Thursday, 30 August 2018

Honduras: 6000 Children Sleeping Better Tonight!

6000 more children in Honduras are sleeping in their new bedkits, thanks to all our supporters who believe in our dream that every child deserves a good night's sleep! Our last few days of distribution were a joyful whirlwind of work and social time- how could our 16 days in Honduras go so quickly?! Each day we were greeted in the hotel by our amazing Rotaracts,starting our day with warm hugs and playful chatter. We'd hop in our van and travel through beautiful countryside to be greeted in the schools by excited children. A flurry of activity before the rhythm of the distribution kicks in - backpacks set, children registered and looking smart in their new t-shirts, photo taken, bedkits given- hugs, smiles, high fives all around... another great day on the job! Delicious lunches prepared for us each day by the wives of the Rotarians, served to a room packed full of happy volunteers, all who helped out through the distribution of the bedkits. Our evenings were more laughter and conversation whether at our hotel, the Rotary meetings, or the homes of the Rotarians.  Conversations about the children, their lives, their sleep, all of us dreaming big on how we could help these children; all of us committed to our work with Sleeping Children Around the World.


Our last distribution was a particularly fun day as we celebrated "Sleep Day"! http://www.scaw.org/sleepday/ This year our Rotaracts outdid themselves with their pyjamas, onesies, funky sleep caps, and as always, their boundless enthusiasm.  We will miss them, and all of our Rotary partners, when we return back to Canada.  It's been a wonderful trip, a rewarding adventure and, as always, 100% for the children!

Team Honduras 2018
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Friday, 24 August 2018

Honduras: In The Home Stretch!

Today our team completed our 10th distribution in Honduras. We are in the home stretch now! With only two more distributions to go, we have now given out 5000 of our 6000 bedkits. Go team Honduras!


Before heading out on our distribution this morning we had to say goodbye to Julia, a wonderful member of our team who is heading back to medical school in Alberta. Julia’s departure reminded us all that our work in Honduras will soon be coming to an end. With heavy hearts we climbed into our van determined to continue the hard work and amazing spirit of our original team.


Today’s distribution took place at a school within the urban centre of Tegucigalpa. Before we even entered the gates of the school we could hear a tremendous amount of excitement within the school’s walls. As the gates opened we were swept up into a mob of children playing in the school’s courtyard. The children greeted us with big friendly smiles and warm hugs. It was such a nice way to begin our day. The children continued to be playful and outgoing throughout the distribution, eagerly playing a game of “Simon says” or skipping rope while they waited for their photos to be taken. Upon receiving their backpacks and bedkits the children could not hide the excitement on their faces. One little girl was actually jumping up and down with joy as she waited in line for her backpack.


Upon completion of our distribution, we drove into the downtown core of the city, and had the pleasure of meeting with some of the women who sewed the pillowcases and sheets for the bedkits. These women have all been trained through a special program at the Alternatives and Opportunities Institution, which provides them with skills to enhance their financial stability. During our visit to the co-op we learned that 20 women were involved in the Sleeping Children project, spending approximately 2 months sewing the bedkits items for the Honduras distribution.


We are all so grateful for the opportunity to not only provide the gift of sleep to 500 more children today, but to have participated in a project that provides employment opportunities to these well-deserving women in Honduras.

Sleep Well!

Kelly Dodson for
Team Honduras 2018
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Thursday, 23 August 2018

Honduras: The Happy & The Sad

 Today was one of those days where you look around at your team and you feel your heart fill with pride. I feel tremendously grateful to be working here in Honduras with so many wonderful people who are truly committed to improving the lives of the kids. We had a huge turnout of volunteers today and everyone pitched in- organizing the site, assembling the backpacks, herding the excited and bouncing children, clapping and singing songs with the kids, enjoying the camaraderie of conversation over a home cooked lunch. So many bright and happy moments. 


Then there are the sad moments too... it is hard to see your committed and caring team members return from the homes of the children in tears because of the hardships they have just witnessed. These children live in challenging circumstances- they arrive at the school bright and happy, but their home life shows a level of poverty that is difficult for us to process. It truly is hard to make sense of it all. So we remind ourselves why we are here, and we feel grateful that we are able to work here; we stretch our emotions and we change and we learn. And then we get back to work, always for the children.



Team Honduras 2018
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Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Honduras: Distribution 7…. 1st Of The Second Half ☺


Today, we distributed another 500 bedkits to very needy kids from the countryside of Tegucigalpa. We also did our first interview about the environment of where and how the children sleep by visiting with two lovely girls who had just received their gift from our donors. We went to the first house, not without its challenges… The road isn’t made for cars in that area… and, even walking up to the house was a slow process, making sure everyone would get there without falling or coming face to face with the many dogs of the area… 



The house was occupied by the grandmother, mother, two niñas (girls) and their uncle. They have one bedroom for Grandma and the uncle, and the other room is for the three others, all occupying one bed. The metal roof would get noisy when raining and very warm when the sun is high… but, luckily this area is windy and the night gets cool so they get some rest in this calm place. 

The second house was more crowded… in one of the bedroom, slept two small children with their parents, in the other bedroom the mother is sleeping with her two daughters and her two others son sleep in the main room. The entire place was cluttered and very small for all those people. The mattress would actually allow them to use the cot with more comfort and the youngest will be protected under the mosquito net with their mother. What touch me the most was even though they have so little, they would share with their sibling.

We also visited the warehouse where the bedkits are assembled and stored. It was really impressive to see the pile of bedkits that are waiting to be given, which means more work is awaiting us in the next few days!


Team Honduras 2018
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Honduras: Our Sixth Day of Distributions!

We just finished day 6 of our 2018 Sleeping Children Around the World bedkit distribution in Honduras and I’m pleased to say that another 500 children are getting a “Better Night’s Sleep” in this developing country.  

Today, we travelled approximately 50 miles outside of Tegucigalpa to a rural area called Comayagua.  The Rotary Club of Tegucigalpa once again partnered with the Rotary Club of Comayagua to coordinate a bedkit distribution, so that the children in this region could receive a bedkit from a donor in Canada.  The children in this community were challenged by a lack of accessible drinking water, malnutrition and poverty to a much greater scale then what we had experienced the first 5 days of this distribution. Despite these challenges, the children were very excited and happy to participate in the distribution.

After the distribution was completed, we had a chance to visit the homes of four past recipients that had received bedkits in 2017. The conditions they lived in were challenging, as the working poor in Honduras lack many of the amenities that we take for granted.  Small dwellings, a lack of food and rooms shared by multiple family members were consistent themes in all the homes we visited. It was nice to see that the bedkits items were still in good condition and shared amongst the entire family. The families that we visited were also very appreciative and thankful for the “Gift of Sleep” that Sleeping Children Around the World had provided them with the bedkit.

As I reflect on the day, I feel very blessed to be able to participate on a bedkit distribution that has such a lasting impact on those less fortunate.  It becomes very evident that the key to Honduras’ success will be the ability for these children, the country's future, to get a better night’s sleep.  If they can be more cognizant at school, they will be able to use education to assist them in pursuing their dreams. We are definitely taking positive steps in that direction with the 500 children we supported today.
Regards,
Sieg Will

Team Leader

Team Honduras 2018
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Sunday, 19 August 2018

Honduras: Halfway There!

After an early bedtime for all team members last night we woke up re-energized and ready to face the day. An early start had us well on our way with the expectation of arriving in good time, however we now know to always expect the unexpected. Our convoy was held up by a large group of cows being herded down the middle of the road. If you are not familiar with the attitudes of cows, they like to do as they like, not as we would like them to do!! After a few minutes we were able to proceed to our distribution site in time to see many children already lined up eagerly waiting for what the day was to bring them.


The first group of children through each had special needs, but the challenges they face did not stop them from participating and enjoying their time spent with the team members, Rotarians and Rotaracts.


The distribution ended with a very heartfelt thank you from the school principal on behalf of all the families, children and teachers. These moments of such an outpouring of gratitude, together with the smiles and laughter from the children is the reason the SCAW volunteers and the Overseas Volunteers Partners are continually pulled by our heartstrings and make us want to meet each day, even when challenged by the fatigue that sets in.

We were given a special treat of visiting the Cottage Industry where a presentation of the preparation of the uniform shirts was given. The team was able to ask questions and learned that by having the uniforms made by Honduran ladies the income helped 17 families in the area. We also learned that the 6000 uniforms were made in 2 months and 15 days, this is quite amazing.


Following the visit to the Cottage Industry we were all treated to a very tasty lunch of traditional Honduran fare including Tres Leches (Three Milks) dessert, my favourite part!


The tired but very happy team arrived back to the hotel and look forward to beginning the process all over again tomorrow. Sadly, we will say goodbye to two of our team members who must return home in the morning but the bonds we have formed with them will last a life time.


Sandra for
Team Honduras 2018

Friday, 17 August 2018

Honduras: Colourful Memories!

Today our team got an early start and travelled up into the mountains surrounding the city of Tegucigalpa.  Mountains are plentiful in Honduras, with peaks as high as 9,347 feet.  In fact, over 80% of Honduras is made up of mountains and is home to the majority of the country’s population.  Today’s distribution was located in one of the many towns scattered throughout the mountainous region of Honduras.


As our van travelled further and further away from the urban centre below, the view outside became more and more beautiful, bright and colourful!  On one side of the road, large, green pine trees, lined the streets and covered the side of the mountain like a thick, cozy blanket. In the distance you could see the clouds moving slowly across the mountain peaks, while the sun rose further into the sky.  It was breathtaking!  On the other side of the road, was a wall of dark grey and white stone, a little peak inside the mountain’s interior.  We also enjoyed seeing horses and the occasional donkey on the side of the road.


As we approached the site of our distribution the first thing we noticed was the beautiful colours of the buildings with turquoise, green, or pink walls, and the well-manicured park in the centre of the town. 


We quickly got to work and began preparing for our forth distribution by securing the straps on the colourful backpacks – orange, blue, pink and purple – that would soon rest upon the backs of the 500 children we would meet that day.  We also checked in on the bedkits with their vibrant fabrics adorned with well-known characters like Mickey Mouse, Dora, Spiderman and Donald Duck.  Everything was in place and ready to go!


As the children entered into the school they were entertained with colourful puppets – a green turtle, a bright orange iguana –  and then organized for their photos.  They then made their way through the distribution site, collecting their backpack and their bedkit and exiting with big, bright, beautiful smiles on their faces. 


As we made our way back down the windy mountain road, we reflected on our fourth distribution and all the colourful memories we made that day. We will all sleep well tonight knowing that close to 2000 children in Honduras have now received the gift of a good night’s sleep. 



Team Honduras 2018
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Honduras: A Challenging, But Successful Distribution!

Today was our most challenging distribution so far… Getting to the site was supposed to be 20 minutes… it actually took us over an hour. Traffic and construction were the cause of it. Once at the school, the configuration was also challenging as the buildings were on multiple levels of hills. Greatly, with the help of everyone on site, we relocated the bedkits by doing a fireman chain. We then had the chance to welcome the kids very safely and efficiently. It is still amazing to see the beautiful smile we get as the kids see what they are receiving and our hearts are warm knowing that another 500 young lovely kids will sleep better. We have been lucky today also to get the most grateful hugs from the children and the community. 



On our way back, we had a quick stop at the market to buy some snacks to satisfy the cravings of the team. After some rest, we had a dinner with the Rotary club at their weekly meeting. Another busy and positive day is ending.


Genevieve Milot for Team Honduras 2018
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Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Honduras: A Successful Second Distribution!

Day 2 of our distribution in Honduras was full of laughter and gratitude among all those involved. The parents and children giggled at our Northern accents as we attempted to speak Spanish to say simple phrases like “you are welcome.” Somehow when we say, “de nada”, it just doesn’t sound the same as when they say it. And our… well mainly Sieg’s… lack of tongue dexterity when trying to say the letter “n” with a tilda in “niña” and “niño” was all too comical to the children which made us all giggle. Then there was Debbie’s subconscious desire for sangria when asking the children to smile for the pictures – for those interested, the Spanish word for “smile” is “sonría”. With their infectious laughter came heartwarming smiles of gratitude.



During one of Monica’s interviews with a head of school, he shared that many children approached him before our arrival to tell him how grateful they are to have a new backpack for school and a soft place to sleep to replace the cardboard on the ground that they previously called their “bed”. The teachers and heads of schools expressed tremendous gratitude to us “for coming out of [our] comfort zone to help the children in their schools to come to school more rested with less soreness from sleeping on the ground”.  They expressed a sincere interest in learning more about sleep health and asked us if we could send them information that they can take back to their parents to help increase their awareness about the importance of sleep health.


Our team of 8 volunteers smiled and laughed throughout the distribution as the children asked to touch Justin’s hair, kiss Genevieve’s puppets, take a selfie with Sandra and receive their new backpacks and bed from Julia and Kelly. We all left with our hearts warmed by the Army who was there to help and support us, the Rotarians for their exceptional organization, and of course to the teachers, parents, and students for trusting us to be a part of our shared interest in helping all children sleep well and be well.



Team Honduras 2018
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Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Honduras: The Power Of A Team!

Today was our first day of distribution in Honduras and a whirlwind of joy, learning, emotion and connection. Starting out early with our local partners, we were able to distribute 485 bedkits to beautiful Honduran children over the course of the day! One of the challenges felt by the team was our limited Spanish speaking capabilities, but this was markedly offset by the unspoken binding force of our common goal: the children.


While working in collaboration with the Rotary Club, Tegucigalpa’s Rotaracts, military officials, local sponsors, school teachers and parents may on paper sound like a recipe for chaos, the day was an incredible success due to the strength of commitment that jumped language and cultural barriers to make us all one big team. 



So strong was this spirit of purpose that even the security were jumping in to help blow up balloons! The marvelous energy of the team was only surpassed by the kids themselves, who brought infinite laughter, gratitude and hugs to the site. We are settling in for the night with our hearts warmed by the hope that these sweet children will be sleeping well in their bedkits tonight.




Team Honduras 2018
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Monday, 13 August 2018

Honduras: Tourists In Honduras!

Today Team Honduras 2018 was able to do a bit of sightseeing before we start our work tomorrow. The day started with a tour of the Basilica and was followed by a trip out into the countryside. Lunch was traditional Honduras cuisine. Tonight we prepped the bedkit and got our jobs organized for tomorrow. A little late night dinner and conversation before sleep researcher Monica reminded us all that we needed to hit the sheets in order to be ready for tomorrow's work!



Team Honduras 2018
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Sunday, 12 August 2018

Honduras: The Team Is Arriving!!

Seven of our eight team members have now safely arrived in Tegucigalpa and we enjoyed a day settling in at our hotel. With beautiful sun and a cooling breeze, it was a relaxing day for the team. In the evening we were welcomed into the home of one of our partner Rotarians and had a home cooked meal with a traditional family recipe. Our predistribution meeting once again confirmed the commitment of our Tegucigalpa partners, some of whom have been working on this project for 17 years. There were many inspiring conversations had by all and we are looking forward to meeting the children soon!



Team Honduras 2018
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Thursday, 26 July 2018

Tanzania: RJ's Fourth And Final Distribution!

We just completed our 4th and last distributiin. 


Warren, our team leader, has kept us on a tight schedule all week with departures no later than 6:30am. We still like him.

Today our destination was Kiromo. By 8am, we received a warm reception by hundreds of children, their teachers and the head of school, an amazing lady who runs a tight ship.  They all gathered to sing their national anthem.  We reciprocated by singing ours.


500 bedkits were distributed, a process that requires logistics and time. Time to interact with the children. If language is a barrier, singing, dancing and playing are international. And that is what we did.


Today, 9 parents were interviewed. These exchanges are extremely valuable as we learn that while the current content of the bedkit's offers much needed items, the need for antiseptic cream, closed shoes, books and individual cups is real. 


We were warmly thanked by the teachers to whom we presented gifts for the school ranging from a much needed first aid kit to soccer balls.

Throughout the week, we got the chance to discover Mama Wandoa, whose life is totally absorbed by the need to help others and create a safe place for everyone in her community. MERCI Mama for being who you are!


We cannot end this blog without acknowledging the amazing work of the Tanzanian volunteers who were with us the entire trip.  The distribution of 2000 bedkits in 4 different locations would have been impossible without them.

We are on the way back to the hotel.  The bus is silent.  Some are sleeping while others are simply watching life unfold in Tanzania at the end of a work day! 


RJ goes to Tanzania will soon be coming home

Raymond James' Team in Tanzania 2018
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Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Tanzania: RJ's Third Distribution!

Another bright and early day for our dedicated group.  We left the hotel by 6:30am but stalled in typical Dar traffic.  Finally we were on our way!


We arrived at the school to waves and smiles from children and parents.

Our traffic delays prevented us from playing with the children first, as we usually do.  They love chasing the bubbles and seeing themselves in our photos so we hope we have more time with them tomorrow.


We thanked the older school boys for helping set up and gave them each a small gift.  We also interviewed parents to gain insight into the health and welfare of their families and how we may improve the quality of the bedkits in the future.  What a great way to learn about the lives of the families.

After the interviews we got down to the job of handing out bed kits.  There were two children that had symptoms of malaria and had to be taken to the hospital so we quickly took their pictures and gave them their kits and mats.  Seeing these children in such poor health, weak and lethargic, really brought home the need for the bedkits.


We moved quickly through the remaining 498 children after which we presented the teachers with gifts.  The soccer balls always bring howls of delight, but in talking to the English teacher, we learned that English textbooks would also be appreciated.  He has a class of 100 students and only two textbooks to share among them.


Next was a side trip to visit Mama Wandoa’s farm. Over the last few years she has been building a church on her property and her congregation has grown from 3 to 30!  She has six acres of farmland and harvests mango, pineapple, and cashews.  She always dreams to do more and she continues to inspire us and I’m sure countless others.


The final stop of the day was at a Salvation Army run center for children with disabilities and Albinism.  It was well kept and the children were well cared for.  They go to school and learn other skills such as computers, sewing and gardening.  These skills help to support them in the longer term.


A full and enlightening day.  Thank you Mama and Benjamin for guiding us.

Until tomorrow!

Raymond James' Team in Tanzania 2018
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