A year of success against the odds
The San José Family Centre 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.
The San José Family Centre is located in the small rural village of Mata de Plátano, 55km north of the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa. At the beginning, the only service-users were a few children with disabilities, but the needs of the community were clear. The centre coordinator, Amy Gonzáles, and her team: a psychologist, physiotherapist and tutor; worked with local schools to identify 68 children to be direct beneficiaries. Thanks to meetings and home visits, the staff gained trust and commitment from the families and started to provide tutoring and psychological support.
“We have had the opportunity to work with teachers from the community. We have made alliances with schools and trained the teachers to overcome the kids’ learning delays. There were some children starting high school who did not know how to read or write, and through the initiatives at the centre, we have seen their progress,” explains Amy.
Educational support for community children
In Mata de Plátano, over 450 families make a living from agriculture and mandarin production. This is not enough to cover some everyday expenses, let alone afford internet provision in their home. The family centre provides an internet connection for the children to do their homework with help from the tutor. “I think this Christmas, the town will have a lot more to celebrate, despite the global situation,” says Amy.
Girls’ empowerment programme changes attitudes
The centre has also implemented the Chicas Poderosas (Powerful Girls) programme, which aims to empower adolescent girls from Mata de Plátano and the surrounding communities. The girls learn how to make jewellery, take part in 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. The majority still study at school thanks to advice given at the centre. In this space, they feel loved, safe and free to talk about things that worry them or they feel insecure about, which they might not be able to do in their own home. The lack of education for the girls was such a challenge. The culture in these communities means many girls marry in their early teens. However, we have worked tirelessly to empower them to continue studying and look for opportunities for their personal growth and to pursue a better future,” adds Amy.
Support when things get tough
The San José Family Centre has been a wonderful gift to the Mata de Plátano community. During times of COVID-19, the staff have devised ideas to support those in need, such as the ‘Manos Solidarias’ (Helping Hands) initiative. This programme helps community members who make their living through agriculture and selling their produce in the markets in Tegucigalpa. Despite Mata de Plátano being a COVID-19 free zone, they have not been able to travel. The programme provides a monthly food basket for each family to help them stay healthy.
Over 80 families helped in first year
“As the coordinator of the San José Family Centre, 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. Currently, 83 families and 305 individuals are direct beneficiaries. That is a big impact,” says Amy.
Samuel’s inspiring story
One particular individual is Samuel*, a boy with cerebral palsy who lives with his parents and two brothers. Samuel could not speak and instead used to imitate the sounds and behaviour of cats. When the centre was still under construction, the physiotherapist used to visit his home, since he also had difficulties walking, with one shoulder tilted to one side.
Now, Samuel’s father, José Mario, helps Samuel walk to the centre to receive therapy. The posture of Samuel’s shoulder has also improved, and he now has greater arm mobility and can move it with comfort. He can identify colours and shapes, and the cat-mimicking has decreased. The physiotherapist has done such a great job involving the family in his therapy that now Samuel also receives support in his own home, making his rehabilitation more sustainable.
A father’s gratitude to NPH
“For me, being part of the San José Family Centre 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 me to be happy. My heart is full of gratitude for NPH, the staff and donors. This year, my Christmas has a new outlook! I have a new child and a new family who have valued mine as much as theirs. I thank God for all the people who have shared their love for our community and especially for my child.”
“We have two things to celebrate, Christmas and a year full of success for this project. We have prepared a posada, a celebration that commemorates the journey that Joseph and Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem looking for a safe refuge where Mary could give birth to baby Jesus. During this celebration we share reflections, sing together, hold a raffle, and, of course, enjoy some delicious food,” concludes Amy.
NPH community programmes like the San José Family Centre provide sustainable support and empowerment to families that make a positive difference to their lives and futures.
Samuel’s isn’t the only NPH story from Mata de Plátano demonstrating progress in the face of adversity. Read about Escarleth who joined the Chicas Poderosas programme when she was younger, was selected to receive an educational scholarship from NPH Honduras and is now working towards a degree in psychology.
Children’s names, marked with an asterisk, have been changed to protect their privacy.