What Does Family Mean to You?


To me, human connection is the most gratifying part of being alive. A saying that I’m sure you’ve heard a version of drives this home for me… “People don’t remember what you were wearing, what you were driving, or even what you may have said to them, but people will always remember how you made them feel.” I open with this because I believe that family extends much deeper than the traditional use of the word. Connection with another person through similar characteristics, goals, ambitions, circumstances and feelings is what family means to me. I’ve had the privilege of having multiple “extended” families, each of which I hold so close to my heart. These people make me feel strong, confident, capable and loved.


Of course, H4H falls into this category. I’ve been involved with this organization for a short amount of time, but have never felt such a strong connection with people who have similar interests. We are bonded through experiences that have touched our souls in ways really only we can truly understand. I’m writing this today to extend a hand to those who also hold this interest, to those who feel passion and inspiration and who want to help change the lives of people just like us. To be a part of a family who not only works together, but also provides structure and support to anyone and everyone who is a part of this circle of giving. With open arms, we welcome you to join us.


What does family mean to you? In light of current events, I’ve witnessed so many acts of kindness and togetherness as people strive to help each other out. Family members walking the neighborhood, neighbors purchasing groceries for those who are high risk, strangers creating masks for the public due to a shortage in supplies. A family we often take for granted … who show their faces in hard times. Connect with those around you, or find a sense of family within yourself. Your corner always has more in it than you may initially perceive.


Children In Need of a Mental Home

A Deeper Look into the Development of an Orphan

The media has trained us to see orphaned children in a particularly dim and ominous light; sad and destined for struggle; for hardship. Is this far from reality? I believe this is a question left in the hands of those who are in the position to mentor, raise or provide institution for any child.


As of 2015, UNICEF estimated that about 140 million children around the world are orphans, 10 million of these children come from Latin America. This term “orphan” refers to children who have lost one or both parents; not that they are in need of an institution, new family or care facility, though some may be. UNICEF differentiates this definition to try and raise awareness to families who are in need of support, such as a single grandparent who is unexpectedly now raising a young child. Without such support, these children may be subject to an institution after all.


Heart4Honduras focuses on children in San Pedro Sula who are in need of an institution, care team or mentor in order to have a home and stay off the streets.

Can a child who lives in an impersonal institution, or who is subject to any form of neglect (even children outside of the defined orphan), be continuously put at a disadvantage later in life? One of the most famous studies that examined orphaned children was a study conducted in Romania. Orphaned children were followed into their teenaged years, when they were taken in to complete imaging studies of their brains. This study found that these children who had been subject to orphanage had less white matter than comparable children in local families. Grossly, this meant these children had smaller brains than similar children who were not subject to orphanage. Nerve circuits involved in general cognitive performance, emotion, maintaining attention and executive function, and sensory processing were significantly impaired. The implication behind this fact is huge.


What does this mean?

These results were interpreted based on the assumption that these children did not have a significant, single parental figure. Instead, shift workers were responsible for caring for these children, and many times personal relationships were not formed. A child’s early developmental years are crucial for making such connections, though there is evidence that the loss of these connections can be reversible. What complicates this further is the element of stress : these children are introduced to chronic stressors such as feeling [mentally] alone, as well as a constant change in “home”. Stress primarily effects the hippocampus, which is thought to be the center for emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system. Although these are skills many of us take for granted, a child without the ability to trust another individual, control emotion, maintain attention or focus on their ability to control each decision they make … is a child who is set up for hardship.

Moving into a supportive, familial environment can teach a child to form deeply personal relationships, to trust, to hope. These are functions that can truly change the chemistry of the brain. When a person begins to a “hope”, there is a release of neurochemicals called endorphins and enkephalins which actually mimic the effects of morphine. This allows the brain to enter a sort of recovery mode, a mode which cannot be entered by those who are constantly in a reparation mentality.

To hope refers to a person’s goal oriented experiences. Someone who holds hope has an idea of what they want their future to look like. Hope can also be defined as a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful (a) agency (goal-directed energy) and (b) pathways (planning to meet goals). A paradigm shift like this is as important as an elementary education in terms of the development of a person.


It is for this reason Heart4Honduras places such an emphasis on the growth of the child, not only in providing resources for children in need. By educating children to be responsible, to provide service, and to understand that a whole cannot be made from anything but its smaller pieces, they can build essential interpersonal skills that will lead them to maintain a successful mindset and character. In helping to create new connections, we hope to offset those that were not able to thrive.

There is nothing more powerful than a child with confidence.

Limits are self imposed – lets create something great together.


https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/01/childhood-neglect-erodes-brain#

https://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2014/06/26/trauma-abuse-brain-matters

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28559191

The Side of Short Term Giving No One Talks About

I believe the desire to help others is innate. There are so many examples of programs, organizations, communities, and even careers based on the principle of servicing other human beings. The side of this idea of “help” that doesn’t see the spotlight too often is the definition of what it means to help a population in need. Although our hearts are in the right place, and our desire to be of service is present, our actions may have an opposing effect.


To shed light on this perspective, I think an example would be beneficial.


Hurricane Mitch was among the most devastating Atlantic hurricanes to date, which formed in 1998. This storm left about 1.5 million Hondurans homeless and directly caused 2 billion dollars of damage; an economic setback of about 50 years according to the President of Honduras at that time. This presented a huge opportunity to extend a hand and provide any amount of relief to a country in need. Many US missions set out for Central America to aid in rebuilding lost homes … using resources from our own country. On average, 30,000 US dollars were spent per home built, when it would have taken approximately 3,000 US dollars to build by using Honduran resources. The Sage Journal released a study from this very incident, which showed through self reporting, Honduran’s did not show preference between homes built by North American groups versus Honduran Christian organizations. Our way isn’t always the better way.

Our hearts are in the right place, we want to help where and when we can. This example shows the equivalent importance of understanding what help means to each population you encounter. Enter a mindset where you can consider the impact of any action you take. Here’s another example, this time is theoretical –

Consider traveling to a different country, and noting there are children who walk around without shoes. You’re informed there aren’t enough shoes to go around, and the kids don’t seem to mind being barefoot. Fast-forward and you’re sitting in your home; the image of these kids creating a desire within you to help. You start a shoe drive at all of your local churches and schools, informing those who donate that these shoes will go directly to children in need. You are successful, you’ve provided shoes to these kids and they LOVE them. You’ve changed a life, the following perspective does not change that fact. What you did not foresee in this act was the business in this country that makes and sells shoes to its citizens, who will now face losses because free shoes are made available to all. What was not accounted for was the opportunity to teach citizens a new trade, and to create sustainability and revenue that can give back to the economy of that country. This is simply an alternative perspective, to show that the needs of a community may not be for face value.


Heart4Honduras works toward this goal in different ways. Whenever we can use our monetary donations to purchase necessities while in Honduras, we do. This helps to stimulate the economy in Honduras, while still providing them with things they may need (you can look forward to an upcoming post outlining exactly where our monetary donations go).

We also employ this idea by working to provide a sustainable approach to learn english. By becoming fluent in english, these children become better candidates for employment. A reliable job is essential to stay off the streets; a multifaceted approach to helping generations. To do this, we provide these children a tablet with a software comparable to Rosetta Stone. In order to be eligible for this device, these children are required to write a letter to H4H explaining why learning english is important to them, and a promise to work toward achieving their dreams. This is one of many ways H4H employs mental growth.


Like any organization, we are continuously working to do the best we can to create positive change. At times this may result in adaptation, uncomfortable change and an altered mindset. The beauty of this is that the general principle will always stay the same : to provide hope for the future of Honduras. Step out of your comfort zone today and try to look at something in a different light, growth isn’t comfortable.


Limits are self imposed. Lets create something great together.

Tips for Your First Trip to Honduras

I don’t know about you, but when my life feels stagnant for any amount of time I get that itch to travel. How lucky are we that we get to travel for a great cause?


We would be so completely honored to be able to bring volunteers with us when we travel to San Pedro Sula to do what we love most: mentor and help to lead children to success. How ready are you to travel to Central America? If that question feels substantial, don’t worry … we have your back.

Follow these tips to be sure you are 110% ready for your first trip to Honduras


Visit a Travel Clinic

Here, health professionals can provide you with what you need to stay safe and healthy while you’re abroad. For Honduras, the following vaccinations / precautions are recommended before leaving the states:


vaccines: The CDC and WHO recommend the following vaccinations for Honduras: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever, rabies, meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia and influenza. To protect yourself from Malaria, antimalarial pills are taken orally.

Keep in mind Dengue, Malaria and Zika are present in Honduras, and are transmitted through mosquitos. Repellents and netting are highly recommended.

Be sure to pack a bag with simple first aid, such as bandaids and other bandages, Neosporin, Imodium (mild travelers diarrhea), insect repellent with deet, sunscreen with #30 SPF, antihistamines for possible allergy, and tylenol/ibuprofen. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or take daily medications, be sure to bring these as well.


Create a Packing List

If I skip this step, I never fail to regret it. Make a comprehensive list of everything you might need while you’re abroad. Here’s one we made for an upcoming trip :


Donations : Although we prefer to purchase materials in Honduras in order to stimulate their economy with our monetary donations, we often bring along items donated to our organization.

Personal Items : What do you use on a daily basis?

  • toothpaste & toothbrush, floss, mouthwash
  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, lotion
  • Makeup, chapstick, hair brush, hair bands
  • Everyday clothing, sun glasses, bathing suit, workout clothing (soccer!!), rain jacket
  • Sneakers, hiking boots, sandals
  • Backpack for the day, water bottle, camera, camera charger, phone charger
  • travel blanket, travel pillow, bag for used clothes.

To Do List Before Departure

Be sure you are prepared to leave by checking off your to-do’s. Call your bank and let them know you will be leaving the country (nothing worse than a locked card when you need it!). Call your doctor, maybe even schedule a visit to be sure you are healthy and ready to travel. Check twice to make sure you have valid identification, and your passport is up to date. Do you need someone to dog sit? Or maybe you have one last assignment to finish before putting schoolwork away for a week. Whatever it may be, make sure you plan and are prepared in order to leave the stress behind to be able to make the most of your trip.


Create an Itinerary/ Agenda

If you’re traveling with us, we’ve got you covered. Our trips typically consist of a day by day agenda with scheduled times for events. Everything down to lunch time is covered on our itinerary, from the time we step off of our front porch to the time our plan touches back down in BOS.

Tip: Add contacts, dates, locations and specific times to stay organized and make the most of your time abroad.

If you’re traveling outside of H4H, be sure to leave time to take in the surroundings. Honduras truly is one of Earth’s greatest treasures.


Be Prepared to Feel Inspired

It can be easy to get lost in the moment, we encourage you to. Bring a journal to write down your thoughts and experiences. Be raw with yourself and completely honest in your description of your feelings. You wont regret it.

Limits are self imposed. Lets create something great together.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

My first experience in Honduras is something I speak about often. I believe this to be the case because it was the very first time I had ever done something completely out of my comfort zone. I was 19 years old and had just finished my first year at Boston University, an experience in itself. My dream is to go to medical school and become a doctor, which is really what lead me to seek medical experience in an environment as raw a Tegucigalpa, though what I didn’t expect was the longing feeling to return once my plane touched down in Boston following the trip.

As I said before, this trip is something I speak about often, but if I’m being honest I most often refer to what this experience looks like on my resume. Approximately 60 hours of shadowed surgery, observation of extreme trauma, and exposure to a health care system with little support and insufficient resources; but that doesn’t even cover 70% of what I took away from my experience in this country.

I was housed by a family who can only be described as compassionate and amiable. Within just days I felt like I was a part of their family, of their home. They were so serious about providing me with an authentic experience; for 3 weeks I was living like a true Honduran. I am grateful to have formed lasting relationships with the Flores family, but even that is a story for another time.

What I really want to express today addresses the title of this post : actions speak louder than words. I was actually listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Manifest with Tori Desimone, when I finally realized that I have the power to put my dreams into action and to act on my goals. A nonprofit organization felt too big, certainly not tangible for a 21 year old girl who is in the process of applying to graduate schools. When I decided to change my mindset, the universe lead me to one of the kindness, most whole hearted women I’ve met, the very founder of this organization! Julie Sorensen was a huge reason I was able to take my first trip to Honduras, it only seemed logical to reach out to the mastermind behind the scenes of an already existing organization. I flooded her Facebook inbox (oops), but let me tell you I cannot be happier I did. My original intention was to have a mindful conversation with a person who started from ground 0, I wanted so badly to understand how to mold my ideas into practice.

Saturday morning, February 29, Julie welcomed me with open arms into H4H

What’s better than two people with separate organizations that have the same general goal? TEAMWORK. Joining forces. Creating change.

And there you have it. The action behind words I’ve been speaking for years. And I could not be more excited to have you join us.

With this integration will come a broader scope of our mission. An extension of the dedication of Julie and her counterparts into providing resources and education to work toward diminishing the cycle of poverty, malnutrition and resource insufficiencies these populations face.

Limits are self imposed. Lets build something great together.

Reaction

I have grown up in a Christian family all my life, have had the best example of parents, my mom has preached in many churches and my father is recognized as one of the exemplary doctors in San Pedro, which has helped thousands of children in the country, but … does that make me a good person?

At some point I have seen mistakes in my parents, to which they have always told me that they are not perfect, but every day they are under the change that Jesus makes in their lives. For many years it took me a while to believe this in my life and I could say that sometimes I even doubted my faith.

Last Sunday we did many experiments on how certain things react when merged, as well as vinegar and soda or Pepsi and mints. When these things merge, they come to react outside.

Likewise it is our lives when we have Jesus in our hearts, every cell of our body changes completely and everything we were, becomes different from what we will be, we will have afflictions, but that will not take away our joy, we will have pain , but we will have peace, we will have disappointments, but we will have consolation, our old life had an end; but our life in Jesus … will be eternal.

The Same Father

Sunday’s are our H4H Devotional Day at Sendoros de Amor. I spent a pleasant time talking with children and youth. I also took advantage to play soccer for an hour with them. It is good because not only does it develop their ability for sports, it also provides an opportunity for me to exercise.

Giovanna.jpeg

Mrs. Giovanna, the director of the children’s home, asked me to talk with a group of teens who are very rebellious. So, I spent a few minutes talking and advising them. One of the things I shared was in my teens I was very hyperactive. But… after years of experience, I learned to use all that crazy energy for good. I suggested they could focus their energy as well to develop something they really like, i.e. learning to draw, writing stories, writing songs, playing a sport or other positive things. 

At 5 pm, Ivan and I went to the supermarket and spent some time buying diapers for the special needs and snacks for Senderos. He shared many things, like how much he liked a girl but also about how he loved spending time volunteering and helping others.

When we arrived back at Senderos, they immediately asked me if we would have the service. I just had to laugh. I have told them many times it is only a devotional, but they love the idea of calling it a service, as if we were in a church.

Senderos kids2

We had snacks, then the devotional and at the end, we all closed our eyes. It was beautiful to feel we were all praying together. Even though we are different people from different families and different generations, at that very moment, we focused on honoring and talking with the same Father.

“No, I will not abandon you as orphans–I will come to you.” ~John 14:18

Our Happiness

In Honduras many children do not know what an iPad is, many children do not have video games in their lives, many people do not know what Netflix is, or what YouTube or Instagram is. We are in a time when technology absorbs us and we spend more time on our cell phone than with people whom we have the opportunity to share. Many people even have debts for having the latest cell phone with the best camera and they aren’t able to enjoy the nature and the small details that God gives us.

A few days ago, I was at Casa Hogar Senderos de Amor, on a very hot day. For those who do not know, San Pedro Sula is one of the hottest cities in Honduras, sweat is part of our daily life. All of a sudden, we saw that the sky become dark and a cold wind began moving the leaves of the trees and refreshing our body. A great storm of wind came and at that moment, I thought “we can not do any activity with the boys because the rain has arrived.” Just then, all the children came alive and we saw a happy face on each one of them. Even though the water was very cold, the boys ran across the football field, many of them saw an opportunity to play soccer, and I just smiled and realized that sometimes we have to enjoy the many things that we see as insignificant.

In Honduras, the children live happily because they enjoy every little seemingly insignificant detail, the children know what it is to play soccer in the middle of a storm and it is very fast. Childhood is playing cars and going out into the streets of our neighborhood playing with our neighbors and getting to our house at dinner time.

I am thankful for the lesson that my brothers from Senderos de Amor has given me, because many times I forget to enjoy the little details that fill our hearts with happiness.

If you’d like to sponsor opportunities like this, consider becoming a monthly donor for as little as $5 a month. Your donations help bring our mentor programs to children at Senderos de Amor, and other orphanages and impoverished communities in Honduras. You can be the ONE to making a WORLD of DIFFERENCE.

It’s the little things…

I was always taught that it’s the little things we do that make a difference. I know some will read this and think, “What’s the big deal?” But the little things we do really does matter.

Friday night, I went to ALDI ‘s to do some grocery shopping and realized I needed a quarter to get a shopping cart. I searched around in my car for about five minutes to find I had two dimes, one nickel and a Honduran coin that matches the size, diameter and shape of a dime. For a brief moment, I contemplated what I should do. “Should I take my two dimes and Honduras dime and exchange it for a quarter (which would’ve amounted to about $.20 or less since the exchange rate is almost 24 to 1) and get a nickel back or should I take my nickel and two dimes and exchange it for A quarter?” Now, the truth is you should exchange the two dimes and a nickel for a quarter. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But these are the fleeting questions that we faced with every day. Do we do what is honest? Or do we do what’s best for me? I chose to go into the store with both and then along the way made the decision to exchange my two dimes and a nickel for the same US currency. Turns out, I didn’t need to exchange my money for a quarter at all. There was a cart waiting inside for me to take for free. So, I took the cart, did my shopping, returned to my car, unloaded the groceries and then wheeled the cart back to retrieve a quarter. I knew I hadn’t spent anything on the cart but I’ve always paid it forward to someone else. So, I felt justified getting a quarter back because I had given it away in the past. Don’t you know, I pushed the cart in with the others, put the key into the slot, and do you know what came out? A Canadian quarter. LOL I just had to laugh.

That’s how God works in our lives. He’ll find a way to make the truth just so apparent that we cannot help but notice He is speaking to us! What’s my point? I’m gonna tell you. If something’s not right, it’s not right. Listen to God and he’ll always tell you the truth. There’s a lesson to be learned… in the little things that make a difference.

Full of Surprises

Lately, I have had the privilege of sharing a small devotional with the young people and children of Senderos de Amor Orphanage. It is a great blessing for me to share a pleasant time with them in which I share a devotional and they share their ideas, thoughts and longings with me in return. But, it is not always easy… I remember that the last devotional was a disaster. None of them listened to me, on that same day they had received many sweets, and as we all know, a child or young person full of hyperactivity,  is not an easy listener.

Because of this difficult experience, a certain part of me did not want to keep sharing the devotionals with them, and simply would rather stay home on a Friday with a perfect date with Netflix. Funny right?

However, this Friday I had an excellent time with the children and youth! They were all super happy and everyone wanted to help and participate. It was a beautiful experience to see them all eager to receive the devotional.

All this leads me to think that many times because of bad experiences, we believe that the next time will be the same or worse than the previous ones. But God fills us with surprises! He gives us physical and spiritual strengths to move forward. I can only thank God because HE helps us to take one day at a time and be better each day.

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”