A Family’s Foundation

Her demeanor is stoic. Her face is weathered and lined, but that is perhaps the only clear indication of the hardship and struggle that Albertina Reyes has experienced during her life living in poverty in Honduras.

It is clear that she is a pillar of strength in her family. She is the backbone that keeps her family going and moving forward each day.

Albertina’s home is a small two room shack, only about four hundred square feet all together. She has a kitchen made of tarps and sticks.

Yet, this small home is teeming with life. While the home itself, is not much to look at, it is a home filled with care and compassion for those who reside therein.

Albertina raised nine children. Her oldest daughter, Brenda, left for Mexico 7 years ago. She has not heard from her and doesn’t know if she is alive. She hopes she found a better life in Mexico but she may never know if she did or not. Two of her daughters were able to attend school until the sixth grade, the rest received even less education.

Albertina doesn’t see the value in education like many others in her community. For her, the priority is simply surviving and so a paycheck at the end of the day, or daily tasks being completed, is more important than a grade.

As many of Albertina’s children were unable to obtain sufficient education, several live with and rely on Albertina for help. Her children have given her grandchildren, a number of which Albertina is now responsible for raising.

Like most children, the grandchildren maintain a joy and innocent that often is absent once childhood is gone. They maintain a sense of freedom despite having to take on many adult responsibilities.

It is necessary for the older children to help the younger members of the families, giving them baths instead of playing with friends, supervising the babies, instead of doing homework.

Albertina continues to work in the ways she knows how, to improve her family’s life. She works long days cooking tortillas in her tarp and stick kitchen to provide income. She is currently working on a latrine and hoping the ground water doesn’t flood it so that it will be use able, but they will have to wait and see when the rains come.

Despite having little, her greatest hopes and dreams are not extravagant. She would like her children to visit. With all she lacks, it is the one thing she most wants. This is a stark contrast to many in the developed world who often choose material possessions over relationships. In that way, perhaps she is much more wealthy than many in the world.

She also wishes for relief from her asthma, a roof for the latrine and to improve her home, including to one day have a brick kitchen. For Albertina her fondest dream is one in which she is able to spend time with and feed her family.

Written by Shalyce Cluff; Photography by Jose Miguel Amaya

Thank you for joining us on this journey!

Two Markers

Two felt tip markers. It was all Mirian needed to stay in school for the day, but her family did not have them. With no means of purchasing them, she was sent home. Until she acquires the two required markers, she may not return to school. It is difficult to get a good education, when there are disruptions such as these to consistent learning.

Mirian would like to be a teacher when she grows up, but that will be impossible if she is unable to get sufficient education. She is caught in a difficult dilemma. She needs an education to improve her life conditions in the future, but there are significant obstacles in the way to obtaining one due to the family’s current financial situation.

In Honduras, public schools are available, but you may only attend them if you have the ability to bring the required school supplies. No one seems concerned with children who are unable to attend school because the supplies they need are economically inaccessible to them.

Mirian’s sister would like to be a doctor. Like Mirian, there are many challenges standing in the way of her achieving that goal. The necessary school supplies she requires have still not been obtained, either. It is unknown how much longer she will be allowed to attend without them–before she is also sent home.

Lesly, the girls’ mother, dreams that her children will one day be able to attend a university, that they will be able to see their dreams become reality and achieve economic security. With a university education, there is hope that the poverty, in which they live, will be eliminated for the next generation. For Mirian and her three sisters, the dream is tentative at most.

Regardless of the many forces working against them, Lesly manages to remain hopeful. Looking into the faces of her children, you can see why she desperately hangs onto hope that there is a way for the lives of her daughters’ to be easier then the life she now lives. She prays that her family might be blessed with miracles–miracles that would fulfill the needs and desires she is currently unable to provide on her own.

Lesly, is a single mother. She is the sole provider for her five children. Currently, she has temporary work sweeping the village’s sidewalks and streets in the morning. She has a contract for that job lasting two months. When the contract is up, the money from it will also be gone. In the afternoons, she sells vegetables. Her vegetable business was made possible through a loan, on which she is charged 20% interest. In any free time she has, she picks up whatever domestic tasks are available to add even the smallest amount to her income. Caring for a family of six with minimal opportunities for economic growth, is not easy.

The family’s pantry consists of this hanging shelf. Every two days or so, it becomes empty. When they find the food has run out, the already infrequent two meals a day becomes even less frequent. When the situation becomes desperate, they ask for food or money from others. Sometimes, only due to the generosity and kindness of others, they receive help.

The heaviness of her responsibilities, is evident on Lesly’s face. She is only 25-years old. The burdens she carries are wearying. When asked how she would like her life to be different, her response is that she only desires that she could rest. It is a constant struggle to provide the very bare necessities for her children.

Lesly’s daily struggle is tangible, but somehow, there is still joy and hope in the faces of the members of this family. Perhaps, someday, they will receive the miracles for which they have been praying.

Written by Shalyce Cluff; Photography by Jose Miguel Amaya

Thank you for joining us on this journey!

A Mother’s Worries

In the community where Keila lives, she and her partner do better than many, but that does not mean they are wealthy or that things are easy for them.

With two able adults to provide income, they have a distinct advantage over many of their neighbors. Keila’s partner sells, Atoles, a hot drink with a corn base, and makes 1,000 lempiras a week. He works 11 hours a day. Although typical for many in this part of the world, these earnings pale in comparison to that of any individual in America. His wage is equivalent to $42 a week–what someone working at the lowest minimum wage in America would make in less than one 8-hour day, and what someone with an average American salary would make in less than two hours of work.

Keila occasionally is able to work harvesting sweet potatoes in the field. When she does, she adds approximately $29 to their weekly income–a significant amount.

They also have chickens that provide them with a sustainable food source–something anyone in the community would be grateful to have.

Looking at their home, you would never know they are among the more prosperous of their community in terms of their income.

The home is a compilation of various materials. The walls are part sheet metal, part sticks, rocks and dirt.

Used cotton sheets make up parts of the walls, as well as part of the roof. Their floor is dirt. As is typical of homes in the area, their home has no electricity, no water and no latrine.

Possibly the greatest challenge with the home concerns the family’s 4-year old daughter, who suffers from respiratory issues.

Though the house in which they live is better than nothing, they practically live out in the open. Their home is sorely lacking when it comes to providing protection from environmental elements. The area in which the family lives is windy which generates a great amount of dust.

The dust, along with smoke from cooking their daily meals on an open wood stove, exacerbates the breathing issues, from which her daughter suffers. Exposure to the cold night air does not help either. Creating an environment conducive to healthy respiration is a nearly impossible task in these conditions.

Among the many concerns Keila is likely to have, her daughter’s health issues may be the greatest. She has already known the depth of sorrow that comes with losing children. Before her daughter was born, Keila lost a set of twins when she was 6 months pregnant.

Though only 23-years old, an age at which time when many Americans are living life large, finding themselves, and planning for their future, Keila’s face reflects the difficulties of life and the loss she has experienced.

Keila says her life is happy, and she truly does find great joy in her daughter, but happiness is not reflected in her face. If Keila had the resources, she would save up for medication for her daughter and start a business selling bread. Both desires would improve the conditions of her life, but most likely, only minimally. Those wishes might generate a reflection of happiness to her face, but if they did not, they would certainly minimize the strain of her impoverished living.

Written by Shalyce Cluff; Photography by Jose Miguel Amaya

Thank you for joining us on this journey!

How It All Began

In 1999, a 19-year-old boy stepped off the plane. Growing up in a small town in Arizona, looking around Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where he now walked was shocking. Josh had committed with his church to spend two years in a country, which he had only vaguely heard of before. His commission was to do his best to help the people of this unknown and unfamiliar land better their lives and teach them about Jesus Christ.

His time in Honduras brought many adventures. A few days after entering the country, he was attacked by a local drunk and then rescued by the neighborhood women. He befriended gang members, contracted malaria, lived through Hurricane Mitch and helped the community rebuild, but most significantly, he grew to love the people of Central America, and Honduras in particular. He developed tender compassion towards the people who lived in extreme poverty, which permeated the country.

After leaving the country when his two-year commitment expired, Josh made several return visits–spending time enjoying the country and culture, relaxing on the local islands and visiting friends. As life moved forward, he went to college, met his wife and started a family, making additional trips difficult. Despite all the time that passed, Honduras never left his heart or mind.

In January of 2019, many years since last visiting the country he loved, Josh returned to Central America to visit old friends. The young men beside whom he had once worked were now grown and supporting families of their own. Revisiting the land, his heart was again profoundly touched by the plight of the people in Central America–disabled men begging at bus stops, children running barefoot in the streets, families living in falling down shanties. He felt compelled to do something to help.

Back in the high desert of Colorado, his wife and children planned a small fundraiser while their dad was away–selling bracelets to friends and family on Facebook.

In a few days, $1,000 had been raised. Josh took the money directly to the people of El Salvador where he was visiting at the time–donating money to the elderly selling products on the street, delivering food to impoverished families in the local village and donating supplies to a children’s home where orphaned, disabled children, and adults with severe handicaps lived.

During Josh’s visit, he found that many local individuals were both willing and ready to help those less fortunate than themselves.

From this experience and a desire to do more Life Differently was born.