San José Family Center Celebrates First Christmas
The San José Family Center opened its doors to the Mata de Plátano community one year ago. Today, it not only celebrates its first Christmas, but also the success it has achieved on its first anniversary.
December 22, 2020 - Honduras
It has been a little over a year since construction of the San José Family Center began in the small rural village of Mata de Plátano, located just north of the center of the country, 55 kilometers from the capital Tegucigalpa. Travel to the family center requires a 45-minute car ride on dirt roads off the main highway to the country’s biggest province, Olancho.
Last year, when the staff first opened the doors of the center, there were no clients other than a few children with disabilities. Center Coordinator Amy Gonzáles worked alongside her team—a psychologist, a physiotherapist, and a tutor—to identify potential clients by cooperating with local schools. They then conducted psycho-pedagogical evaluations and selected 68 children to be direct beneficiaries of services offered by the center. Furthermore, thanks to a process of interviews and home visits, the staff gained the trust and commitment of families to work with them to provide tutoring and psychological attention, as well. “We could not start working with people until they believed in this project. But in His time, God brought the right people to us,” says Amy.
“Recently, we have had the opportunity to work with teachers from the community. We have made alliances with the schools and, through that, we have trained the teachers to overcome the kids’ learning delay. There were some children in sixth grade who did not know how to read and write, and with the initiatives from the center we have seen their progress,” adds Amy.
In the community, 452 families make a living solely from farming and mandarin fruit production, which is not enough to cover everyday expenses, let alone have home internet service. For this reason, the San José Family Center provides internet access for children to do their homework with help from a tutor. “Despite the global situation, this Christmas I think the town will have a lot more to celebrate,” says Amy.
The San José Family Center has also implemented the Chicas Poderosas program, which aims to empower adolescent girls from Mata de Plátano and surrounding communities. The girls learn how to make jewelry, attend workshops on life-skills and character-building, and talk about topics that interest them.
“At the beginning, there were 13 young girls, but now there are 24, with the majority studying in school due to the advice and encouragement they received at the center. In this space, they feel loved, safe, and free to talk about things that worry them or make them feel insecure, which they might not be able to do in their own home. The lack of education for girls was such a challenge, since the culture of the local communities favors marriage after sixth grade; however, we have worked ceaselessly to empower them to continue studying and look for opportunities for their personal growth and pursue a better future,’’ adds Amy.
The San José Family Center has been a wonderful gift to the Mata de Plátano community. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff have come up with ideas to support the community, such as the Manos Solidarias initiative. This program is aimed at community members who make their living through agriculture and selling produce in markets in Tegucigalpa. Despite Mata de Plátano being a COVID-19-free zone, residents have not been able to travel, so the program provides a monthly basket of food staples for each family.
The staff have offered workshops in community gardening, so each home can have a different type of vegetable to exchange or sell to one another. Up to now, the staff have had meetings with community leaders from Mata de Plátano, measuring results and looking for better options to overcome challenges.
“As coordinator of the San José Family Center, I face many challenges on a daily basis, but I also feel fortunate to be here, able to help the most vulnerable through this project implemented by NPH Honduras. There are about 83 entire families and 305 individuals who directly benefit; that is a big impact,” says Amy.
One particular individual is Samuel*: a boy with cerebral palsy who lives with his parents and two brothers. He is the middle child and could not speak; instead, he used to imitate the sounds and behaviors of cats. At the beginning, when the center was still under construction, the physiotherapist used to visit his home to provide therapy services since Samuel also had difficulty walking—one of his shoulders is higher than the other which makes it difficult to move around his home. Now Samuel’s father, José Mario, helps Samuel walk to the center to receive therapy. The condition of Samuel’s shoulder has also improved; he has greater mobility in his arm and can move it comfortably. He can identify colors and shapes and the cat-mimicking has decreased. The physiotherapist has made great strides to involve the family in the therapies; now Samuel receives support in his own home, making his rehabilitation more sustainable.
“For me, being part of the San José Family Center is a blessing. It is a gift from heaven and something I have always prayed for,” says José Mario. “I used to feel hopeless. I used to look at my boy, Samuel, and promise him that someday I would be able to help him. Now that promise is a reality and a reason for happiness to me. My heart is full of gratitude for the staff, NPH, and the donors. This year, my Christmas has a new outlook! I have a new child and a new family who values mine as theirs. I pray to God for all the people who have extended a hand of love to our community and especially to my child.”
“We have two reasons to celebrate—Christmas and a year full of success for this project. We have prepared a posada, which is a celebration that commemorates the journey that Joseph and Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem looking for safe refuge where Mary could give birth to the baby Jesus. In this celebration we share reflections, sing together, play games, and, of course, enjoy delicious meals,’’ concludes Amy.
*Children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.
There is no doubt that the actions taken by the NPH Honduras family to aid local communities have a long-term impact. We invite you to make a difference in the lives of others, especially in this time of joy and love. Visit your local NPH office to see how you can help.