May 25, 2013

We Are Family - 5/25 (our last post from Roatan, Honduras)

When we first arrived at the Children's Home here at Sandy Bay, Orsy and Banessa said something that we all could see right from the beginning.  "This is not an orphanage, " Orsy conveyed with real compassion in his voice.   "No, this is a home," and he added as if right from a vinyl record out of the 1970s ......
"We are family!"

8 days later we have an even better idea of what that all means.  What a joy and a privilege it has been to be invited and so warmly received into their home and into their family.  Ask our students who are returning home today what they liked best about their trip and most will say the hugs every night from the children or just hanging out and playing with them.  That's what a family does, hang out, hug, play together.  Orsy, Banessa, even Blanca, the cook, love these children unconditionally as if they were their own.  The children in return are free and comfortable to share love with each other and with others through smiles and laughter and a continual barrage of hugs and high fives.  What a beautiful lesson.  God has lavished His love upon us how can we not open our arms to others?

Last night we got to take everyone out to Wendy's for a special farewell dinner.  Yes, they actually have a Wendy's here on the island, crazy I know. We all went - all the students, all the children, all the staff at the home - all of us one big (40+) happy family! But it wasn't the papas fritas, or the cold soft drinks that made the night great (though I've got to admit the Frosties were pretty good). It was just being together as a family, having fun, that's what made it so special.

As we are getting set to leave later today and return home to our own families in the States, it is this love and willingness to share that I am hopeful all of our Seniors will return with from Honduras.  More than just a Senior Project, I am hopeful that what the students learned here will stay with them for a lifetime.

Can't wait to see everyone soon.

God Bless!  Thanks for a wonderful trip!

*Orsy and Banessa will be coming to the States in September to have their annual meeting with the Children's Home board.  We are hopeful they'll be able to stay with us for a night or two and come to talk to John Carroll School (as we are hoping to bring another group here next year).  We'll make sure we send out an email to all our Seniors and their families about the date so you can come see them.

1.) Wednesday after Graduation Practice we'll all be meeting for an hour or two to set up our groups' Senior Project display for Thursday night.
2.) we've talked quite a bit about Senior Project Presentations but if anyone needs assistance please feel free to email or call at anytime next week.

* I woke up this morning at about 5 am with about 15 of the children singing happy birthday en Espanol outside my window! I thought what an amazing gift, so from the bottom of my heart I want to thank all the students and the parents for allowing Amy and I to be part of your Senior Project; it has been one of the best weeks of our lives.   Now the best part is coming home tonight to our own little family. Grace, Ellie, Manna, and Sojo you are God's most precious gift to us.  Love you girls, and we'll be sneaking in to give you a kiss tonight while you are sleeping.

It's Fair to Say the Fair Went Great

"A unique and special experience difficult to fully capture in words..."

For our last full day in Honduras, we had an opportunity to visit a local school and put on a fair for the studentsThe school was up near the impoverished community that we had visited earlier this week. We would need to drive by the same trash dump we had seen earlier this week, reminding us that even getting to school can
sometimes be a challenge for  these students.

It's fair to say that we all have a greater appreciation for our schools physical space and structure.  We have a beautiful campus back home that is well maintained by our hard working staff. 

Today, Matt and Matt lead the charge for our team going shopping early in the morning for hotdogs, cookies, and punch with Orsy (a real treat for the kids to hand out at the end of the fair).  We had planned on approximately 60 kids though only about 30 made it to school on this day. (Apparently Friday attendance is a problem in all different cultures). 

But even with the lower numbers, we weren't deterred and actually saw it as a blessing as we would be able to give more attention to those that were there. Rebecca Driver translated our welcome and then we started our program. We sang a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner (well at least something seemed to stir), then shared a prayer (the Padre Nuestro) and finished with singing Amazing Grace.  

Then we broke into four teams that would rotate to four stations.  Two students lead 7 or so students per team (Scott and Jon lead the Stinkin' Cheetahs,  Brian and Rebecca were at the the reigns of the Negro Caballo team, Leanne and Matt Ryan ran the Gerbil Gang, and the Garrett and Julia lead Team Turtle into action).  Then we had students at four different stations (Matt ran the Frisbees/Jump rope area, Jordan was in charge of Soccer, Meghan and Darien lead the face
painting and art, and Ciara and Becca were in charge of the play dough and dry erase station.)  The kids loved it and it was a welcome break from a typical Friday. In the end we were able to leave a ton of much needed and much appreciated school supplies for the school (along with some JC frisbees, jump ropes and soccer balls).  

We ended with small prizes for each student and a lunch to boot.  Lots of laughs,  lots of smiles, lots of fun! 

And even better in the end, we were all treated to a site none of us had ever seen before...

With the sweltering heat beating down on us you couldn't help but look up. Only when you did, you were greeted with the rare phenomenon of a rainbow encircling the sun. (I apologize to all you Earth Science teachers out there as I am sure there is a more technical term. I'm sure Mr. Perry will 'enlighten' me when we get home.) 

All the students tried to catch a picture of the circular rainbow but it was hard to capture on camera I thought what a perfect analogy for our trip... A unique and special experience difficult to fully capture in words or on camera... but still worth trying!

May 24, 2013

Nothing "Common" About Our JC Community

John Carroll isn't just a school... it's a community, and an uncommon one at that. Many schools nowadays try to cater to one skill set or interest.  Others have a business approach promising a lot up front, only to pull the bait and switch on you for four years.

But I can honestly tell you that in over twenty five years of being part of JC (first as a student and now as a teacher) we are more of a community than a business.  Our school is more of a Thanksgiving meal than a Store front on Black Friday. We are a community, and an uncommon one at that. 

We've tried to remind the students here in Honduras that they are here representing this uncommon community; one that sacrificed to send them abroad to help others, one that pulls together to support the dreams of young adults.

There are honestly too many people to thank for helping us get here
(so please forgive me if I forget someone) but just for starters...

*thank you parents for raising these young men and women, entrusting them to us, and supporting them to go on such a wonderful journey of service. Your trust in, your sacrifice for, and your investment in your children is beautiful.

* thank you Ms. Ball for supporting the trip and the idea of creating an  international service program.

* thank you Mrs. Geczy for all your love and support for the whole Senior class (I want to be the teacher that you are).

* thank you to all the teachers who have supported us in so many ways....

- The Ladies Sewing Group at school (included are pictures of the sheets, pillow cases, and curtains you made and sent.  The children are so thankful!) 

- Anne McMahon (this blog wouldn't be happening without her. Thank you Anne !)

- Sandia Seiler (for helping with the ESL material for the children)

- Bruno Baran (for helping with the art supplies for the children)

- Erik Frabriziani and Karen (for helping with our med kit and supplies)

- Susan Garcia and the Spanish Club (for helping with the face books so our students could share their home life with the children here).

- Laura Lang (for helping us apply for and get a grant and do a fundraiser to help the overall cost of the trip)

- For all the teachers, students, family and friends who came out to the TGIF fundraiser (and for all the teachers who were back home subbing for me this week. )

- And finally to my Mom (our daughters call her Gramcracker) who sacrificed to put me through John Carroll almost twenty five years ago and is home now watching our four precious girls.  Love you Mom.

I know there might be someone I forgot and for that I'm sorry.   My hope with this post was just to make sure people know that many many people were part of making this Senior Project trip happen.  What a beautiful picture of what a community is suppose to be.

It's not really common anymore for people to put others first,  to serve without being worried about what is in it for me, to help even when you don't know how your help will help.

We, John Carroll Patriots, are a community... an uncommon one at that.  People have given selflessly to make this trip happen, so many have supported, encouraged, and helped the Seniors with their project, and I couldn't be prouder of this Senior Project group.

Thank you all for helping us help others. Nothing is common about our JC  Community! 

Catching Our Breath and Then Having It Taken Away Again

Today we had an opportunity to take in a little of the island and learn more about Honduras.  In planning the trip, we set apart a day to see the rest of the island and learn about the country and the Bay Islands - the largest of which is Roatan where we are staying.

Orsy drove us around while Banessa and Blanca stayed with the kids here.  He gave us a great tour and really shared a lot about the culture and history (Roatan is about 34 miles long and only 3 miles at its widest though some places it is only a few hundred yards at its widest).  Some of the views of the island will take your breath away. 

What is amazing is the mixture of extreme poverty not too far from some serious wealth.  We visited one 'resort' that was only a few miles from the destitute community we were at yesterday.  We saw gigantic cruise ships parked literally next to tiny rickety fishing boats. And of course there's the trash everywhere.  The students are convinced that the one thing we do right in the States is hide our trash well.  Here trash is everywhere, even right outside the fancy resorts there is a trail of once treasured plastic leading to the gates.

We also got to take a canoe ride through an amazing trove of mangroves and the more adventurous among us (or crazy depending on your point of view) went out and climed around even doing some jumps into some beautiful crystal blue waters at the end.  We finished our excursion to the West End - the more touristy part of Roatan.  I think it was a good idea to have the tour to let the students catch their breath and to really see all the sides of Roatan.

We ended the day returning back here to the Children's Home and getting to have a little fun with the kids.  The ladies did a 'beauty night' with the girls painting their toes and fingers.  (Watching Leanne paint Stefanie's toes or Meghan paint Diana's fingers was a precious moment.) The children here are happy and loved but it is definitely a treat for some focused personal attention.  Also I am sure that while our students are giving they are also taking plenty away from the children here as well; finding joy in small things, having gratitude in all things.

As for the guys... We wrestled around with the boys for a bit (again that focused personal attention) and then had a play dough contest to be judged by the girls through secret ballot.  (Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Cadden! If Brian makes it big as a play dough artist you will know where it all began).

All and all it was a great day -  lots of chances to reflect on life and on our journey here.  There have been lots of beautiful 'take your breath away'  moments, but the best part is it's not from the beautiful beach or the view on the mountain top looking down.  It's here, in the everyday valley, where you better have your arms open so you can get a hug before going to bed; Or where a soccer ball, a bag of food,  or even just a simple smile can convey more than any word ever could.  It's here with the kids.

God has been so good to us to have this time here with them. And as we keep reminding each other... don't blink, because we'll be gone before we know it.  I'm just hoping someday some of us will make it back and be able to have our breath taken away again.  

May 23, 2013

The Most Difficult Thing So Far (Part 2)

By the Girls..

Meghan Thompson
The most difficult thing so far has been the bus ride. I'm always squished in sitting between some sweaty person and the heater.  But the view is great.

Darien Exter
The most difficult thing so far has been the weather because I get headaches real easily.  I'm doing okay but seriously it is hot here.

Leanne Ches
The most difficult thing so far has been knowing that we're only here for a week.  I wish we could stay longer.

Ciara Wilson
The most difficult thing so far has been probably adjusting to the heat I'm kinda use to it now but it's just muggy.

Amy Hollin
The most difficult thing so far has been missing my four beautiful daughters.  We will be back soon though!

Rebecca Kotula
The most difficult thing so far has been showering and then sweating before I am even done and then putting on sticky sunscreen and bug spray... and then sweating some more.

Jordan Clarke
The most difficult thing so far has been thinking of leaving the kids on Saturday.  We've gotten so close to them in such a short period of time; it's going to be really hard to say goodbye.

Rebecca Driver
The most difficult thing so far has been adjusting to the different food it made me feel a bit queasy. 

Julia Mrowiec
The most difficult thing so far has been adjusting to the view at the clinic.  (I'll explain later). 

The Most Difficult Thing So Far (Part 1)

Sat down tonight and started talking about the fact that life is not always easy and how we respond is just as important as what happened.  In Honduras life just... happens, and many times life might 'appear difficult' only to lead you to deeper gratitude, renewal of a desire to serve,  and ultimately trusting that God is in control (because we know we are not).

Below are the boys responses to the question 'what has been the most difficult thing for you so far?'

By the Boys...

Matt Ryan
The most difficult thing for me so far was helping to do the lighting in the kitchen.  It was really hard but I worked for my Dad's company last Summer and was able to put some of what I learned there to work here.  It was pretty cool.

Garrett Porte
The most difficult thing for me so far was visiting the  community where we gave out the food. It was really hard to witness first hand that level of poverty.  But it was really an amazing experience.

Scott Strappelli
The most difficult thing for me so far was just trying to serve while adapting to change in climate, culture, and food. 

Brian Cadden
The most difficult thing for me so far was chewing the Iguana eggs.  The inside wasn't bad, it tasted like a regular egg but it was really chewy on the outside. 

Jon Leishman
The most difficult thing for me so far was  how hot it was when we were working on and painting in the kitchen.  I got paint all over my pants and couldn't stop sweating. 

Matt Linck
The most difficult thing for me so far was learning the hard way that you should put on sunscreen more than once when you are in the Caribbean.  And then Emmanuel, the 16 month old, gave me a good slap on it, ouch! (Don't worry Mom, I'm ok). 

Mr. Hollin
The most difficult thing for me so far has really just been missing my daughters back home. This has been the longest we've ever been apart.

Stay tuned for our next post....
When the GIRLS will answer the same question..."What has been the most difficult thing for you so far?

"Shaping a More Just and Compassionate Global Society..."

Part of our school mission statement says "Our secondary school community  develops young men and women of moral integrity and prepares them to serve responsibly in shaping a more just and compassionate global society."

That is a mouthful! And to be quite honest it sounds a bit fancy or maybe even  forced.  Don't get me wrong I am pretty sure I was on a  committee that chose at least some of those words, but were we being a bit too bold? Too ambitious? Can we really define moral integrity? How does someone shape an entire global society?

Well, as a famous Supreme Court Justice once said "I know it when I see it!"

Whether our mission statement is just a lofty goal or a compass for a community on an unending journey,  I think it is fair to say here today in Honduras I saw that part of our mission statement lived out through 14 amazing young adults.

Today we did our community food distribution. Visiting the poorest of the poor in hopes of bringing a little bit of hope; we had a chance to deliver some food the students had bought to those who really need it.

Orsy, the director and father of the Children's Home, took a group out shopping for food earlier in the day and with bags packed and eyes and hearts opened, we set out. What's amazing was here we are to help at the home and they really feel it is important to help others who are even more in need then they are.

Our drive into 'the bush' was really only 2-3 miles away from the Sandy Bay Lighthouse Ministries Children's Home where we are staying.  But in truth, it seemed as far away in another sense as Roatan did from America before we arrived. On the drive there we were inundated with the sights and smells of real poverty.  The Hurretts community of about 90-100 people, where we were headed, is located not far from the only trash dump on the island of Roatan. It quickly quieted in the car other than an occasional in take of breath.  More than a few men scoured across the top of the trash heep looking for anything of value that could be sold. (Orsy told us later that a hundred plastic bottles can fetch something of the order of 1 Limpiria -  basically the equivalent of. 05 cents.) 

The Hurretts like many folks on Roatan speak both Spanish and some English but live much simpler lives than most.  Primarily they are self subsisting - fruit trees in the bush, armadillo when caught (we saw some but didn't eat any) and fishing when a trip to the far away ocean can/is to be made. Most of the families we brought food to there were simply 'not making it'.  Some seemed malnourished or broken physically (literally one man I had talked to had a mangled arm broken years ago and never fixed) some seemed exhausted and perhaps broken spiritually (we saw far fewer smiles then we've become accustom to at the Children's Home.)

Many of the recipients of our food bags were grateful but looked as though the weren't quite sure what to make of these strange yet friendly American faces.  We got invited inside some of their homes (really nothing more than a tiny shack with little room to move), got to pray with some, and most importantly just got to share that we were here because we have been blessed so we want to be a blessing.

Our students were great.  Who knows what to say when looking into the eyes of someone truly needy? Who knows if beans and rice can truly communicate love and compassion? Who knows if this is what it means to shape a more just and compassionate global society?

....  But I do know, do hope, that we are a little bit closer today than yesterday. 

* "Our Father who art in Heaven hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven." 

May 22, 2013

Service Projects and Serving Iguana..... Oh my!

Some of us were awoken today with squeals of delight as Blanca, the cook at the home, was showing off some amazing iguanas outside. She had bought four from the man who hunts for them in the bush. (gross out disclaimer for those who might get queasy easily, the iguanas were not for pets. But more on that at the end of the post)

After breakfast, Julia, Leanne, Rebecca, and Ciara went to the local clinic, Clinic Esperanza, with Amy. The Clinic is a totally different experience then the Children's Home. We knew the children at the home were fortunate but it was pretty eye opening. Long lines and people waiting hours to be seen is the norm. We spent sometime entertaining the kids waiting to be seen but our supplies disappeared quickly. Worried that we might not have work, we were put to work quickly after a brief tour. Sorting medicine of all sorts and making sure donations were sorted kept us plenty busy. The team is going back on Thursday but it is probably safe to say we won't be taking our health care in the States for granted when we return home.

While the one team was busy at the Clinic, the rest of the group was at work at the home. The girls cleaned, painted, and organized a pantry while the boys did some rehab work in the kitchen. The pantry and the whole kitchen project in general has been a real labor of love (and of sweat). After the kitchen work some of the team went down with some of the children to clean the drive plus the soccer field. The home allows the community to use their field in front, but apparently after soccer the national pastime is throwing trash anywhere you please. Not exactly a safe or clean environment for twenty plus orphans. So we were able to be a blessing and do some major cleanup.

Well of course we have to end the story of the day with the iguanas. As suggested earlier the iguanas were not for pets. Apparently iguana is a prized dish in Honduras (as are the iguana eggs). So for dinner tonight with your beans and rice could have fish or iguana. Cooked in a curry stew it really was pretty good (or at least not too bad). About half the team tried it. We'll leave it up to them to tell you who did and who didn't! :-)

All and all another amazing day under the Honduras sun. We finished the evening with a talent show - boys with a soothing rendition of Take Me Home West Virginia and girls with some cup flipping, Jason Mraz singing, and imitating of the boys. A rousing game of partner Simon says (or is that Simon dice in Espanol) with the children closed out the evening. Simon didn't have to say hug your partner good night as there were plenty of hugs abounding as we headed off to bed.

The Girls' Best Moments So Far....Part 2

The Girls' Best Moments So Far....

by Leanne Ches
Best moment so far was when we were helping at the clinic. We sorted medicine and took care of some of the little ones. One of the little girls at the clinic came up to me and just gave me a hug and said I love you.

by Meghan Thompson
Best moment so far was when Gaby drew a picture of me with her. It was so special. (she spelled my name really wrong but hey that's okay). But honestly I just love all the kids.

by Rebecca Driver
Best moment so far for me was playing with the orphans at the beach. They were so much fun, laughing and giggling.

by Darien Exter
Best moment so far was painting. It was fun to see their ideas come to life.

by Jordan Clarke
Playing soccer for long hours. A bunch of older kids came from the community and we were all out their playing together. It was so much fun

(by the way she is too modest to say but it was tied 6 to 6 and Jordan hit a perfect strike from 20 yards out and scored the winning goal! Her first International goal!)

by Amy Hollin
Best moment so far watching the ladies clean and paint the pantry. They were amazing. We cleaned it painted it, and organized it in a few hours.

by Julia Mrowiec
Best moment so far was probably the beach. Loved swimming with the kids.

by Ciara Wilson
Best moment so far was playing charades with the kids at the home one night. Also it was so funny giving out 'Canada rocks' tattoos at clinic.

by Becca Kotula
Best moment so far was just about every moment we are with the kids. I just loved how on the very first day all the kids ran to us and gave us big hugs.

May 21, 2013

Best Moments So Far in Honduras--Part 1

Best moments from the boys...*

by Garrett Porte
Best moment so far playing with the kids in the water, it was cool actually just playing with them and being on this beautiful beach. I was surprised with how comfortable they were with us right away and how they just wanted to be loved

by Scott Strappelli
Best moment so far the passion is witnessed at the church we visited. It was just awesome how much they were excited to be worshipping God. I loved how they welcomed us, it made me feel like we are all part of God's family.

By Matt Ryan
Best moment so far playing Soccer with the kids. Even though Garrett recked me (I guess he didn't understand it wasn't American football). But it was a lot of fun. They loved all the games we brought (frisbees, whiffle balls and bats and of course a bunch of soccer balls.) They are crazy good at soccer.

By Brian Cadden
Best moment so far is when I was reading books with the kids. This girl named Destiny and another little girl named Diana were reading with me and it was nice to be able to help them

By Matt Linck
Best moment so far was doing Arts and Crafts with Danny, Angel, and Carlos. It was cool to see how excited they got when we brought out the paint, play do, and puzzles.

By Jon Leishman
Best moment so far is when I went snorkeling with a one of the kids named Richard. I'll always remember just swimming with him, holding his hand and seeing the world through his eyes.

By Mr. Hollin
Best moment so far was watching all the boys sweaty and tired painting Blanca's kitchen a light sky blue that resembles the expansive sky outside. Made me proud to be with them.

* to come tomorrow (or whenever Internet access can be found)....
- girls' best moments so far
- clinic report from health team
- community food distribution by all

May 20, 2013

Monday afternoon (May 20)

Rebecca, Ciara, Leanne, and Julia left early this morning with Amy after some bananas and cereal to work at the clinic. They should be there most of the day and are hoping to help some of the local children in need of care.

The rest of us stayed here and did a combination of work. The boys used some of their muscle and scrubbed down the whole kitchen (and prepared it for painting which we'll be doing this afternoon). Moms - you'd be proud of your boys. I told them I would make sure their moms knew they were ready to clean kitchens when they get back home to the States.

The girls and some guys mixed in a combination of arts and crafts and reading with the children all morning. Meghan's art projects and Becca's books have been a huge hit. Darien has probably painted a million pictures, Jon helped create masterpieces with the play do, and Brian reading to a seven year old would melt even the hardest heart.

I was reflecting today our saying of Patriots Do. And honestly I can say I have been amazed at what these Patriots are doing. They are doing much more than reading, painting, helping at a local clinic. These Patriots Do show compassion, do bridge cultural gaps with kindness, do their best to serve and bless. Moms and Dads you should be proud. Ms. Ball and teachers and staff you should be proud, our community should be proud. You all have poured your very best into them and they in turn are pouring it out here for the children of Roatan (not to mention a few buckets of sweat too). They are all gems!

Till next time God Bless

PS - to my four GEMS back home. Mom and Dad love you and miss you. Remember be good and do good. Love you!
May 19

Greetings from Honduras!

Well we are here and it all seems a bit surreal. We plan and pray and one day wake up and you see 20 of the most beautiful children in the world staring in your window asking, ?Juegas el futbol?” Of course we play football. And before you know it Matt, Scott, and Garrett are down on the dusty, rocky field trying to keep up with 10 year olds.

Rebecca has Hannah playing with her hair, Jordan and Megan are swarmed with about four girls climbing all over them.

Welcome to the Sandy Bay Children’s Home.

We flew in safely yesterday and were warmly greeted by Orsy the host father for all the children. Orsy and his wife Vanessa are two of the most talented and kindest people we have ever met.

Our 14 John Carroll students have all been falling in love with the 20+ orphans in less than 24 hours.

So far so good here on the island. We’ve already played lots of soccer and gone to a 2.5 hour church service and have been swimming in the most beautiful water ever.

Internet and cell phone connection is spotty at best. So we may only post once or twice more.

But please know that we are safe and our John Carroll students are having a great time serving others being the hands and feet of Christ. Tomorrow some of the students are heading to the clinic, others are tutoring, and some are working in the sports camp.

Please keep us in your prayers.

Grace and peace,
Jake and Amy Hollin