a blast, and I can't believe how quickly they learn to swim! There's a little hot-tub size pool (not hot, though) for the littler ones, so everybody gets the chance to swim. We'll be going again in two weeks, with some of the kids who didn't get a chance to go this time.
I've just added some contacts to this page in hopes that my updates will automatically go to these people - NOT because I want them to give me money (for one thing, many of them already have!) but just because they're a group of people who I think might want to follow what I'm up to and possibly check out this type of fundraising for their own projects. However, I'd love some feedback from all of you as to what you get from this site - I don't want anyone to feel like they're getting inundated with messages, and I'm happy to take you off the contact list if you prefer.
Off to the pool today with the kids!
Mattress project underway!
Thanks to the generous donations that have already come in, I can start the mattress project immediately. Hoping to go to San Pedro Sula with one of my co-workers next week to buy the special plastic, and the store that sells the 5-inch foam mattresses we'll be using says no problem on bringing in 30 quickly. Update to come on how Paul and I do on the wrapping part...
I've been pricing out some of the basic items that Angelitos uses every single day - here's a list of those costs in Copan. The currency in Honduras is lempiras but I've converted to dollars:
2 lbs masa for making corn tortillas: $1
5 lbs rice: $2.90
5 lbs. beans (a dietary mainstay): $2
5-lb tin of Nido powdered milk for children: $22
Half a pound of Honduran cheese: $2.50
A month of propane for cooking: $51
A month of purified water: $47
A month of corn for tortillas: $103
Pack of 50 disposable diapers: $8.70
15 bars of laundry soap (the home goes through as many as three a day!): $6
Tub of dishwashing soap: $1.70
This project has now wrapped up, as Jody Paterson and Paul Willcocks have returned to Canada after more than two years in Copan Ruinas, Honduras. Find some of the blogs Jody wrote here about Angelitos and the wonderful collection of characters who call Angelitos home.
A gift from the employees of North American Tungsten in the Northwest Territories, who work with my son-in-law Brad Jamieson and responded so generously to his request for donations for the children of Angelitos to buy school uniforms.
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