Photo Dump includes: Practice pics at the baby house, walk around taking photos day, etc.
If a bottle explodes and nails you in the chest, kids will laugh at you for at least 10 minutes #sciencefair
Alright, so this place has been barren. More for my own sake (mental sanity, writing practice, and remembering later) than for that of whoever still reads here from time to time (hi grandma), I’ll be putting out something every day. Even if its just a tweet (grandma, that means 140 letters and spaces total). Stories without context. Thatll be fun. Cheers, Alex
“Nah, I didn’t know what my birthday was until I was 15.”
Three fairly crippled Tegucigalpans sit outside a grocery store, huff glue, harass customers, and beg all day.
“Her medical records are fine, but you might want to go talk with social work. Even for kids here, the place she came from, her family environment, was ….. ugly” – Adult male doctor who grew up on, lived at, was educated at, and came back to work on the Rach; has seen it all.
Indigenous people are illegally forced off their homes, sometimes by having their houses and belongings burnt to the ground, to make way for clean-energy projects on their ancestral land, mostly financed by international interests.
“For many cases, we are also essentially a refugee camp for children escaping gang recruitment.” – NPH International Board Chair on negative impacts of deinstitutionalization.
Honduras is ranked 7th in the world for murders with impunity.
“I think it’s better to be poor. When rich people’s things get dirty, they just throw them out and buy new ones. We learn to actually use things.”
The ranch goes without drinking water for 30 hours as the construction for the medical brigade living space accidentally messes with the piping.
“Is your family visiting today?” “They were, but I just learned they can’t come.” “Oh, sorry to hear that.” “Nah, it’s . . . fine.”
Many houses made out of wood palleting and scrap tin.
“Don’t get on the buses with doors in the front and back, those are the most likely to be robbed.”
“It’s just weird. So many things are just non-issues. Like no one bats an eye at it, so it’s weird trying to figure out if we should, like, be sad by it or not?”
“So, like, finding the line between what is acceptable for there versus what is not?”
Waddup everyone. It’s a little bit more than a month in, so I thought id send out a hello/update, a few of you have been asking what its been like, so here you go!
So, if you don’t know the details of where I’m at, it’s a quasi-orphanage of sorts that is a part of Nuestros Pequenos Hermonos (Our little brothers and sisters). The NPH Honduras “branch” is known as El Rancho Santa Fe. I say quasi because it’s not like an institutional orphanage at all. There are around 450 kids on the ranch, living in homes or “hogars” of 13-20, usually sorted by age. Kids eat meals in hogar, do chores in hogar, spend their free time with hogar, etc. They do sleep in bunks of like 13-20 people in a room, but that’s about where it ends. Contact with their family outside, when safe, is encouraged, there are even days family get to come visit (a lot of times the ranch takes kids in who still have a parent or even two alive and present, but they just cant support them. If the ranch takes in one kid, by rule, they are open to taking in all siblings if need be). The atmosphere and ideology is super family centric. Once NPH takes you in, you are a part of their family, and you are not up for adoption to anyone else. They will raise you, feed you, educate you, and get you ready for the real world beyond. There are even programs to help ex-pequenos that run into trouble once they have left the ranch as well. The whole place is really more of a small village than an orphanage.
The ranch is HUGE. It’s over 2000 acres, not all of it inhabited, but the parts that are used stretch for easily a 20-minute walk from one far end to the other. The boys hogars are all in a little neighborhood of sorts called Buen Pastor (good shepherd), and the girls are an 8-10 minute walk away in Talita Kumi (an indigenous language, not sure what it means), while the littlest ones live co-ed in Casa Suyapa (Suyapa is the Honduran incarnation of Santa Maria). Talita Kumi and Casa Suyapa are by the main kitchen, offices, farm, and garden, while Buen Pastor is on the other end closer to talleres (all the oldest kids also learn in “workshops” where they get practical job skills like metal working, carpentry, shoemaking, salon work, etc. etc.), the school, and the external clinic and surgery center (both of these serve both the ranch and the surrounding areas, offering surgeries and medical care for super cheap. The ranch is a big medical brigade location; they get hundreds of surgeries done each week when the center is fully staffed). There is a big farm and giant garden, so the ranch gets 57% of basically everything it needs from its own land. So that’s the ranch.
Overall, things are going very well. I work 8-4 in an office doing communication work: I have three-5 monthly stories that I have to write, a few of them assigned topics, a few I get the freedom to choose from; photos to take of all of the stories and all of the events that happen at the ranch (I’m the official paparazzi of the home); and then a variety of requested work and yearly projects. Basically any time a foreign fundraising office needs to know information for anything they do, they ask me. So far I’ve done a report on sustainable practices (how much money is saved by having our own farm, animals, solar electric heaters, etc.), and written stories on Milk at the ranch, a cool project called “Proyecto,” where a volunteer cooks dinner with a family of kids here (if siblings are in different hogars, especially if they are different genders, they don’t see a ton of each other during the week), and the leaving of the co-national director of the past 5 years. I’ll also get to do the annual report, the yearly calendar, run their Facebook page, and other fun things.
The, for two hours every weekday, and 11 hours every other weekend, I’m paired with a hogar for the year. I’m with Discipulos de Jesus, who are around 14-16 with a few outliers on both ends: mostly all in seventh grade. This part is (as we have been told a million times, and are seeing for ourselves now) the best and absolutely most shitty part of being on the ranch. The kids are great. Super energetic, fun, hilarious, playful, kind (usually), but are also 15-year-old boys. So its been a lot of “lets see how much shit we can get away with with the new volunteer” and constant jokes about “do you like to eat sausage? ;)” and stealing from each other and me and all that shit. My boys are known as the worst behaved on the ranch in terms of attitude and stealing and things like that: they are always at least 50% castigado (punished) from going to the Saturday night activities. It sucks. Sometimes I want to lose my shit with them. But they are amazing. There are 3 tios (2 tios, one tia (aunts and uncles is the direct translation)) who are their main caregivers: basically the act in parents who are with them every hour that they are not at school, so I am working as support between them and the kids kinda. We also have the hardest chores of the ranch: last weekend, we cut down 18-foot trees and dragged 6 of them a quarter-mile out of a forest. Cheers.
The group of volunteers I’m with is amazing. My July 2016 group is 10, with a few Midwesterners, a few east or west coasters, a guy from Austria, and Guatemalan woman, and an Irish guy (my roommate!). The January 2016 group (they stagger the full volunteer staff so that there are always some experienced ones helping the newbies out) are 8: a few Americans (a WashU student in there who actually isn’t super annoying), two Austrian girls, a Venezuelan, and an older Austrian woman. Especially with my group, it’s a lot of sarcasm, giving each other shit about stuff, and good, mean, dry humor. So we get along great. We split our work weekends and free weekends 50/50, with you not having them same free weekend as your roommate, so you get some free space while they go into the city, Tegucigalpa (Honduras’ capital) for the weekend. Most everyone goes to Tegus (sometimes somewhere farther out) for at least a day on their weekend off, its nice to just get off the ranch, buy some groceries (the diet here is very beans and rice heavy, so added vegetables and fruits are really nice to have), and relax a bit. My weekend group (turno B) is pretty chill, relaxed, and more low key – our going out is like low key dancing, hanging out at bars, relaxing hostel hopping, which is nice. Our house, Casa San Vicente, is sweet. It’s basically a giant square, two sides of our rooms, two bunkrooms on one end (we slept there for a month while the outgoing group was still here. 4-10 to one room, living out of suitcases, 100% freezing showers. It was awful), and a kitchen, sitting space, living room/dining room type thing, library room, and meeting space on the other end. The middle is a little garden of sorts, open air, some bamboo trees, and a firepit. Everything is always open to outside. There is no such thing as AC or insulation here, so it feels like you are constantly outside, cause you basically are. But I like that a lot, especially after a few years in the more urban St. Louis.
So that’s kinda what I’ve been up to. I don’t know if ill post more, or if ill be putting photos on here rather than Facebook, or visa-versa, or anywhere online at all. We’ll see. I am on the computer all day for work though, so if you ever want to get in touch, Facebook or firstname.lastname@example.org is a good option!
Hope you all are well. Minnesota crew, I’m already looking forward to that wedding, that’s going to be a great weekend.
Welcome to the blog! I’ve been really surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed taking photos (I’m the ranch’s main photographer as one of my roles), so i thought i’d keep uploading to one place for anyone who wants to to see. Maybe some text updates on life will come with it, who knows?