#20years20lessons Lesson #19 ~ Ubil Landaverde

Ubil Landaverde has been a key member of the Amigos de Jesus family since the very beginning.  His talent for construction combined with his deep commitment to Amigos makes him the only person who has continually been present at every stage in the life of Amigos de Jesus.  From literal bridge builder (the bridge onto our property), to building bridges of relationships constantly, Ubil, his wife Nena and their two children Edgar and Cecilia have given their lives to Amigos de Jesus. Read more from Ubil below: 

Ubil with co-founder Anthony Granese working on a construction project in the earliest years of Amigos. 

Ubil with co-founder Anthony Granese working on a construction project in the earliest years of Amigos. 

I have learned so many things in 20 years.  Some of the lessons have been difficult ones, and many have been beautiful.  The lesson woven throughout is the power of family.  I have learned this from the children, from the staff, from my own family and most importantly from the Amigos de Jesús family.

I have learned that no matter what our children go through, the pull of their biological family for those who have one - even if they are the ones who have greatly harmed our children - is so strong.  I have learned that they will never separate from their biological family, but they can learn the values of Amigos de Jesús and help their family be better or at least protect themselves from being harmed by their family.  I have learned that family - even a very large one like Amigos de Jesus - always takes care of our own.  I know other children’s homes send the children away at 18.  Not only do our youth stay until they are ready for independence, but many desire to work and continue to support our Amigos de Jesús family.  A family stays a family no matter the age of the family members.  I have seen the staff who are raising their own families make sure that their whole families are part of the Amigos de Jesús family.

I have 2 children - Edgar who is an adult now, and Cecilia who is six years old and in first grade at the Amigos de Jesús Bilingual School.  Edgar lived his whole life at Amigos surrounded by the children and the work Nena and I did running Amigos de Jesús.  He is still part of the family and always comes back to visit.  With Cecilia we live in the community now and so she does not have to be surrounded by the Amigos de Jesús family.  But ever since she started in preschool at our school she has understood the connection of family.  The first days of preschool she cried because she didn’t want to leave us and then after 2 weeks she cried every weekend and holiday because she couldn’t go to school with her Amigos de Jesús family.  She never wants to miss a mass, a party, an activity, anything that takes her to Amigos de Jesús where she is surrounded by such a large and loving family.  Edgar had no choice about being part of the Amigos de Jesús family and it is what gave him wings to travel and study and work and be independent.  Cecilia has the choice but she knows Amigos de Jesus is family and she chooses it every day.

#20years20lessons Lesson #18 ~ Adonis Cantellano

Adonis Cantellano, warmly known as Adonisito (little Adonis), definitely isn't so little anymore, though when he joined our family he was one of our tiniest children, and also one of our most rambunctious. Adonisito is a bright young man who is currently in university studying to become a doctor. He works as hard in school as he has on overcoming his past challenges to become a kind, loving, and humble young man. He is a wonderful example to our younger children and will be a blessing to Honduras as a doctor! Read more from Adonisito below:

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Hello, my name is Adonis and I just want to talk a little about the values I have learned since coming to Amigos de Jesús, which are the principle values, the ones we all know, as well as the ones that they have taught us here. These lessons would not have been possible without the presence of many people who, sometimes without even knowing it, have won a place in each of our hearts. Padrino Wilson is one of those people and someone I admire a lot. I have learned from him to always treat everyone equally, no matter if they are a boy, girl, man, or woman. He taught me to leave ‘machismo’ (male chauvinism) behind and to be fair and just with all people, no matter who they are. Another person I admire a lot for his character is Fr. Den because he fights for important causes and takes on big projects, like Amigos de Jesús itself. I feel really proud to be able to be part of this big Family.  Fr. Den planted the seeds here that have now grown, and we, the children and members of the Amigos de Jesús family, are the trees. One day we are going to grow up and bear fruit, and those ‘fruits’ will be doctors, lawyers, engineers, everything. Soon we will become part of society and others will see us not as just anyone, but as people who are an examples to follow, and not by our merits, but by our humility and the values that so many people here at Amigos de Jesús have instilled in us. For all of this, Amigos de Jesús, I love you!

 

 

*Adonis is over 18 years old and therefore provided permission for his name to be disclosed online.

#20years20lessons Lesson #17 ~ Delia*

Delia* was one of the first "big" girls to join the Amigos de Jesús family and continues to be one of our oldest girls. She is known and loved for her sweetness, her kind and generous nature, and her spunky personality. Her confidence and mature outlook on life constantly leave people asking, "Is she really only 15?" Read more from Delia below: 

When I came to Amigos de Jesús, I thought that it would be just like it was in my house but being here, I realized that Amigos de Jesús is more than a family. It is a place where we can find peace, love, even education.  Amigos de Jesús means so much for all of the children here because this ‘hogar’ is a blessing from God. We are grateful to the benefactors, the ‘padrinos’ and ‘madrinas,’ the directors, our lawyer Suyapa, Father Den, and the coordinators for everything that they do to care for us and give us an education. God, through his salvation and blessing, has allowed Amigos de Jesús to grow to what it is. I am also thankful for the volunteers for helping us here. Amigos de Jesús is the best thing that there is in my life and I give thanks to everyone that helps us. Many blessings. 

 

*Name changed to protect privacy

#20years20lessons Lesson #16 ~ D'Ambrosio Family

Lou, Kim, Alexa and Christopher D'Ambrosio bring so much to the Amigos de Jesús family in many different ways. From trips to Honduras, to the much loved Broadway Sings for Amigos de Jesús and Lou's service as Chair of our board, to endless love, dedication, and work behind the scenes, the D'Ambrosio family is a much loved and appreciated addition to the Amigos de Jesús family. 

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Love and joy can be found in the smallest interactions with the children. "The kids have magic" as one of the children told us on our first visit to Amigos last Easter. Being with them is truly living in the moment --- just the happiness of the present, of just 'being' together.


With love and prayers,
Lou, Kim, Alexa and Christopher D'Ambrosio

 

#20years20lessons Lesson #15 ~ Padre Patricio Lynch

Hi everybody, my name is Patricio and I have been involved with Amigos de Jesús for the last seven years, so imagine that for me, to choose one lesson of being part of this beautiful family is not easy because I have so many. But I want to choose this gift of being thankful and I have learned this from the children especially, especially in my prayer life.

And another thing that I want to share with you all is that in living with the children, they have taught me to grow in my faith in Jesus and in my life in him, especially in the service to the smallest of us, the poor, the criminalized, and the discarded. So thank you very much Amigos de Jesús and thank you Lord. Happy Anniversary!

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As I said in the video, the children of Amigos de Jesús have taught me to be more grateful and open to changes. God always finds the right way to help us in on our paths that many times is incomprehensible but with the grace of God the result is always beautiful, full of wonder and surprises.

Twenty years ago, a Honduran nun, Sister Teresita, a lay couple, Christine and Anthony Granese, and Father Dennis O’Donnell were founding Amigos de Jesús in Honduras and in that exact same year, I was experiencing a strong and deep calling to the priesthood in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Same year, different countries, someone would say “coincidences of God." There was no way for me at that time to think about becoming a priest dedicated to an organization located in the U.S. with its main ministry in Honduras and with new doors of missions being opened by the Lord worldwide. I was going to be a priest in a small parish in the suburbs of Buenos Aires; that was my plan and what I thought was God’s calling for me, too. But as I said before, there are many wonders and surprises waiting for us, and here I am now, a priest for Amigos de Jesús, being part of this awesome family.

Anyway, many years after my calling (1997), I met a former Amigos volunteer who introduced me to Father Dennis. From him, I received the invitation to travel to Honduras and had the chance to meet the children. That first trip made such a huge impact in my life to the point that I decided to go back every year “to help the children” when (being honest) the one who was being helped was me.

In this “piece of heaven," as I like to call our family, I can see the hand of God that “writes straight with crooked lines." In the children's sufferings, in my sufferings, God in his/her tender love has the power to rebuild what it is in ruins and give new and unexpected horizons of healing, love and hope. I see that all the time in our children and I could experience the same in my life.

What I have been learning is that God has given a particular spirituality to Amigos. When you visit our home, you can experience a unique gift of the Spirit that is found there. Twenty years ago God poured out in Fr. Den, Anthony and Chris, and Sister Teresita a foundational grace, a small seed that wanted to grow and now has become a big tree where many children can rest and find hope (Matthew 13:31–32). Twenty years later, we are called to allow God to unfold all the potential that this seed has in it.

Allow me to share with you many things that I am learning from the children of Amigos de Jesús:

I am learning about the spirituality of the “least and the last” (Matthew 20:16) (Matthew 25,40). I am learning to become a disciple of Jesus in the children. I am learning that the Kingdom belongs to those who are like the children. I am learning that less is more. I am learning that by following the cross, I will find hope. I am learning that nothing and nobody is completely lost, that there is always hope.  I am learning to have an optimistic view founded in our Christian faith. I am learning that you can love again, even after horrible pains and hurts from the past. I am learning that just love has the power to heal and save. I am learning that despite our bad decisions, there are always new opportunities. I am learning that in our Christian life, the best is always to come. I am learning to be more grateful in my prayer life.  I am learning to pray in silence and contemplate the Lords presence in everything and everybody.  I am learning from the children to have a life of service. I am learning from a spirituality of the feast.  Our God is a God of wonder.

What does God want to do with this small seed? What branches are growing between us? What treasures are still hidden in the “family of the least and last?” I want to keep discovering new lessons and surprises. Here we are Lord, take us wherever you want.

Do you feel the calling to be  part of this movement and flow of grace? You are welcome!

#20years20lessons Lesson #14 ~ Francisco Roman

When Amigos de Jesús began to partner with BECA in 2013 to turn our Spanish-language school into a bilingual school where our children could learn in English and Spanish, we decided that the lives of the children of Amigos would be enriched by being in the classroom with children from the neighboring communities.  This partnership and the development of our school into the most sought-after place for neighbor children to receive an education has been a beautiful step in the fulfillment of the mission of Amigos de Jesús.  The families who entrust their children’s education to us have become family and have enriched the lives of the entire Amigos de Jesús family, especially the lives of our children.

 Francisco Roman is the President of the Parents Committee of the Amigos de Jesús Bilingual School. A baker and tortilla maker by trade, he spends most of his free time chairing fundraisers, attending meetings, and doing everything he can to support Amigos de Jesús.  He and his wife, Lauren, have three children.  Their son, Francisco, is in 2nd grade at our school, their daughter,  Lauren Denise, is in pre-school, and 1-year-old Sofia was baptized in the first baptism performed by Padre Patricio as a Deacon. Read more from Francisco below:

I am so grateful for Amigos de Jesús for the welcome they have given my family and me during so many important moments of our lives. I understand what a blessing it is to have my children in the Amigos de Jesús Bilingual School.

In the few short years I have known Amigos de Jesús, I have witnessed and learned from the love that is given to each child, and the organizational commitment to educate and prepare engaged and productive Honduran citizens who will contribute to the development of our country.

#20years20lessons Lesson #13 ~ Sergio Pineda

Sergio Pineda has been at Amigos de Jesús since almost the very beginning. He is also one of few people who has seen Amigos through the eyes of a child, and through the eyes of someone who aims to help the children. He was our first high school graduate and the first of our children to be hired by Amigos de Jesús as an employee. Sergio is a quiet and humble leader and an excellent role model for our children. His passion for farming lives in so many of his younger brothers and sisters who learn from him and with him in the Amigos de Jesús agriculture program. Read more from Sergio below: 

Sergio, in the red shirt on the left, with one of the employees that works in 'agro' and two of the 'jovenes' that help out in 'agro.'

Sergio, in the red shirt on the left, with one of the employees that works in 'agro' and two of the 'jovenes' that help out in 'agro.'

When I was young at ADJ, they taught me values such as respect, honesty, and humility. I also learned about agriculture.  I learned to work and the value of work. I also learned to value people.

I have learned from the kids how to live together. They give us love without knowing us, and they treat us like brothers.

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What I enjoy most is that the kids and young people come to 'agro' and they learn from me and I learn from them, too. I teach them how to plant and cultivate the earth and they teach me how to work and how to be enthusiastic and enjoy my work. For example, when we are planting watermelon, I teach them how to plant and cultivate it carefully and attentively so that it grows well and we have a successful crop. And when we harvest it and enjoy eating the fruit together, the kids are so excited and proud of what we’ve done together. It makes me very happy and I feel like we’ve accomplished something wonderful together.    

I want to see them grow in every aspect of their lives—spiritually, emotionally, professionally.  I want them to be prepared.  I would like for them to learn about everything: welding, carpentry, construction, farming, and whatever profession they decide to do, whether it’s being a doctor, lawyer, a teacher, etc.  I want to help them when they’re older and I always want to be like a brother to them. 

#20years20lessons Lesson #12 ~ Sister Teresita

Sister Teresa Gonzales, fondly known as “Sor Teresita” is a Honduran nun who invited our founders to help children in need in Honduras.  Her invitation, and the subsequent “yes” from Anthony and Christine Granese and Fr. O’Donnell is why Amigos de Jesús exists today.  Sor Teresita is well-loved throughout Honduras, especially in her home community of El Progreso, Yoro.  She has dedicated her life to the most vulnerable of Honduras through her children’s home and outreach program, COPPROME, where she has served hundreds, if not thousands, of children and youth.  Sor Teresita’s visits to Amigos de Jesús are much anticipated by our children. Read more from Sister Teresita below: 

Sister Teresita with co-founders Anthony and Christine Granese.

Sister Teresita with co-founders Anthony and Christine Granese.

20 years ago, I had a plan to help children to escape from the streets, from abuse, from prostitution, and for whom the street was their family.  I envisioned practical agricultural training that could serve the children of COPPROME while teaching children who needed a skill.  I imagined three 3-bedroom cabins with 12 children in each.  I pictured a retreat and visitor center as this has always been my dream.  These plans are good, and maybe will still be realized as I imagined someday.

But God had a different and better purpose to care for children.  God sent Father Dennis O’Donnell and Anthony and Christine Granese.  They gave deeper life to the project in accordance with God’s will and I see the better future our children have received because these three listened to God’s plans.  From Amigos de Jesús I have learned that God’s plans are always the best and I am so grateful to God for Amigos de Jesús.

Thank you, Amigos de Jesús for being Angels to so many children and youth.

Sister Teresita (second from the right) on her most recent to Amigos de Jesús in October 2017, pictured with Co-Directors of Operations, Wilson and Amy Escoto, and Co-Founder and President of Amigos de Jesús, Father Dennis O'Donnell.

Sister Teresita (second from the right) on her most recent to Amigos de Jesús in October 2017, pictured with Co-Directors of Operations, Wilson and Amy Escoto, and Co-Founder and President of Amigos de Jesús, Father Dennis O'Donnell.

#20years20lessons Lesson #11 ~ Jenn and Dan Braus

Jenn and Dan Braus have been involved with Amigos de Jesús since 2012 when Jenn served on a consulting team with a group of Harvard graduate students. Their love for Amigos led them to spend almost a year in Honduras after Jenn's 2013 graduation where they fulfilled many roles; none more important than foster parents to a 2-year-old little girl who was temporarily living at Amigos de Jesús. Read more from Jenn and Dan below: 

During our time living and working with our Amigos de Jesús family, we learned the importance of celebrating the joys in life - both big and small.  Life is difficult - filled with hardships, separation and uncertainty.  At the same time, life is wonderful - filled with love, friendship and joy.  The children and staff of Amigos de Jesús have taught us how to celebrate what is wonderful in life even in the face of hardships.  They have taught us how celebrating the good can help carry us through the difficult.

Our Amigos de Jesús family has also taught us how to let go of our plans and expectations and lovingly react with a joyful and loving YES to the next unexpected circumstance put in our path.  

#20years20lessons Lesson #10 ~ Suyapa Sabillon

Known as "Abogada" (lawyer), what Suyapa means to our Amigos family is so much more. From dealing with ever-changing government policies to creating exquisite decorations for special events, Suyapa is an integral part of Amigos de Jesús. And not only does she have a more than full-time job as Director of Legal Services, Human Resources, and Government Relations, but she is also a full-time foster mom to three sisters, including Melita* who she has cared for since she was 8 months old.  Read Suyapa's lesson below:

Suyapa on the day of her graduation in 2015 with her 'padrinos' - two of our children.

Amigos de Jesús has been like a school to me because I come from a place similar to Amigos but they never taught me how to heal my wounds while I was there.  Here, however, I have learned how to continue moving forward healing those wounds so that I can be someone that helps the children here heal their wounds. In truth, I don’t consider Amigos de Jesús to be just my work but instead my family because I learn something new everyday. I have learned that what I suffered as a child is nothing in comparison to the suffering and pain that our children have endured. At the same time, Amigos has given me something that for me seemed impossible – the chance to hear someone call me “mama.” I thought that I would never have that, that I would never hear that word in reference to myself but Amigos de Jesús has given me a beautiful family.  I don’t know what destiny has prepared for me but I want to continue being a light on the road for these children, especially in the lives of the three girls that live with me now.  And I hope that with the enthusiasm, commitment, and care that I show in everything that I do, there are people who realize that it’s easy to name or put labels on a person for what has happened to him/her, for what he or she has lived through but really, like our motto says, "Follow the cross and you will find hope," I have found hope here at Amigos.  Amigos de Jesús, like one of our ‘jovenes’ said, is “like heaven because here we have every thing that at one time we didn’t.”