Thursday, January 31, 2013

School Shopping

We took the girls to el Mercado in Coxen Hole today to shop for their back-to-school needs. Leidy's mom (actually her grandmother, who is raising her) went along. We also gave Julissa's step-mom a ride to the market, but she then went her own way.

Our first stop was at the tailor's where the girls were measured for their new uniform skirts. They've both grown so much and yet, they're both still so tiny!

This tailor is just amazing. He takes 2 or 3 measurements then quickly draws out a pattern on the fabric using tailor's chalk and a  ruler as his only guide. A young man was sitting at the sewing machine to the left of Julissa, sewing a waistband onto a pair of pants. The girls were fascinated at how quickly and confidently he worked. This shop makes uniform pants and skirts for most of the private schools, and they will be very busy for the next couple of weeks. The public school kids all wear the off-the-shelf blue skirts or pants available at many shops.

We walked on down Market Street, checking out the shoes and backpacks. It always amazes me how cheaply made the shoes are here - both the black school shoes and the tennis shoes that they need for their physical education classes. They don't cost that much, but they also don't last long either. Susan and I were recently discussing whether to bring them better quality shoes from the U.S. or Canada as she has done in the past. I don't think it really matters. They are all growing, so out-growing their shoes quickly, plus they are frequently walking through rain and mud which take a toll on their shoes.

                                                      Leidy, trying on tennis shoes.
She and Julissa got exactly the same tennis shoes, black shoes and backpacks this year. I love these little markets along the street where many of their items for sale are openly displayed. We wandered along, checking prices and styles. Leidy loves to draw and paint, so she was drooling over all the art supplies. Julissa was drooling over the nail polish choices. That's for another day.

After we finished our shopping, we took them to Bojangles for chicken (their choice). I really thought Leidy would want hamburgers or pizza, but she has decided that she no longer likes either one! I think all Hondurans love Bojangles chicken, and so do we.

The girls had a great time. They adore Don and love to pick on him because he picks right back! Concepcion also had wonderful time and picked up a few things from the vegetable vendor.  She also loves Don and enjoys the attention he pays to Leidy who has no father or grandfather in her life.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Matriculation 2013

It's that time of year again. The new school year is about to start, and we had 11 kids to register for the new term. We took the money we had, which was plenty to pay tuition, registration and exam fees for all of them. We are trusting that all their other needs will be met as well. Here are some photos we took at the school.

                                          Don and Susan at the entrance to the school.

                                                       The courtyard of the school.

Don, Susan and Larry working with the school director, Stephanie, to register the kids. It's nice that she gives us a discount because we have so many kids. One of our boys also has a scholarship again!

     Bob Cowan took this photo of all of us at the school. Bob was there to register kids, too.

School begins February 11th. The parents are being given money to shop for uniforms, shoes and supplies. We told them to s-t-r-e-t-c-h that money as far as possible. Don and I will take Leidy and Julissa shopping later this week. They're looking forward to that.

If you've been thinking about making a donation but haven't yet, there's still time and need. We will soon have to order their books and new P.E. uniforms for most of them.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Girls' Group

Last year, a group was started for our teen girls to encourage fellowship, offer fun activites and lunch, as well as afford the group leaders an opportunity to teach life lessons and be good role models for them. The girls are between the ages of 12 and 17 and there are generally at least 20 girls attending, though not all attend every time.

Every meeting begins with worship. The girls LOVE to sing. Tia is urging them to stand up and sing joyfully. They can really belt it out!

This Saturday was games day, and knowing how much I love games, I was asked to participate. Here are some pictures of the fun:

We're playing Uno, a favorite game. Johanna just gave me a mean card!

                                                                 No peeking, Susan!!!

                        This is a Twister pile-up. There were lots of giggles during this game.

  Julissa is carefully pulling out a block from the Jenga stack. They loved this game, too.

      Ping pong was another big hit. Sometimes it was a group activity, like above! They got pretty wild.

  Susan is teaching these girls to play Whack a Mole which involved slapping (cards) and laughing.

Here's Leidy serving the ball. She really liked this game, but they spent a lot of time searching for the ball!

 Here we have a table of our quiet girls, enjoying a jigsaw puzzle. That's our sweet Jessie at the end of the table. Their different personalities certainly stand out on a day like this one, and it was good to have such a variety of activities for them.

After lunch, the girls went home and we had a brief meeting to plan for next time (apparently I'm part of the team now). The issue of modest dress was at the top of the list, and it will be a challenging topic given Honduran culture, but is one that needs to be discussed. One of our goals is to keep these girls innocent and pure for as long as we can. Most of these girls are dressed modestly, but not all. We want to squelch this influence of the older girls with their more revealing clothing without driving those same girls away. More on this later.

The Tab-Top Purse

I first saw the purse at a ladies' luncheon on Roatan last winter. When Carol told us the purse was made from the tab tops of soda cans, we were all intrigued.  I was so fascinated that I did an online search for tab top purses and found a blog which gave intructions for crocheting a purse made of tab tops and had lots of photos. I'm a very visual person, so the photos were even more helpful to me than her directions. I began saving tab tops, but  Don and I don't drink much soda, so I knew it would take a long time to gather enough tab tops.

A short while later, Don and I took the Karla, Carlos, Leidy and Julissa to the beach to swim and have lunch. We ordered pizzas and while we were waiting, the kids' drinks were served. I jumped at the opportunity to collect more tab tops and asked them to give me theirs. This was shortly before we left the island last spring.

When we returned in the fall, Carlos greeted us and then handed me a pocketful of tab tops he had been collecting. I was surprised that he had remembered after so many months! That day, the Tab Top Hunter was born. He was so delighted that he had pleased me, that he made it his mission to bring me more every time he saw me and would proudly tell me the number each time. "Miss Jeanette, 57!" Not to be outdone, his sister, Karla, joined the search. They had a neighbor up in the colonia who collected aluminum cans, so they were able to pull the tab tops from them. By Christmas time, I had more than enough to make the purse, but no yarn! I could not find any on the island, so I asked our daughter to bring a large skein of black yarn when she came to visit. I had no idea how much yarn it would take; the instructions were somewhat vague on that point, but I figured one large skein should be enough.

I just finished the purse today, and I'm pretty pleased with the results. I think I will attempt to teach some of the ladies and/or girls at church to crochet and let them try making a purse.

A few days later:
The purse was a big hit! The ladies loved it, the girls loved it, and many would like to learn how to crochet so they can make one. I will be teaching a class for them soon. Hopefully the church will have enough yarn on hand. I have several crochet hooks, and I have champion tap top hunters commissioned to go forth!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Storm

This is the current view from our deck. We are in day four of a norther, the worst one anyone has seen in several years. We had gale-force winds Friday and Saturday. The winds were still gusting Sunday but have calmed down today (Monday). We've had lots of rain. We measured 4 inches of vertically falling rain in our rain gauge before it quit working. Most of the rain appeared to be horizontal the first two days of the storm, so we really don't know how much rain has fallen.

The airport was closed most of the weekend with only one flight making it in early Saturday. The other flights were diverted to Cancun and were not able to return here and land until Sunday evening. We had 5 flights land within one hour - unheard of! If you've been to our airport, you know how small it is. Imagine all the people from 5 cancelled flights spending the weekend there! We heard it was standing room only for most people. There aren't many food options either. There is a small coffee bar in the ticketing area and a snack bar at the gate.

Clearing immigration is always a slow process here when two flights come in back to back. I can't imagine how dreadful it was for the people on those 5 flights. There is not enough room to get even 2 flights of people inside the immigration area at the same time. We have no jetways here. We get off the plane and walk across the tarmac. I think there might be a bit of roof outside, but most folks were probably pretty wet by the time they got inside.

We did make it out to church yesterday morning and later made a much needed grocery run. I finally did one load of laundry today. My laundry room is out on the deck, under roof but with the way the wind has been blowing, our entire 20 foot deep deck has been soaked. This is Don standing beside the laundry doors on a dry day.

That laundry room is just to the left of the gate in the above photo. The rest of the washing will have to wait for a drier day.

We noticed many areas of flooding on our drive to church and the grocery yesterday making me wonder how our friends up in the colonia are faring. We will have a big cleanup job on our property which will keep Carlos busy. Many small trees, bushes and plants were broken off or beat down during the storm. So many leaves were blown off our large coral trees that we can see parts of our hillside that haven't been visible for a couple of years. We've lost a number of banana trees.

The temperatures have been in the mid - upper sixties for several days. I know that seems warm to all of you living up north, but to the islanders (including us) it seems cold. Many people were complaining of being cold at church, although Greicy said it was warmer there than at her house. Many of them don't have warmer clothing. Greicy and Julissa were wearing sleeveless blouses. Their houses are drafty affairs, no insulation, often leaking during heavy rains. They were grateful for the urn of hot coffee at church!

Hopefully this storm will soon be history.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Shame of Education on Roatan

I realized something after posting my last blog about school starting soon...some of you may be new readers or may not have seen my blogs from a year ago concerning Honduran schools, so let me share a few interesting facts with you.

Despite being a very poor country, Honduran schools require students to wear uniforms, including proper black dress shoes, or they cannot attend school. That's right. Never mind that these families cannot even keep food on their tables, if they can't afford uniforms, their children aren't going to school.

The public schools are tuition free, however, everything else must be purchased. The schools are often in terrible condition; many lack bathrooms! Yes!! Can you imagine? A brand new school has been built in Sandy Bay, to replace the dilapidated beach school, but it has no furniture and no bathrooms. I don't know how they will function when school begins in a few weeks. Perhaps they'll use some of the crummy furniture from the beach, but they still won't have enough to furnish all the classrooms.

The public school teachers get paid whether they show up or not, and they often don't show up. The children will be sent home if the teacher doesn't come to work. An island mother was telling me that her child's teacher came daily for 3 months and then disappeared for 2 months only to reappear for a month or so. Difficult to learn anything when your teacher disappears and you don't have school for weeks or months at a time.

The teachers do not have to have advanced education or degrees. They do have to be high school graduates.

The children here often drop out of school by the end of 3rd grade. Some will complete 6th grade. Their math skills are sadly lacking. They are not equipped to do much more than menial labor.

The public schools on Roatan do not even teach English, despite the fact that most islanders speak English (well, a patois), that this island's economy is based on tourism, and that most of our visitors speak English. To get a job working with tourists, English is not only helpful but often essential. We have more and more families from the mainland of Honduras moving here to escape the grinding poverty of the mainland, hoping to find work (some do, some don't) and these people usually speak only Spanish.

The Honduran schools are in session from mid-February to early November. They then take a 3 month winter holiday (which is rainy season here). Most schools are small, so children go in shifts - morning, afternoon and even evening. I have seen small children walking home from school in the dark.

For all of these reasons and more, we decided to intervene in the lives of some of the children who attend our church in Sandy Bay. Two years ago, we and a Canadian couple, Larry and Susan, decided to send some of these kids to a private bilingual school. We began with 3 which quickly grew into 6. We were amazed at how quickly they learned English and how excited they were to learn everything!
Last year, we sent 11 students to this school. Susan, Don and I have the privilege of working with these kids in the afternoons, helping them with homework and additional English lessons. Our kids go to school from 7 a.m. until noon. They then freely and gladly come down to church in the afternoon to receive extra help!

All 11 of these kids have sponsors who cover their tuition, registration fees and exam fees which amounts to $700-$760 per child. Our family sponsors 3 of them. We would love to do more, but cannot. Most of these children have other needs to be met, which I detailed in my last blog, and which adds an additional expense of $500+ per child. That is a lot for one person to cover, but many small donations can quickly add up. That's why we are hoping that many of you will be persuaded to help. You will seldom find a better use for your money.

Our pastor has generously offered us the use of his PayPal account to facilitate the sending of donations to Roatan. If you would like to help, please use the link below, fill out the information so we know who is sending it and be sure to indicate in the memo section that your donation is for the sponsored kids. If you want to specify a particular child or need, we will honor that. This is a charitable contribution; you will receive a receipt for your taxes next January.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and thank you to all of you who will respond.


PayPal link -

Monday, January 14, 2013

Almost Time For School

This photo was taken the first day of school one year ago. I can't believe how much the girls have grown up! Leidy and Karla will be in the 6th grade this year and Julissa will be in 8th grade.

Susan and I were just talking about back-to-school preparations. All eleven of the sponsored children have someone sponsoring them again this year which is such a blessing for them. They are all so excited about going back to school (yes! really!!). While all the kids have their tuition, registration and exam fees covered, they still have other needs which have not yet been met. Transportation is a big cost. We are hoping to be able to once again have Tommy drive all eleven of them. He was so dependable. They have to travel about 5 miles to school and must be there at 7 a.m. Tommy was so good about getting them all to school before 7 so they could get the free breakfast that Miss Valerie serves. 

They will all need new uniforms. Most of the kids had only one uniform skirt or slacks and a couple of shirts, so they had to be hand laundered frequently and wear out that much more quickly...not to mention that they have all grown! Whatever is still serviceable will be passed down to a younger child. Everyone needs two pair of new shoes - the required black shoes and tennis shoes for gym class, as well as new backpacks, notebooks, pencils, etc. 

If you would like to help out in this ministry, your donation would be most gratefully received and put to good use. Some of you helped out last year and have asked me to let you know when more assistance would be needed. Now is the time. We will be taking the kids in to get registered the last week of January. They will then have about 2 weeks to get uniforms made and get supplies purchased. You may once again send your donation through our pastor's PayPal account and receive a charitable contribution receipt for your taxes (upon request). If you have that information from last year, it is still valid. Be sure to indicate which child you wish to help or mark it "for sponsored children".

Here's a list of needs with approximate costs to help you:

Transportation - $320 per child for the year
Uniforms and shoes - $85
Backpack - $15
Books - $75
Misc. supplies - $25
And the misc. misc. category to cover art projects, science fair projects, during the school year - $25

If you are interested in helping to make a huge difference in the life of a child here in Roatan, please let me know and I will get the PayPal information to you. Big or small, doesn't all adds up and helps so much.