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matthew engleby


Teaching Students and Mothers at El Hogar

El Hogar Graduate with FamilyWe repeatedly state that our goal in Honduras is to take these most desperate children and restore in them the capacity to serve as productive members of Honduran society.

Ideally, this means having a child graduate from our program and being able to find appropriate employment or continue along the path of education at the University. But even more so, that the graduates continue to live in a manner that reflects the values of a healthy culture; that they are honest, loyal, disciplined and, maybe most important, that they are good parents.

These expectations are difficult to quantify but are often visible and pronounced as alumni return to our campuses with their children. These graduates, who are all men at this point, reflect an honor and pride that radiates in the eyes of their children. A parent’s compassion for a child is the deepest of human emotions, one that transcends time. But the glimmer of pride for a parent is a catalyst for hope. And maybe that needs to be our targeted goal for our programs; that their children look upon them with pride.

Yet parenting in places like Honduras is often more about survival than it is about being a nurturing presence.  Mother-Poverty-Honduras

You have met some of the mothers of the children at El Hogar. Most of the early team’s visits have been to Tesla’s mother’s house, just around the corner from the primary school campus. Her situation reflects the common problem of parenthood in Honduras. When a girl becomes pregnant as early as 14 years old, her world becomes a very small one. In North America, we might have heard a young mother finding the resources to recover her path and provide stability for her children, but most know those are the exceptions even in cultures as wealthy as ours. When a teenager becomes pregnant in Honduras, it is very rare that such is the result of true love and that the father remains a part of the family. So, the young mother becomes almost a completely dependent person; on her mother, her older sister, or, another man – for a short while.

When I speak to communities in North America, I take great effort to dissuade any sense of judgment from what they see or hear in these images. The realities of poverty should never be subjected to our judgment, as poverty is burdensome enough as it is. The mothers of the children at El Hogar, with only a handful of exceptions, live with a deep compassion for their children. But mothers who are destitute are often more consumed with providing than parenting if that makes sense. Sometimes they don’t have time for affection and affirmation, for love and forgiveness. And so we sometimes wrestle with generations that have not known some of those basic parental components.

On a monthly basis at our campus in Tegucigalpa, mothers are expected to attend parenting sessions with Claudia, our nurse, psychologist, teachers and invited guests speakers. The intention is to educate these parents about parenting. I recall one instance watching a young boy receive recognition at St Mary’s Cathedral. His mother was present for the award and when he went forward to receive it, Claudia leaned into the mother’s ear reminding her to congratulate the child and tell him that she loved him. It’s not that the mother was cold and insensitive, but that no one had ever said as much to her – except for maybe the first 14-year-old boy – and she had no reference to
guide her.

Mother and GraduateWhen the mother put her arm around her boy as he returned to his seat and whispered in his ear, his eyes betrayed the victory that was in his heart. His leaning against the shoulder of his mother voiced the cheering in my own heart. And just as an aside, his performance and behavior at El Hogar responded accordingly following that celebratory weekend.

Such is the goal of our work in Honduras, that young boys and girls can rest their heads, joyfully full of pride, on the shoulders of compassionate parents and that one day their own children will be warmed by that same embrace.

Matthew Engleby
Executive Director
El Hogar Projects, Honduras

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