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Meals, Math, & Mentors
by Julie Cramer
Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Orphan Outreach & Honduran NGO, NICO, have teamed up to give children exactly what they need to thrive

Honduras—only a smidge bigger than Tennessee—is tucked between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Fonseca, and is rich in natural resources such as timber, gold, silver, copper, coal and fish. Yet, according to The World Factbook, “Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and has the world’s highest murder rate. More than half of the population lives in poverty.”

Nearly 40% of Honduras’ residents are children under the age of 14.

Austin South, director of Orphan Outreach's NGO in Honduras, has teamed up with Esmeralda Martinez, volunteer coordinator of NICO—a local NGO that seeks to help children grow in their faith and in their academic studies. Together, the two agencies are discovering what helps children not only do their best on academic—and life—tests. Up until now, children have gone hungry. Up until now, children have hawked trinkets or collected plastic bottles to sell to survive. Up until now, children have been exploited in all ways.


“Many children simply don’t have food to eat or anyone to give it to them,” Esmeralda—a 14-year veteran elementary school teacher—said. “Many of their learning issues and developmental deficiencies are due to lack of sufficient nutrition. The public education system as a whole is broken in Honduras. The Secretary of Education wants to use the same methodology across the whole country, but what works for urbanized areas does not work for rural villages and vice versa.”

Austin and Esmeralda are seeking to discover exactly what works and why.

“The partnership between NICO and Orphan Outreach’s Manos Extendidas (in-country NGO name) has a mutual goal—the desire to serve children in need,” Esmeralda said. “We are learning how to design and progress our program, and Orphan Outreach is learning about how NICO operates in the community. This relationship is going to permit us to provide integral and holistic help for the children, their families, and their neighborhood.”

NICO currently serves 23 children in the following ways:
  • Spiritually: Bible classes with practical application
  • Educationally: Spanish and Math tutoring “because these are the basic, key materials for their educational success,” Esmeralda said.
  • Physically: Workshops and activities that talk about personal and community hygiene
  • Emotionally: Local university is screening each child with the help of volunteers to determine their socioemotional needs. Then, a psychologist that works with Orphan Outreach in La Paz will provide psychological services.

Orphan Outreach will not only help to diagnose the social and emotional needs of the children in NICO’s program, but will also assist with program development and capacity building.


“We want to find out what is causing the underdevelopment in the children, and then treat the root cause,” Esmeralda (above, in burgundy blouse) said. “For example, if it’s because the child does not get food, then how can we feed them? If their parents don’t help with their homework, how can we reach the parents? Many times, the parents cannot read or write, so how can we help them learn to read?”

Her advice to Americans

“Pray!” she said, along with, “Just come and let God use you.” What might that look like exactly? Here are her suggestions:
  • When you come to Honduras, use your skills to help us. If you are an educator, come do a workshop for the volunteers. If you are a social worker or psychologist, help give us advice. If you are a doctor, do checkups on the kids. If you are an artist, come do an art lesson. If you play music, come preform or teach the kids. Just come and let the Lord use you.
  • Small projects such as fixing a leaky roof, building wood walls for a shelter made of tarps, or building ecostoves can change the children’s lives.
  • Pray for consistent volunteers from La Paz and the surrounding communities. Pray for opportunity to expand NICO, and to add important things like electricity and a sewer system.
  • Help financially. You may donate to Orphan Outreach to help defray expenses.

Married for 16 years to Carlos David, Esmeralda and her husband have a 13-year-old son, Gabriel David. In addition to working with Orphan Outreach, she is also completing a second bachelor’s degree in social science. With a crowded calendar, Esmeralda stays motivated by choosing to see joy in the children and how God is transforming their lives.

“They arrive at NICO and know that we are going to share, play, and teach them for the afternoon,” she said. “We have touched the hearts of many boys and girls, but more need to be touched. We are sure of the truth that God has us doing this work and it will be he, himself, who will continue to sustain us until the end. Ever since I was young, my longing was to serve others,” Esmeralda added. “People don’t realize that with just a hug, someone can help a child to feel happy. Love is therapeutic and healing.”

Most Orphan Outreach mission trips to La Paz include time serving with NICO. Are you ready to join us on a mission trip - new dates are always being added to our calendar!


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