UP Summit Style

17 12 2012

ImageThe UP International Summit comes at a great time for me in the UPH calendar.  It’s just after our year-long programs end.  It’s after our year-end banquets and celebrations.  It comes right when I need a break.  It comes right when I need to be filled up again to gear up for another year.  It comes when I need inspiration and space to dream about what the following year could become.

It’s difficult to pinpoint one specific experience from the summit and our retreat that could be defined as “the best” or “the happiest”.  I believe it has to do with the fact that the beauty was in the connection between the talks, workshops, conversations and times of reflection and planning.  I was full the whole time I was in the US: my stomach, my schedule, my heart.  Full of emotion.  Full of activity and travel.  Full of good food.  Full of Jesus.  Full of new friendship and ideas.  Full of inspiration.  Full of words to share with others.  Full of good conversation and good opportunities.

I’m happy to be full to then pour out for others.  I’m happy to have gotten what I needed, and more.

Kourtney de la Cruz- Camp Agape Director

My favorite thing about the UP Summit is the extra push of encouragement it gives me for the coming year of work with the kids. During the year, I am sometimes “too busy” to step back and take in the big picture of the beautiful things that are happening and the changes that are truly taking place in the kids’ lives (and in ours!). But meeting and sharing with the other UP staff from around the world forces me to realize that my work is part of a HUGE worldwide mission, and that many small differences being made in the lives of many young people adds up to one HUGE difference. It is so encouraging to share stories of success and transformation, and to laugh together about past trials and tribulations, with other staff from the many UP sites. I also always come away from the summit with new ideas and perspectives that I know will improve my program in the following year. What a blessing it is to receive a whole weekend of affirmation and encouragement from over 100 people!

Katie Sugg- Camp Hope Director

I am so thankful for amazing hospitality during my time in the States. Having warm, cozy places to stay and incredible meals prepared for us and people going above and beyond to make us feel welcome was wonderful. I wasn’t able to see my family during this time, so it was a huge blessing to still feel the comforts of home during our visit.

Rachel Suby-Long- Volunteer

ImageI must say that I was very excited to go to the US for 2 weeks but after a while I realized I missed Honduras a lot and was very excited to come back to Honduras. I am so very thankful that I was able to attend the UP Summit this year, being able to meet many people working in the various sites was definitely a highlight of the trip. Being able to hear what God is doing in other places was very encouraging.  Attending the various workshops that were organized definitely gave me plenty of ideas that I could apply here in Honduras or where ever God is leading me towards. I am also very happy to have spent some awesome time with my team on our staff retreat; God is definitely good with providing me such a great “family” away from home.

Rébéka Migneault- Volunteer

My first Urban Promise Summit!! But for me it was actually a return to Camden, from when I had visited 6 months ago as a newcomer who was curious to learn more about this phenomenal organization. That visit was God giving me that final push through the door to UPH! And now as a part of the UPH team, I think back on this Summit and I remember a young man named Jesus. I met him at the Youth Leadership Summit, which I had the privilege to attend and help lead. He’s a young man in his junior year at the Urban Promise Academy who thought about becoming a Street Leader and then didn’t think he was capable enough. At one point during a group activity that morning, he contributed some invaluable insight about how to handle conflict in a team setting and I was truly impressed by his mature response and just his general attitude. Later on we had the chance to chat some more and I just wanted him to be encouraged…to understand that he IS capable, that he DOES have what it takes to be a leader. It’s a funny thing. I was SUPER jazzed that morning after the opening ice breakers, to see all the youth beginning to mingle and interact with one another. But what touched my heart the most was what I saw deeper in this young man’s heart…a genuine hope to be a part of something bigger than himself, and the chance to believe that he is capable, that he is valuable, that he is full of promise.

Elizabeth Auciello- Youth Director

 

Hugh nailed it at the UP Summit when he described the UPH staff as a group that loves to have fun. Over the last couple months we had been debating back and forth about whether to make a spoof music video showing life in the day of UPH staff. I am quite happy that this idea finally reached its “tipping point”. We chose a beautiful musical arrangement by the boy band One Direction, and that was enough spark for Hugh and Rachel to make this thing a reality. After many hours of hard work on their part, we had a finished product worthy of superstar status (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEDgCHxAbiM). It was definitely a highlight for me to see this video played at the end of the UrbanPromise conference, having the place erupt into laughter and end on an ultimate high note. Thanks to the UPH team for making it a joy to come to work every day!

Blair Quinius- Executive Director

 

The UP Summit was a great opportunity to visit one of my second homes where I volunteered on and off for about 3 years. It was great to be able to see so many familiar faces and to know that I hadn’t been forgotten. After the summit and our staff retreat I came back to Camden for a few days and I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Camp Joy in North Camden, which is where I used to work before I came to Honduras. The one day I went to Camp was a truly an amazing and heartwarming experience, but one particular moment I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Savannah, who is one of cutest second graders I’ve ever seen, was surprised to see me back and asked me whether I was coming back for good. As one does with children, I explained that I wasn’t actually staying and that I had to go back to Honduras because the children there also need help with their homework. Without skipping a beat she quickly took off her purple, Hello Kitty backpack, opened the front pocket and pulled out some coins and handed them to me. She gave me 27 cents. I asked her what this was for, and that was when she almost brought me to tears when she said: “I don’t know Mr. Hugh…maybe this can help you over there.”

Hugh Stacey- Director of Communications





The Most Beautiful Night

29 10 2012

Three years ago we planned our first UPH youth event in Copan. Our plan was simple and our audience was small. Three or four local teenagers straggled into the office, all at different times, and we played cards on the floor of a barren office building.Image

 I’ll never forget one of our co-founders Rachel Nelson asking, “So how do you start a Youth Program from scratch?”

 I’m not sure that we ever really knew the answer to that question, but whatever we deemed a worthy response seemed to have worked. The UPH Youth Program is now a cornerstone of our ministry as we provide a consistent support network for more than 40 local youth throughout the year. Our unique approach of leadership development through youth employment, mentoring and discipleship has yielded phenomenal results and incredible stories in such a short time.

 Last week we had our first ever UPH Open House for parents of the youth involved in our programs. We had a great turnout and a packed office! I was able to share a bit about our history while Elizabeth expanded on her vision for the Youth Program. Easily the best part of the night came when three youth shared about how UPH has impacted their lives. Stories were told about UPH providing the motivation to stay in high school, instilling confidence for public speaking, raising self-esteem, and the true friendship of a mentor.

Those stories convey the fruit that we dreamed of three years ago as we played cards on the floor of aImage barren office building.

 The first UPH Open House was a tremendous success. And for me personally it was one of the most beautiful nights I have witnessed with UrbanPromise Honduras.

 

“It may be that the day of judgement will dawn tomorrow; and in that case, though not before, we shall gladly stop working for a better future”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Blair Quinius- Executive Director





Erlin’s Story

23 10 2012

When I came to Urban Promise as the new Youth Director, I had every hope and reason to believe that I would be able to make connections between UPH and my former organization, Partners of the Americas.

 

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Erlin at Camp Peace with his co-workers.

One particular opportunity presented itself a lot sooner than I expected…just one of those situations where the puzzle pieces fit perfectly together. Erlin was first introduced to Blair Quinius in 2007 as his 5th grade student at the local Mayatan bilingual school. He comes from a single parent household, with 6 siblings and helps his mom care for his younger siblings. Fortunately, he was able to attend Mayatan on a scholarship, given his modest economic situation. Fast forward about 3 years, as UPH is just taking off; Erlin reconnected with Blair this time to join the team of UPH Youth Leaders to work at one of the summer camps in 2010 and then each year after that. This year he led his peers as the Youth Captain for Camp Peace. And then this past August he received the unfortunate news that his scholarship to Mayatan was cut, and as a result he would have to wait several months until he could enroll into the public school, whose calendar year begins in February, unlike the American school calendar that Mayatan follows.

 

Shortly after this news, I got word from a former co-worker that they were in need of a translator for a volunteer traveling to Honduras through the USAID sponsored Partners of the Americas Farmer to Farmer program. It was Blair’s idea to suggest Erlin for the job…and it made so much sense! He’s bilingual, he wasn’t in school and this would be an outstanding opportunity for him to grow as a leader and put to practical use his language skills! More importantly, because of the training and growth he experienced working as a Youth Leader for UPH, he was much more equipped to embark on this type of assignment. After a few weeks of targeted preparation and orientation, Erlin took off to central Honduras for one week to work with the team at the Sustainable Harvest Foundation (FUCOHSO) and serve as personal translator for a U.S. volunteer.  It was the first time in his life he spent more than one day away from his family and he earned more in one week than his mother earns in a month for a family of 7. He became good friends with the volunteer who also happened to work in the field that Erlin is interested in pursuing.

 

This volunteer reported back to Partners and USAID about his experience saying, “…the success of the trip goes to the very capable staff of FUCOHSO and of my two translators. Without them it would have been an entirely different experience…The assistance I received from…Erlin Perez [was] invaluable.”

 

I can’t articulate the SHEER JOY I get and the privilege it is to witness these divine appointments and to watch the personal growth of teenagers take on its own life right before my eyes. Erlin had the opportunity to immerse himself into the lives of his own countrymen in a town he’d never been before, and to better understand their needs as well as be able to empathize with their struggles. He was personally challenged and learned more about his own passions and abilities and what he is truly capable of! I’m humbled to be part of this ministry and to see how God is connecting the dots of my life to use me as a catalyst to build up young leaders in this small spot of the world called Copan, that God so loves!

Elizabeth Auciello- Youth Director





Planting and Watering

8 10 2012

ImageBefore I came to Honduras, I often imagined my life here to be more glamorous than it really is.  Working in ministry can sometimes feel monotonous.  Days here include a lot of unexciting tasks like buying supplies, setting things up and cleaning and coming up with last minute lesson plans when the electricity is out (again) and the worksheet for English class can’t be copied.  A lot of breaking up fights and checking math homework and reading the same book over and over. 

 

At moments I have been frustrated because I feel like I am not really making a difference in the lives of these kids.  This week, God’s truth has hit me like a ton of bricks; this is not about me and being here is not about what I can accomplish.  God doesn’t need us to do His work, but chooses to use us, despite all of our flaws and human imperfection.  He asks us to be His hands and feet, to humble ourselves and allow His spirit to work through us. 

 

In the first of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, he writes, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.  So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)   Here in Copan Ruinas, this is what UPH is doing- planting and watering seeds in the lives of kids and youth and trusting God to grow them in His timing.  

 

There are definitely some days that are frustrating, days of feeImageling stuck in a routine, as well as days when incredible changes are seen in the kids in UPH programs.  But regardless of how we feel, encouraged or otherwise, we each have the ability and the calling to glorify the Lord through our planting and watering, through drying tears and laughing and dancing and playing.  And we can trust fully that God will do the rest.

UPH Volunteer- Rachel Suby-Long





True Church

2 10 2012

When we hear the Christian metaphor of the Church being a body with many parts, we easily recognize the variety of jobs being done by different parts of the body yet sometimes fail to realize how the different parts depend on each other. The heart cannot pump blood without the brain, the brain doesn’t work without the heart, and none of this would matter if the blood being pumped around the body weren’t oxygenated by the lungs. And when someone breaks their leg the other leg and the arms work harder while it mends.Image

I would like to tell you about a great friend and ex-member of staff: Giselle Rodríguez. She first came to UrbanPromise Honduras in the summer of 2011 as an Intern but she then decided to stay on and help direct one of the other holiday camps and after directing another one of the 2012 Summer Camps she then returned home. However, last weekend she came to visit us here in Copán, but little did she know that her visit was about to be extended.

The week before one of our AfterSchool Program directors, Kourtney De La Cruz, caught dengue fever and because of this was unable to finish directing that week of camp, and as the next week of camp was approaching we would be short one director. Even though I was able to cover the last few days of the week before, I was slightly overwhelmed at the thought of directing Camp Ágape for a whole week and being able to do my job at the same time.

Giselle was just about to leave on Sunday afternoon, when Blair came into the office and simply asked her if she wanted to direct Camp Ágape for a week. It took about five seconds and a quick phone call home for Giselle to confirm that she would stay for the whole of the following week. This was a blessing for us, but what impacted me the most was the way in which she allowed her plans to be interrupted. Though she had only packed for two days, she decided to stay for eight and to simply do a lot of laundry.

Right now so many businesses try hard to make their staff feel like they are a part of a team. While I think that this is a great practice, as someone who has been part of one of these teams, for the most part I feel that many workers don’t buy into this. I have seen first-hand, and heard of these supposed teams falling apart after a hard day of work, and even though everybody played their part people still went home feeling stressed. Perhaps where “teams” fail is in the thinking that everyone only has their part to play and that the others play their own separate part; there is mine and there is yours but there is no ours. There are few workplaces in the world where the atmosphere is that of a body, but I am fortunate enough to be able to work in one of those places. In my short time working here, UPH has shown itself to be a body where we are involved in each other’s business, not because we like interfering but because if something affects one part, the whole body is affected.

Thank you Giselle for remaining a part of the UPH body!

Hugh Stacey- Director of Communications





The Change in my Life

25 09 2012

N.B: We are very blessed this week because it’s the first time that one of our Youth Leaders has volunteered to write a blog for us.

My most sincere thanks for the support that those people with such noble hearts have given us. Thanks to your help and your enormous hearts we are able to be a part of the UrbanPromise Honduras (UPH) family, which has filled my friends and I with pride. My life in UPH began when I had the privilege, through a friend, of meeting a great person, a great woman, a warrior for God, a great friend with a marvelous gift. Her name is: Rachel Nelson. I began to have a conversation with this great woman that God put in my path so that she could share her gift with me. So she started talking about the wonderful world of UPH and a short while after that conversation I was curious to find out more about UrbanPromise Honduras. I started to go to their first camp called Camp Hope and at the early age of 12, I had the privilege of working at my first camp. The only problem was that I didnImage’t know any English and al the people who worked there didn’t speak Spanish very well. But I wanted to be part of that world so much that it didn’t matter to me. As time went by I felt more at home, I enjoyed working at many camps, I met new people and my world and my life had more meaning. To this day I am still part of UPH for as long as God wants me here and allows me to remain. However, there is a hole in my heart because the person who opened her heart to me, and thanks to whom I got to know the world of UPH, is not here anymore, but she will always be in our hearts.

Thank you Rachel Nelson!

Thank you UrbanPromise Honduras!

Thank you UPH directors and collaborators!

May God  bless you and pour out his blessings on all of you.

Wendy Saray López- Líder Joven de UPH





Faith Like a Child

8 09 2012

ImageWhen I first heard that as a Christian it was good to have the faith of a child, I didn’t think much of it. I probably thought something along the lines of, “Aww…that’s cute!”, but I didn’t think it was one of the Bible’s most groundbreaking passages. I was pretty convinced that parents would struggle to look at their children as role models, especially after they dislodge the tiny pieces of Lego that they put up their noses. So what was Jesus talking about here? Surely he wasn’t holding up gullibility as a positive character trait…was he?

I’m relatively new to UrbanPromise Honduras, and this week I had the pleasure of visiting Camp Agape and its children for the first time, and I learnt a valuable lesson.  Of that first day, the moment I remember the most was when I walked out of one of the classrooms and someone just grabbed my hand, walked me to some concrete steps, sat me down and just read to me. As I sat there listening to this young girl read to me I smiled to myself because I realized that I didn’t know who she was, and more importantly she didn’t know who I was, but none of that was important because all that mattered was the story we were reading. Maybe she was thinking the same thing too because I remember that as soon as she finished reading she looked up at me, smiling, and asked me what my name was. Business before pleasure I guess. But as soon as I told her, she ran away and brought back another book.

Honduran children have no particular reason to trust in others; the fact that it’s one of the most dangerous countries in the world would make anyone distrustful of strangers and probably not make you want to hold their hands. While it is true that Copan itself is relatively safe, still the family units are generally unstable, poverty rates are extremely high, and illiteracy rates are soaring too. The situation in Honduras is serious enough to turn anyone into a cynic, yet this is precisely why children can teach us so much: because they still believe in the good.

After this encounter, I couldn’t help but see this model faith being lived out by so many other children.Image When it was recess they were running around in flip-flops, and I was afraid they would slip or fall or stub their toes, but that thought never even crossed their minds. I saw the smallest boy at camp play hockey with the older boys and not be overwhelmed by the fact that he was clearly the smallest. We adults have so many fears that hold us back from doing what we often want to do. It seems that a lot of our life-experience has told us to not run around, and our insecurities have told us that we’re too small to play with the big boys. The children I saw didn’t teach me that gullibility is to be praised; they taught me that I should always believe in the good, and that I should live without fear.

“In this way sin and evil have greater power over men than one generally thinks: it is so silly to be good, so narrow-minded to believe in the good, so small-townish to betray ignorance or that one is uninitiated-uninitiated into the inmost secrets of sin.” – Søren Kierkegaard (Works of Love).

Hugh Stacey- Director of Communications








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