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.
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.