Buenos días from Casa Hogar Elim Orphanage in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico! There is a LOT to share so settle in for some amazing stories!
Goal Oriented Mission Trips
As we welcome teams to Casa Hogar, we continue to be hyper focused on specific goals that will have clear benefit to the kids. This includes helping them with math and reading, speech therapy, art, music and bible studies. We want to be sure that we are impacting the children in ways that will last far beyond the mission trip. It requires more planning and materials and effort by the teams, but everyone has embraced the changes and are bringing great ideas to the table!
Motocarro for Bread Sales
The fund raising for the purchase of a motocarro will be available by July. This will allow CHE to sell their bread at the local flea market and make money to help pay for orphanage expenses. This effort was started by a high school senior who visited Casa Hogar and heard about the need. He decided to focus his senior project on raising awareness and money for this effort. How cool is that?
The picture above is of a young man named Roberto. He had stopped going to school because he felt stupid. He had no way to access the homework online or complete it so he saw no reason to continue in junior high. When we opened the Learning Center, he was able to reengage and not only finish junior high, but complete a course in Word, Excel and Power Point and go on to finish Prepa (GED equivalent which is very normal for kids who don’t have much money)which will allow him to enter university. His plans are to enter the military for five years, hoping for an administrative position, so that he can pay for a house for his mother who is often without work and without a roof over her head. He is hopeful the military will also help him with university expenses. When he finishes his time in the military he would like to become a firefighter.
One of our main goals is to help these kids see that a stable, fruitful future is in their reach if they will do the work and accept help. Roberto is a success story already. We can’t wait to see what happens next! And, by the way, he told me that all of the notes that you have sent him are stashed in a special place and he reads them when he needs encouragement. Way to go, team!!
While we are on the topic of success stories, we have to talk about Rolando, pictured below. Rolando came to Casa Hogar Elim as a baby. At the age of about 15 he began to drift, left the orphanage and got in with some really bad people. We thought we had lost him. BUT he is a real miracle. He extricated himself from the negative influences, got back into Prepa and has two more semesters to go before he finishes. He showed me his grades yesterday and he has a 9.9 out of 10! He has returned to Casa Hogar and is living at the volu with the older boys. He is a SUPER positive influence on them,encouraging them through his actions to take pride in their home by keeping it clean (down to the refrigerator!) He is working hard on projects around Casa Hogar while he continues his education. He is grateful for the second chance and is dreaming of his future – possibly a dentist so that he can help Mama Lupita with the kids at the orphanage, possibly a veterinarian or possibly a long haul truck driver. His 19th birthday is coming up in May and I will reach out then so you can send words of encouragement for us to share with him. He has some trouble dealing with authority figures so prayers for humility will serve him well!
Approximately 1/3 of the kids at the orphanage do not read, do not know their ABC’s and are writing their names from pure memorization of the strokes. This is not uncommon in a border town or even smaller towns in Mexico where the focus is on how to make a peso and books are nowhere to be found.
We know that being able to read will be a life changer for these kids. We have tried getting a teacher into the learning center but it has not worked out. After a year of this not coming together as we had hoped, I realize I have to fill the gap the best that I can. I will admit to dragging my feet because of my Spanish (which is pretty good but definitely not great). Well, God definitely blesses a willing heart even if it doesn’t speak Spanish fluently! And here’s how…
A friend who heard of the challenge did some research and found a program called Estrellita. She even found a gal who would donate the whole program if we could work out the details. When I reached out to the company and shared the story they blew me away by offering the program for 30 children for FREE. With online training for teachers. IN ENGLISH! So the instructors materials are in English and the students materials are in Spanish. AND they are asking for further conversation to see if their own non-profit arm of the business could pay for part of a teachers salary. AND just since I started writing this two potential options for teachers have surfaced!
So, no more excuses– it’s full steam ahead. The first training is late May. Please be praying for me to remember that GOD is the teacher and I am just the hands and feet!
Estrellita– Accelerated Beginning Spanish Reading. Every child deserves a shining start. One of the most trusted and effective early Spanish literacy programs for over 30 years.
Another amazing blessing for Casa Hogar came through a friend, Larissa, who worked for Corsicana Mattress. She asked management if they would consider donating 50 mattresses to the orphanage and within 24 hours they came back with a big YES! So on May 16 we had volunteers driving a 6x12 trailer loaded with mattresses down to Laredo where we will store the mattresses and replace the ones on site as needed.
Zack and Tere Jones
We are excited to introduce you to Zack and Tere Jones. Tere is one of Mama Lupita’s adopted daughters. She grew up in Casa Hogar and became a dorm ‘mom’ as she grew older. Zack visited Casa Hogar on a mission trip, they met, fell in love, and married about 7 years ago. They spent most of their married lives living stateside and growing their own family –Daniel and Lupita.
After much prayer and counsel, they have followed God’s call back to Casa Hogar where they are dorm parents to the 6-8 year old boys and the 12-15 year old boys and girls. They are beginning to do structured spiritual development with the children, Tere with the younger and Zack with the older. After just a few months, there is already fruit! Twelve children age 13-15 were baptized alongside three ladies from the community! Praise God! Tere is also Mama’s right hand gal helping with staff and decision making. Zack has experience with aquaponics and carpentry so he is a treasure trove to our ministry and will be helping guide the work we do in those areas. We have made a TON of progress since he arrived as you will read below.
Chickens, Garden and Aquaponics
We had a virus run through the chickens and we lost about 20 of them leaving us with 50, 46 chickens and 4 roosters. ☹ A surprise introduction of 40 new chickens created severe overcrowding which set the stage for some health problems. We have since cleared an area to build two more pens which we will build when we have funds later this year. They are currently producing around 25 eggs a day and we hope to get up to 45 when the new pens go in. The eggs are delicious and while it took a while to get the kitchen cooks to use them (they had a belief that brown eggs were dirty!) they are now eating the eggs as quick as we can get them to them.
The garden is in and the cucumbers, squash, zucchini and tomato are all in bloom! We have over 120 plants compared to the 40 we planted last year so we have the opportunity for a much bigger crop! The fig and peach trees are loaded down with fruit already! We are also planting a grove of Moringa trees - this trees leaves are the most potent of any other plant, high in vitamins, protein, good fats and anti-oxidants! We plan on harvesting, drying and including the powder in the foods the kids are eating each day!
The aquaponics system is almost finished – still fine tuning the water filtration and aeration to keep everything in balance. We should have a good crop of tilapia in the fall which we will harvest in October as a great protein source for the kids throughout the winter. Two tanks are fish and one tank has been divided into two smaller water filtration tanks which will be used to water the garden (manually this year) and also fill the floating bed tanks where we will grow lettuces, strawberries and other plants that grow well on floating beds. Tere and Zack have involved the 13-15 year old kids to help with this build out and they have done an amazing job!
We have partnered with Gifted.Global, a non profit that supplies all the equipment/tools (table saw, miter saw, jigsaws, blades, reciprocal saw, orbital sanders, chisels,clamps, grinders, ratchets, wrenches, tool belts and bags loaded up with pencils,safety glasses, tape measures, squares, levels, chalk lines, hammers, joiner,etc) required to start a carpentry workshop. They will deliver the equipment in July. We didn’t think this would happen until later this year or next year! We are focused on building the 20x40 workshop. It will serve as the center for carpentry classes, as well as, producing product to sell in the local flea market and to visitors. We have two master carpenters (Zack and Kimio) available to us as teachers so it is going to be really exciting to see who grabs hold of this opportunity and what it will mean for the kids.
Gifted.Global A Nonprofit that Equips and Develops Communities by Empowering people Through trades. We provide tools and education so they can use their gifts to create sustainable income.
Back2Back Orphan Care Training
Through the sponsorship of Preston Trail Community Church, the staff of Casa Hogar Elim had the unprecedented opportunity to attend training together at Back2Back ministries located in Monterrey, Mexico. The biggest take away was the need to reduce the number of kids per dorm and to create more of a family environment – with married couples where possible. The reasons for this are many but you can probably imagine that the care and love that each child receives will be much more personal if there are 6-8 kids instead of 12-15 in each dorm. There will be a period of time as the dorm areas are revamped to include a small kitchen area where breakfast can be prepared. Lunch and dinner will continue to be served in the communal dining area. One of Mama Lupita’s daughters will move on site as a dorm parent so there will now be four areas instead of three. In addition, Edgar, who is dorm parent with his wife, Cinthia, will give up his outside job and work full time at Casa Hogar, running the bakery and mentoring the children. This change is one we have prayed about for quite some time, so to see it coming to fruition is truly wonderful to see!
Blessing Upon Blessing
We are seeing God at work here in the most beautiful ways and it couldn’t happen without your financial support, your prayers and, in many cases, your sweat and blood! Amazing things happen when we are willing to step into the gap and be His Hands and Feet and you all are examples of this!
I will be in the Allen/Frisco area June 6th– 9th to speak with anyone who wants to hear about the wonderful things that are happening at Casa Hogar Elim and to raise funds so that we are prepared for whatever God has waiting in the wings. We already see several things coming up that would be in line with our ministry and we want to be ready to say YES! when God says go! More to come on those soon!
As always, we hope that these updates will encourage you and lift you up as you join us in the fight to break the cycle of poverty for the orphaned and underprivileged child. We have so many reasons to praise our God and we are lifting YOUR names up as we do!
We love you,
Anita and Thad