An End of Year Reflection

November 14, 2022

At El Hogar, hope is not a vague concept but a tangible, layered, unfolding presence.  I recognize it in the almost-hidden, sideways smile of a 15-year-old who hugs his father for the first time.  I notice it in the light sprint of the 17-year-old who has passed her college entrance exam to become the first member of her family to ever attend university.  It fidgets in the fingers of a shy 10-year-old boy who has discovered he excels at trivia through a Quizizz game at school.  And it quivers in the held-back tears of a coordinator who writes down her dream for El Hogar ten years from now as part of a staff retreat exercise. 

After three years of working among students and staff, my personal definition of what El Hogar is can be summed up by the following three words: hope through opportunity. The hope that someday, in this country I love, every child will have access to quality education, will know what it feels like to wake up in a safe environment, will have a sense of family and belonging.  The hope that one day, a Honduran youth will not have to cross a border to be free of violence or to simply make a living.

Having grown up in Honduras, immersed in its beauty and its challenges, its vast potential and its disparity, I firmly believe in the power of education and in the value of El Hogar´s work.  These three years have been filled with uncertainty and change but also with progress, joy and unwavering dedication.  My goal from the beginning has been to listen to, unite and equip our amazing staff, students and community to carry out their most meaningful work at EL Hogar.  I have focused my efforts on setting the foundation for healthy, collaborative growth so that El Hogar can reach a whole new level of impact and sustainability in the coming decade, while staying true to its core values, among them love, faith and integrity. 

My vision for El Hogar is that we shift our purpose from transforming children´s lives to helping children transform their own lives.  It´s a subtle though powerful shift that has deep implications in the way we do our work, as part of 43-year-old legacy.  Among these implications, I want to emphasize four: our adjustment in our relationship with students, with families, with staff and with our community. 

From a student perspective, this means that while we remain devoted to education, we shift to a more entrepreneurial focus and transfer greater agency and responsibility to students.  Whenever possible, we involve students in decisions, we listen continuously, and we refrain from solving problems for them, but with them.  More and more we are embracing that our role as educators is to challenge, empower, and expose students to a variety of experiences that will prepare them for their future beyond El Hogar. 

On the family front, we see ourselves not only serving children directly, but also serving them through and with their families.  We continue to strive for greater family involvement throughout our centers, and for helping students develop tighter connections to their siblings and family members, with yet much work to do on this front.  This is a more complex and significant change as we prepare to serve the community that impacts a child´s environment and development.  In addition, we are adapting our residential program to become more family-centered so that children can forge deeper connections while at El Hogar and sustain long-term support networks once they age out.  

As an organization, although we intentionally nurture our wonderful culture of love, faith and integrity, we are also shifting toward greater accountability from our staff, by developing shared, measurable goals and delegating decision-making at every level of the organization, guided by a combination of principle and policy.  We are also including the voices of staff members from every area of El Hogar in the development of a shared vision of the future.

A theme of partnership is the common thread through all our key relationships, including visitors and donors, which is evident in our unfolding programs.  For instance, the launch of our El Hogar Partners program seeks to connect our donor community to the core services at El Hogar, and to walk with our staff as they focus on supporting all the students.  The visitor program continues to evolve to reflect a shared learning and transformational experience, and to forge long-term relationships with visitors. 

Giving children access to a values-based education, healthy connections, and a safe and nurturing environment does not guarantee that every child will achieve the life they desire.  We understand a small percentage of our students will struggle, and this humbling reality needs to be accepted for us to truly shift our role from provider to enabler.  Our goal needs to be that every child enrolled at El Hogar will have had an equitable opportunity to flourish, become an independent member of society and find his or her own fulfillment. 

There are hundreds of thousands of Honduran children who could benefit from the work of El Hogar.  I envision El Hogar´s future role extending far beyond partnering with students in their transformation, to partnering with the country in its transformation of youth services.  I am inspired by El Hogar´s own opportunity to become a leader and an example in quality education and family-centered youth development programs.  I commend the hard work of the dedicated Honduran team who goes the extra mile and the long-time supporters who, together, make this mission possible.   I end the year with immense gratitude for the amazing community that surrounds El Hogar. 

As the world shifts, we commit to remain bound by our values and freed by our dreams, inspired to act and evolve in partnership for the growth and wellbeing of Honduran children.

Thank you for your continued support of El Hogar!

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