Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the governments of Honduras and El Salvador have closed country borders, implemented curfews, stopped public transportation, and shut down businesses. They also have restricted access to the ten juvenile detention centers and child protection centers where Orphan Helpers works. Our Success Academies have been put on pause.
Still, this pandemic has not stopped Orphan Helpers staff from finding ways to serve the abandoned, abused, and incarcerated youth. Here are ten ways our team has continued to reach the young men and women this week:
Medicine Shipments. Orphan Helpers workers delivered critical supplies to incarcerated youth. The team located much-needed medicines at pharmacies in El Salvador and made arrangements to get them transported to multiple detention centers across the country. With thankful hearts, the directors and employees at these centers were overjoyed with these medications to ensure the youth’s needs are met.
Face Mask Production. During the COVID-19 outbreak, Success Academy students put into practice the leadership, life skills, and Christian values they've learned in class. With supplies running short in the centers, young women from the Academy stepped up and sewed together face masks for everyone else in the detention center. They are caring for one another during this pandemic and staying strong as they fight through the long days and nights.
Messages of Hope. Because of trust they have built at the detention centers over the years, some Orphan Helpers teachers were granted access to visit the teens. During their times with the teens this week, the teachers shared messages of hope. Orphan Helpers is fortunate to have a dedicated team of teachers who are experienced in leading young men and women through all sorts of life challenges.
Prayer Time. Even where the centers are in total lockdown, Orphan Helpers continued to find ways to encourage the youth in juvenile lockup to put their faith and trust in the Lord. In El Salvador, Orphan Helpers Country Director Soledad Orellana called the incarcerated youth and prayed for them over loudspeaker. The teens’ physical and spiritual needs are great and we continue to remind them to cast their burdens on the Lord.
Written Word. Orphan Helpers teacher Esther created posters with encouraging messages and delivered them to young women isolated right now in a detention center for females. Esther wrote "LES AMAMOS" ("WE LOVE YOU") on the posters and included Bible verses of hope in the Lord. Although the girls cannot see anyone from the outside at the moment, Esther is making sure to let them know they are not forgotten.
Snack Delivery. Several teachers delivered a variety of snacks to the youth at the detention centers and protection centers. Some used restricted public transportation to get the refreshments to the centers that are on total lockdown. The boys were beyond grateful to receive the special treats in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak.
Artistic Expression. Orphan Helpers teachers have equipped youth with the tools and teachings to express their feelings through artistic expression. During the COVID-19 outbreak, youth are using these art skills as one way to release stress and anxiety. So, even though some of our teachers can't be physically present at some of the centers right now, the instruction they've given the youth helps provide calmness in these turbulent times.
Physical Activity. Sports activity is another way Orphan Helpers provided youth an emotional outlet this week. Despite the public transportation limitations in Honduras, teachers went out of their way to visit the boys and play soccer at two detention centers. After the soccer games, the teachers shared a message from the Gospel with the young men.
Aftercare and Re-Entry. The focus of Orphan Helpers' Success Coaches is to mentor and guide Success Academy graduates as they transition from the detention centers back to the community. This week, the Success Coaches continued to stay in touch with Academy graduates via text, email, and phone. Some of the youth say they are suffering financially because their micro-enterprises are forced to close during this outbreak. As a result, they are struggling to bring food to their families and pay for other expenses.
Sharing the Gospel. Teachers who visited the detention centers this week shared the Good News. They talked about not knowing what tomorrow or next week holds, but knowing that “help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” At one center, six young men accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We thank God for our team’s courage and commitment to work every day for the kingdom of God.
Please join us in prayer for our teachers in El Salvador and Honduras who continue to serve and go the extra mile for the youth. Please also consider a financial gift to support this work. The youth in the centers and the ones who have been released need us now – maybe more than ever! Your support is vitally important. Without it, we cannot reach these abandoned and incarcerated teens. Thank you for standing with us during this challenging time.