Honduras

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: A ‘Gardener’ of Children in Honduras

by Lylli Moya, ChildFund Honduras

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we meet a community health volunteer in Honduras.

With support from USAID and the Honduran government, ChildFund is implementing a four-year maternal and child health program in Honduras. The goal is to decrease maternal, neonatal, infant and under-five child mortality rates, particularly in rural areas with little access to health services. We’re following the stories of mothers and children, traditional birth attendants and community health volunteers who are participating in the program.

Jessica at home in Culguaque community.

Jessica Carolina Funez is a 21-year-old community health volunteer in the community of Culguaque, three hours away from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Her day starts early as she rises to clean house and prepare food for her family before going to work.

“I am a gardener at the community preschool center,” she says, explaining her job. However, her gardening tools are not the typical shovel and hoe. She is caring for something much more delicate than plants and vegetables. As a “gardener,” her job is to care for preschoolers four days a week.

Jessica (left) and a fellow volunteer wait for mothers to arrive with their children.

She enjoys her job and also volunteering as a community health worker because she gets to help children. After receiving training from ChildFund, Jessica assists with a once-a-month weigh-in session for children under the age of two. “We weigh them, mark the weight on the graph, give counseling to mothers and give the children supplements like iron and zinc.” If a child is underweight or shows signs of slow development, Jessica or one of her fellow volunteers will pay a follow-up visit to the home to provide further information and counseling to the mother. “We help mothers care for their children so that they don’t become malnourished,” she explains.

Jessica and daughter.

Working with other children and attending health training sessions provided through ChildFund, Jessica says she has learned so many things, including how to take better care of her own six-year-old daughter and plan for the future.

Jessica is currently finishing her high school equivalent while studying business administration through a distance-learning program. Her dream is that both she and her daughter can one day attend university and become professionals.

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Honduras and how you can sponsor a child.

How Betty Became a Health Monitor

Reporting by ChildFund Honduras

With support from USAID and the Honduran government, ChildFund is implementing a four-year maternal and child health program in Honduras. The goal is to decrease maternal, neonatal, infant and under-five child mortality rates, particularly in rural areas with little access to health services. We’re following the stories of mothers and children, traditional birth attendants and community health volunteers who are participating in the program and will be sharing those with you this week and from time to time.

Meet Betty, a 36-year-old community health volunteer who lives in Lepateriquillo, located 45 minutes away from the municipality of Lepaterique, traveling by bus. This Honduran community doesn´t have electricity, but it does have running water and latrines.

Honduran family in front of house

Community Health Volunteer Betty with her familly at their home in Lepateriquilo community.

Betty and her husband have four children between the ages of 8 and 16, all of whom attend school. The family earns a living from working their own land and selling a few cattle. Betty also operates a small store in her house, selling basic products to community members.

So we ask Betty why she decided to volunteer as a health monitor for her community. “It was because of my husband – he was the first to take the training. But when he couldn’t attend due to his work in the fields, he started asking me to attend on his behalf.”

That’s when Betty learned how to weigh children and fill out the children’s growth charts, assessing whether they were developing at a normal rate.

When ChildFund’s partner organization had a new opening for a health monitor, they invited Betty. She has since completed all of the training modules in the USAID AIN-C (Atencion Integral a la Ninez en la Comunidad – Integrated Community Child Health program).

Just ask her about the curriculum: Growth Monitoring, Care for the Sick Child, Care for the Pregnant Woman and the Newborn, Information Systems, Feeding Children under Two Years of Age, Feeding Pregnant women.

What does she enjoy most about being a health volunteer? “The home visits to the newborns,” she says, without hesitation. But one of the things Betty says she doesn’t like is when children in the community “lose weight because the mothers would not follow her recommendations.”

It’s volunteers like Betty who will keep this community on a healthy track.

A Team Effort to Improve Maternal and Child Health in Honduras

Reporting by ChildFund Honduras

With support from USAID and the Honduran government, ChildFund is implementing a four-year maternal and child health program in Honduras. The goal is to decrease maternal, neonatal, infant and under-five child mortality rates, particularly in rural areas with little access to health services. We’re following the stories of mothers and children, traditional birth attendants and community health volunteers who are participating in the program and will be sharing those with you this week, and from time to time.

woman sweeping

Suyapa does her house chores in Culguaque.

Suyapa, a young mother in her early 30s, lives in Culguaquel, a small community dedicated to cultivating coffee, which thrives in the cool climate. Located about 45 minutes away from the municipality of Lepaterique, Culguaquel is accessible by bus and car. Yet, there is no electricity in this community.

The mother of seven young children, Suyapa lives with her husband, José, in a small home, with adobe walls, a dirt floor and a tiled roof. Her husband, a day laborer, earns less than 50 cents per day, and Suyapa, who left school after first grade, stays home to care for the children and manage the household. Keeping up with five boys and two girls is no small amount of work. All of the children are enrolled in ChildFund programs, and two are sponsored.

woman tending fireAlthough her children are relatively healthy, Suyapa is happy to see more health services now coming to her community. She is attending educational sessions offered through ChildFund and its partner. “They tell me about my children’s nutrition [needs] and give me advice on how to care for them, and they receive vitamins,” she says.

The History of a Honduran Midwife

Reporting by ChildFund Honduras

With support from USAID and the Honduran government, ChildFund is implementing a four-year maternal and child health program in Honduras. The goal is to decrease maternal, neonatal, infant and under-five child mortality rates, particularly in rural areas with little access to health services. We’re following the stories of mothers and children, traditional birth attendants and community health volunteers who are participating in the program and will be sharing those with you this week, and from time to time.

At 73, Maria knows a thing or two about life. Although she completed just two years of primary school, and can only sign her name, Maria has a wealth of knowledge, especially when it comes to mothers and babies.

Her community of Culguaque, located 45 minutes away from the municipality of Lepaterique, has one health care center staffed by a nurse auxiliary.

But most women Maria’s age didn’t go to a health center for care during child birth. Instead they relied on a midwife.

Grandmother and grandaughter

Traditional Birth Attendant Maria with her granddaughter at her home in Culguaque.

“My mother was a midwife,” Maria explains. “One day my mother was called by a family to assist a birth and I accompanied her.” Maria’s mother was sick and requested her 32-year-old daughter’s help. “She kept telling me, ‘learn, my daughter, because I’m very close to dying.’”

Woman in her homeStarting at that time, Maria began accompanying her mother to assist her in all the community births. When her mother died, Maria took on the elder’s role, responding to all the families who requested her services as a midwife.

Some years later, when the Health Care Center nurse found out that Maria assisted with births, she came to her house and invited her to participate in a midwives training program.

Maria says that it had been more than 20 years since she received training from the Ministry of Health via the Health Care Center. Last fall, she was happy to get a refresher course from ChildFund, as it implements a maternal and child health program in her community. “I enjoy attending these training sessions because I used to be very bashful. With the training, I’ve learned to be more outgoing and I learn more.”

Woman in front of houseFor the most part, being a midwife is enjoyable work for Maria, who has been widowed for two years and has two living daughters and an adopted daughter. But the difficult part, she says, is “when a woman can’t deliver her baby.”

If that is the case, Maria knows to refer the patient to the closest hospital. Most of the time she goes along with the woman and her family, to reassure them and to be an advocate. If she can save the life of a child, then it’s been a good day.

Growing Up in ChildFund

by Christine Ennulat, ChildFund Writer

I’ve been writing for ChildFund for a year now. One thing I’ve heard again and again from colleagues and other people I interview for articles is that going out into the field is the best way to really understand ChildFund’s work.

My first trip to the field in late June took me to Honduras, where ChildFund offers many programs benefiting children and their families.

My mind still swirls with all I learned there. Certain moments light up, though — times when the importance of what we’re doing in the field really hit home for me. It happened whenever I encountered young people who have grown up in ChildFund’s programs and are giving back.

boy points to picture in book held by woman

Merlissa, a trained guide mother, makes sure children are developmentally on track.

Merlissa is just one example. She volunteers in her village as a ChildFund-trained “guide mother,” which means, basically, that she visits young children in their homes and plays with them. But it’s more accurate to say that she works with them, because the activities Merlissa brings are specially designed to stimulate young children’s development and prepare them for preschool.

In each session, depending on her charge’s age, Merlissa might have the child manipulate small objects, identify pictures in a book, walk a straight line and show she can feed herself and follow instructions (“Put the green car on the lower level of the table and the purple ball on top …”).

photo of boy demonstrating balance skills

Milton easily walks a straight line along the string Merlissa has laid on the floor.

On this particular day, in the small, dimly lit main room of one family’s home, she’s working with a 3-year-old boy named Milton, who performs all tasks with dispatch. “He’s very advanced for his age,” Merlissa says. Milton strides up and down a length of string Merlissa has laid on the floor, then waits for his next instructions with a steady, wide-eyed gaze.

Looking on are a boy and girl, older siblings of another boy who will work with Merlissa later (but who’s too shy to do so while I’m present!). These two, I’m told, are both first in their classes at school, and their mother credits it to their work with a guide mother.

baby on blanket

Merlissa crackles shiny paper to see whether the baby turns toward it.

After she finishes with Milton, Merlissa begins work with his 4-month-old baby sister. Not a happy camper — she has a little fever — but soon she’s distracted by the shiny paper Merlissa crinkles just out of view, inviting her to turn toward the sparkle and follow it with her eyes, just as a baby her age should.

Afterward, we ask Merlissa whether her own children are in school. She tells us she has none — that she’s 21, that she grew up in ChildFund’s programs in the village and that she enjoys giving back.

And now it’s time for her to continue doing so, with the other little boy who has waited through Milton’s session. I walk into the sunshine, smiling at what ChildFund sets into motion for so many young people — who pass it along to their young neighbors.

It’s Time to Reclaim My Town from Crime

Guest post by Francisco, a youth reporter from ChildFund’s Reitoca project area in Honduras. This article originally appeared in the “Free Expression” column of the La Cronica newspaper produced by Honduran youth.

Francisco at work on his column.

I live in Reitoca, a municipality located 85 km (53 miles) south of Tegucigalpa in Honduras. With an estimated population of 15,725, Reitoca is part of a nation filled with natural beauty. We are known for our famous thermal waters and refreshing waterfalls.

Contrasting to such beauty, there are scenarios that worry me greatly. As I wake up every morning, I sense and am exposed to high levels of violence and crime in this once tranquil and safe place. Not so long ago, we used to sleep confidently, doors and windows open. The morning after, everything would be in place, just as we left it. These are now only memories of a safe town we used to live in.

Reitoca is now very dangerous. This year alone I’ve already witnessed 27 robberies. Common crimes are assaults, as thieves seek to steal money and cell phones. Other offenders trespass on private property to steal crops and hens from responsible families who’ve made an extra effort in saving to grow their own.

Again, this is only what I’ve witnessed, who knows how many more crimes occur on a daily level?

Our municipality is aware of the growing crime numbers, and what’s even worse is that criminals continue to steal without the fear of being punished. It’s shameful that visitors and tourists express they’re scared of walking around during the evenings because it is dangerous.

Our youth and the rest of the population want there to be peace and security. We dream of a safe town free of crime.

It’s time to wake up and end the “If-it-doesn’t-affect-me-it’s-not-my-problem” attitude. It’s time to join efforts and ideas, and together with local authorities finally resolve this problem that affects us all.

Editor’s note: A top priority for ChildFund Honduras is providing children and youth with leadership and advocacy skills, which is why Francisco wrote about what is taking place in his town. He and his peers may then strategically work together — often with adult community leaders — to bring about change in their communities.

Progress Is a Good Feeling at ChildFund

by Virginia Sowers, Community Manager

I’m remembering how I used to feel when I got a good report card. I’d practically skip home, eager to show my folks the good grades and bask in their praise.

That happy feeling came back in a rush when I received the Child Annual Progress Report for Darwin, an 11-year-old from Honduras whom my husband and I started sponsoring in January.

Darwin just completed grade four.

Since we’ve just begun exchanging letters, we’re still at that getting-to-know-each-other stage of sponsorship. We have a lot to learn about Darwin’s everyday life.

So it was exciting to receive this latest update from ChildFund Honduras, complete with a new photo of Darwin doing his homework at the kitchen table.

He’s just completed grade four and has above-average achievement. He had a healthy year, which is great news! And we learned that he has broad interests—writing, reading, dancing, singing and playing sports.

When he’s at home, he has house and farm chores. In my next letter, I’ll have to tell him about my childhood summers spent digging thistles from the pastures of our family farm.

The progress report also offers some insights into ChildFund’s work in Darwin’s community. Due to the country’s socio-political crisis that disrupted schools for part of 2009, ChildFund Honduras offered class tutoring and artistic expression activities directed primarily to students with low grades. When classes resumed, they were better prepared to meet academic challenges.

Darwin and his family also benefitted from ChildFund education and training programs during the past year. It was neat to discover that the family had the opportunity to improve their knowledge of growing vegetables and fruit orchards. Plus, they took training in organic agriculture.

These little nuggets of information in the report are all great starting points for more letters to Darwin. I’m so grateful he’s doing well and making progress through ChildFund.

It’s time for me to skip to the post office so that Darwin can soon bask in the praise I’m sending him.

Teens Reflect the World Around Them

By David Hylton
Public Relations Specialist

31 in 31The World Bank has estimated 89 million people will fall into poverty this year due to the current worldwide economic crisis. And that’s on top of the 1 billion people already living in poverty worldwide. At ChildFund International, we fight the causes of poverty every day.

Since 1982, ChildFund has worked to improve the lives of children and families in Honduras, a country beset by poverty and its related problems of hunger, inadequate sanitation and societal ills. As our “31 in 31” series continues, today we hear directly from two Honduran teens who know too well the face of poverty and its impact on their lives.

Honduras - WilmerWilmer, age 15
“Poverty is a problem that has been going on for a long time. Poverty is most damaging to young people, leading them to drugs, alcohol and other vices. Poverty is something that has not been controlled in our municipality. We have seen how this situation causes damage to children and youth due to discrimination by not having a roof, food and a decent life for a human being.

“Poverty is manifested through malnutrition. Malnutrition is something that has not been controlled due to lack of resources to combat it. Lack of education is another manifestation of poverty in our town. Education is something that can help us reduce the force of poverty, and hence contribute to the development of our region.

“Unemployment is also a product of poverty. By not having work, the person responsible for the household is not able to bring food to his or her family.”

Delmy, age 14
Honduras - Delmy“I believe that poverty does not allow us to be better — it denies us the opportunity to be better people. It makes us live hungry, with no clothes and no medicine. That makes the non-poor see us as rare and that we don’t belong to society.

“Poverty is seen in people that do not have adequate and safe housing. People eat a little so that the rest of the family can eat. Some don’t have the opportunity to learn to read and write. Sometimes people are forced to steal because of the difficult situation.”

These two stories convey just a glimpse of how poverty impacts the world’s youth. If we don’t start to win the battle against poverty now, Wilmer and Delmy — and children like them will lose all hope for their future.

For more information about our work in Honduras, click here.

More on Honduras
Population: 7.8 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: About 293,000 children and families
Did You Know?: Honduras was once known as “Spanish Honduras” to differentiate it from British Honduras, which is now known as Belize.

What’s next: Ethiopian youth hit the studio.

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