Saturday 15th September 2018

I returned last weekend from Honduras and was totally exhausted.  The exhaustion was not due to the long 12-hour drive from capital to capital, but the mental exhaustion that I felt after leaving behind two projects we have been supporting for the last 14 years.  My heavy and very broken heart was not helped by the amount of work I found on my return, but somehow, and with God´s grace, I made it through to realise that we can only do what is placed in our hands, any more would rob others of the chance to help, serve and be part of something quite amazing.

It was back in 2004 that we first started to support the Manuelito Children’s Home and subsequently the AFE School for the kids on the rubbish dump.  Those early days with both projects were exhilarating as we saw amazing things happen and giant steps in faith led to the building of an incredible school for vulnerable children and a fabulous home for children rescued from the city streets.

Adios papiIt was 11 years ago that I found a little baby abandoned on the streets of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.  Pastor Pinto and his family had invited me to join them on their street work run late one evening.  As we began to wander through the streets meeting countless young boys and girls, all of whom had either runaway from desperate situations or who had been abandoned by abusive parents, we came across a cardboard box.  The box was been guarded by two young boys who told us that there was a baby inside and that the mum had left it there on the streets earlier that day.

We had to act immediately and rushed the baby to hospital.  The 15-day-old boy pulled through and was named Duncan (not my idea!) and has grown up with the idea that I am his dad and his connection to me is very strong. This photo was taken when he was 7-years-old and still struggling, as any young child would, with the fact that his “dad” did not live with him and came to visit now and again.  The parting was unbearable at times and I can only imagine how hard that was for him, but he was desperate to make a connection between his idea of a dad and me.

Duncan is now 11 and turns 12 in December and is doing really well in the home and I am very grateful for their loving support for him, and so many more like him, over the years.  I have grown to love them all and have seen them develop into amazing young men and women and some have even gone on to get their degrees and have returned to work full-time there.  It is a place of miracles.

duncan giftSo, it makes it even more difficult to take the decision to not continue our partnership with both AFE and Manuelito. The decision was not taken lightly, but we decided, together with Global Care, to not support the leadership of the projects for many and varied reasons.  I know some will want to ask me questions and want to know more, but we must stand firm to honour the partnerships we have formed and speak well of all involved. Just know that we had to act and I am sure if you knew what we now know you would make the same decision.

Saying goodbye in my heart and head was harder than physically saying goodbye to the children and staff, all of whom I adore so much and admire the incredible work the staff do under difficult circumstances and at great personal cost.  All we can do now is pray for them and be ready to return one day if the door opens wide, or even wide enough to squeeze back in.  As part of my visit to the home I took along a gift for Duncan and his brother Cristofer, which went down very well indeed. 

Thank you for the many years of support you have given to both projects and for the way so many of you have poured your time and efforts into fundraising events for them.  This is not in vain as we know that hundreds of vulnerable children have benefitted from this support and those who have grown old enough to now study at university will join me in saying “it was worth every penny”.  THANK YOU.  I have no plans to return to Honduras in the near future!

talanga mentoring2Despite the sadness of the situation there I did manage to see how two other projects we have partnered with are doing and explored a potential new project, which excited me greatly.

Steve Poulson, who works as a volunteer for Street Kids Direct in Honduras, has helped setup the mentoring programme in various locations in Honduras.  I was invited to see the first group and spent the afternoon watching the kids enjoying time with caring adults rather than possibly being involved in things that are not that helpful to them.  

Being a high-risk child means that you live with the uncertainty of food and security every day.  Together with the many risk factors in their lives, the children need a constant, caring adult alongside them to help them navigate from childhood to adulthood. This is where mentoring makes an impact and we are very excited to see increasing numbers of vulnerable children having this opportunity.

I also managed to visit one other programme that works with high-risk children in a town that is run very closely by a gang. When I say run, I mean that every aspect of town life is affected by the gang and this often leads to violence, intimidation, extorsions and death.  The day before we were visiting the project we have partnered with it was raided by the police and army in the middle of the night.  The programme´s director, an American volunteer, was violently attacked and the young people threatened and one had been pushed into a tank of water. 

mentoring hondurasLiving there is not easy and every visit is watched by the gang who could act or react in a way that further complicates the work or has a direct bearing on our personal safety.  But the work continues and the mentoring programme is producing results with school grades improving for those in the programme as well as a greater sense of purpose and feeling of being cared for.  Mentoring really does change lives and we would love to see more local people taking up the challenge and offering to help change a life.

Thank you for listening and for your support that makes all this work possible.  I don´t know where we would be without you and hope that, despite the setback out of our control, you can see that lives are changing and many kids are alive today that might not have been if you hadn´t been there to support the front-line work. THANK YOU.