The Gravity of Loss

Their home is mangled and barely stands.

Their shoes are worn beyond repair–shoes most of us would throw away without hesitation.

There are days they skip meals even though it would cost only $4 to feed their whole family for the day.

Yet, this is not the greatest deficit for Candida and the children for which she cares.

Candida’s daughter, and the mother of these two young children, was murdered. There is now a stark void where a mother’s arms should be and increased struggle where another provider, their mother, would have been contributing to care for these growing, vibrant children–but she is gone.

It is through the grace of a loving grandmother that these two have a home at all. Candida took her grandchildren in when their mother was killed.

In addition to their grandmother, the children share this home, with their two uncles, Candida’s two sons, who are just a few years older than themselves.

They all share one room, a generous term for their residence. Likewise, their beds consist of only a single shared mattress for all five members of the family.

Aside from some occasional contributions from a father of one of the boys, Candida is the sole adult provider for these four beautiful children.

These two boys, Candida’s sons, are the men of the house. There is no husband, father or grandfather bringing home a daily wage or contributing to household duties. Marriage in Honduras is expensive. As a result, many couples do not get married. When the babies come and the strain of daily survival becomes more difficult, many of the men simply leave. These boys, like so many others in their area, will continue to grow up without the influence, love and support of a father–something every child, even the poorest, deserves.

It is only because of these boys’ help that there is a home at all. They, with their grandmother, built their home.

Their means are so limited that much of the home is made up of sheets and recycled material. Constructed much as American children might build a fort, the material is tucked into each little nook to maintain protection from the elements. What first world children would find to be a delightful fort, is the permanent living arrangements for Candida and her family.

A recent fire took away the kitchen galley they had been fortunate enough to have, leaving only an open sky under which to cook in all weather conditions–generally with the scorching sun bearing down on them as they stand in front of the fire.

Candida is able to sporadically find employment doing laundry. For a twelve hour day, from seven in the morning until seven at night, Candida will earn a maximum of 150 lempiras, or approximately $6.25. At $.50 an hour, when she is able to obtain work, it is not much to support herself and four children.

On the days Candida does not work, her boys sell firewood. Though they should be in school, education is not a luxury they can afford. The lack of education for these boys will likely perpetuate the debilitating cycle of poverty. On a good day of selling firewood, the boys will make a little more than $4. On other days, they return home after trying to sell firewood with nothing but the firewood with which they started the day.

There is no government help, or mandated child support. Neither are there any food stamps to assist with their needs. When the money runs out, so does the food. On good days, they are blessed with two meals a day, which generally consist of beans, rice, eggs and butter. On an especially good day, they are able to add chicken to their meal.

Candida lives without much, but she still has treasured possessions–the children, and health enough to allow her to grow a small garden despite the epilepsy with which she deals. It is from this small plot of land and her diligent efforts that the family receives their main, though very limited, supply of vegetables.

Her garden is a source of joy for Candida in the midst of the daily struggle to simply survive, and with it, she is able to feed her family just a little bit better. When asked what she would do if she had money to improve her life, her answer was both simple and modest. There were two things she identified. First, construction materials to fix their home. Second, she would like a latrine, something they currently live without.

Sometimes they must go without food, but in the days following our visit, they will have enough–for a short time–a far too short period of time.


In November of 2019 we were able to help Candida make improvements to her home to better shelter and protect her family.

Written by Shalyce Cluff; Photography by Jose Miguel Amaya

Thank you for joining us on this journey!

Just Like You and Me

The wear of 60 years of living a difficult and trying life shows on the face of Maria.

Living on the outskirts of a small Honduran village, a household which was once teeming with children, fifteen to be exact, is now nearly empty. Three children left her in death, three remain near her, while the other nine have moved far away and now have minimal communication.

Her home sits on land generously donated by a former mayor of the village. Before she received the land, over twenty years ago, she rented various homes. It is a blessing to have a home to call her own.

Maria lives in a one-room adobe home, with one of her children–an adult son, Jose. Jose lives with her because he is unable to care for himself. Two of her daughters, and a handful of her grandchildren live nearby and visit regularly.

Jose suffers from a combination of autism and a seizure disorder. Sometimes, the neighbors will pay him to run errands for them, and the little bit he occasionally earns contributes to the money needed for Maria and Jose to care for themselves.

The only other source of income they have comes from Maria selling vegetables and second-hand clothing given to her by friends. This provides a scanty living for the two–approximately $20 a week.

Jose also possesses their only form of transportation–a bicycle.

The only other way for them to travel is by foot, or through the generosity of others who occasionally have helped Maria by paying for a taxi. With Jose’s medical issues, as well as Maria’s, who is diabetic, travel for regular medical care is difficult. The medical center where Jose receives treatment and medication is more than 30 miles away.

Maria’s grandchildren who live close by, are clearly a light and joy in a world that can sometimes feel sad and discouraging.

You do not yet see their faces impacted by the difficulty of living in poverty.

Still, poverty is there. They have no potable water in their home, no running water in their faucets. In order to obtain drinking water, they must travel nearly two miles to a local gas station. Two miles doesn’t sound like much, but walking two miles is much farther than walking ten feet from anywhere in your home to access clean drinking water. All the water used each day, must be carried the two miles from the gas station to their homes.

There are no flushing toilets, simply a bucket to sit on, surrounded by cloth for privacy. The actual toilet is merely a hole in the ground. When the hole is full, it will be buried and another latrine constructed–maintaining conditions as sanitary as possible.

While there is much to long for in these circumstances, Maria desires only a few things. She longs for the companionship of all her children, some of whom have not spoken to her in over three years. The sorrow of this loss is evident in her face.

Her other desire, is to acquire a possession that you most likely have always had.

A kitchen.

Cooking is one thing that brings her joy. She longs for a space in which she could prepare and share a meal with her family.

Even in the most ideal of situations, her kitchen still would not have running water, as that is something that simply is not available, It may not even have walls, but her dream kitchen would be more than a free standing stove and a small table.

Maria did nothing to put herself in these circumstances. It is not due to her mistakes or any poor choices she might have made. Maria was simply born in a different village, in a different country where many of the conveniences we take for granted, such as readily accessible drinking water, simply are not a reality.

Written by Shalyce Cluff; Photography by Jose Miguel Amaya

Thank you for joining us on this journey!

Seeing Clearly

In third world countries, you see it everywhere you go–people struggling for basic necessities, lives being lived in desperate circumstances.

This man, whose name we did not learn, sat begging on the street. His face was void. Where beautiful eyes should have looked out, there were only empty sockets.

When you are begging on the street, blind to all that is happening around you, relying on your other senses to make up for your lost sight, a few extra dollars, though not much, is enough to make your day a little better, enough to make the struggle a little easier for a little while.

When you see clearly the circumstances of others, your heart can change. When you open your eyes to the conditions in which other lives, less fortunate than yours, are being lived, it offers perspective. Things may be hard for you right now, but they could always be harder. It may seem that life is not fair, but there are many who have been dealt a much harder hand. When life feels devastating, or times are difficult, we can dwell on the struggle, or we can accept it and then look beyond ourselves to help others, to make another’s day a little brighter, because when life feels desperate, we know the difference one small act of kindness can make.

Written by Shalyce Cluf

Thank you for joining us on this journey!

Seeing Life Differently

After a week of travel, it was another hot and humid day in San Salvador, the capitol city of El Salvador. The sidewalks in Central Park were littered with vendors.

Each sat through the heat of the day, selling small items, hoping to make a good day’s wage. Five dollars for a full day of work is typical. It doesn’t matter the age or physical abilities, this is what is done to survive.

Deeply affected by seeing men who were physically disabled, begging at the bus stops, it seemed unconscionable to not do something more for those who had so little, whose opportunities in life were so limited. Armed with money raised from his daughters’ bracelet sales and other generous donations, Josh set out to give to others in circumstances similar to those he first saw.

Ten Dollars…

It was not much, but represented a couple of days work for the vendors in Central Park.

“You must be careful there,” he had been warned. This was not a safe area. Already standing out, as he was clearly not a local, it would be doubly unsafe if it was known that he carried a significant amount of money. Eliciting the help of several local friends to provide protection and support, Josh set out looking for those he could help.

A giving heart is not confined to those who have much. Even in the most desperate of situations, with hardships of their own, hearts are often drawn to giving, to helping lift others. Four such men accompanied Josh as he went to Central Park with the intention of giving a little to many of the poorest in the city. Though not immune to their own financial struggles and difficulties in providing for their families, each of these men took the time away from their families and jobs, to give to those who had less.

They walked the streets and visited several parks in San Salvador. They would purchase some of the goods being sold and then tip the vendor a few day’s wages with the money that had been raised.

Some were hesitant.

“Who were these men walking towards them?” many likely wondered. Were they going to steal from them? Would they take their money or physically harm them?

The concern was legitimate as gangs in El Salvador often run the streets, demanding money in exchange for some peace from the gangs’ harassment. Many vendors purposely tried to avoid drawing attention from the seemingly intimidating group of men–ignoring the situation in hopes that it wouldn’t turn out badly for them.

With reassurances, the group of men gave the often surprised vendors a little lift to their day through the donations.

They met all kinds of people, older women and men, young mothers with children–all trying their best to provide for themselves and their loved ones..

Among all the faces seen and stories heard–one stood out.

His name is Cayetano.

It was not Cayetano’s physical limitations that captured the attention of the men. Though his physical limitations are significant–unable to walk, using handmade wood blocks to protect his hands as he maneuvers from place to place–it was the strength of spirit, depth of character and joy that Cayetano radiated which set him apart.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, shoes and outdoor

From their first moments together, Cayetano was friendly, with a smile on his face. He was not shy, afraid or ashamed like many first appeared to be.

His smile penetrates the heart, with a warmth that radiates through the pictures.

Though limited in his physical abilities, he has not let this stop him from progressing.

Initially given ten dollars, like all the others Josh encountered, Josh was unable to get him off his mind. Consequently, he returned and gave him ten more. In return, Cayetano recited the names of all of the 50 states. He had previously bought a map of the United States and memorized them all.

Cayetano chose not to be limited by his disadvantages. He chose joy despite his circumstance of living in one of the poorest countries in the world, with significant physical limitations–a situation many would consider hopeless. Yet, he has not given up. He has chosen and continues to thrive despite it all.

While he has little to give others in terms of material goods, he gives what he can, which is more profound and lasting–his strength of character and example of spirit. He gives hope. He gives joy and inspiration.

There is nothing so bad in life that you can’t also find and feel happiness. There are no obstacles so big that you can’t keep learning. There is no situation so desperate that you can’t give back to others.

Cayetano shows us this.

Thank you for joining us on this journey!