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Guatemala Adoption

McKnight family brings supplies, smiles to Honduras.

A Fremont family has found a way to help malnourished children in Honduras.

Dr. Thomas McKnight, his wife, Evelyn, and sons, Luke, Curtis, and Alex, delivered supplies to this Central American country during a December vacation.

Luke and Curtis are medical students at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Alex is a freshman at the University of Notre Dame. All like to travel in Central and South America so they can practice their Spanish.

The family headed to Honduras on Dec. 17.

“The weather and surroundings are lovely and it’s quick and easy to get to. We’ve taken supplies before to missions in Guatemala and Costa Rica while we were on vacation,” Evelyn said. “With three strong young men to act as porters, I expect we will do it again.”`

The McKnight family knows there is great need in this part of the world and asked around until they found out about a nutrition center/orphanage in El Progresso. Children in desperate need have found hope, faith, and joy at the Parish of Our Lady of Mercies in El Progresso, Evelyn said. There, the parish runs a combined nutrition center, orphanage and children’s health clinic. Half of the center’s programs are sponsored by Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Plano, Texas, while the other half is sponsored by the local people.

Adoption in Honduras is very difficult, she said, because the law is restrictive in its definition of what makes a child eligible.

“Only children in state-run orphanages can be adopted and yet there are many orphaned children in Honduras because of AIDS,” Evelyn said.

The clinic, open five mornings a week, monitors the children’s growth, checks for health problems, distributes vitamins and addresses the youngsters’ malnutrition. Families can visit the clinic once a month and take part in other programs offered.

“The Vaso de Leche (glass of milk) program provides supplemental food to children at risk. The program also requires mothers to assist in food preparation and (they) also are taught basic hygiene, nutrition and child development,” she said.

Evelyn said the nutrition center is for children ages 2 months to 5 years who are in the third stage of malnutrition. There is room for 25 children to live there at a time for four to 10 months, until they are restored to health.

“The parents are required to visit once a week, and are also taught nutrition and hygiene,” she said.

Volunteers are on hand to give additional affection and attention to the children.

The children’s home, where the McKnights spent their time, accepts children under age 3 from the nutrition center who family court has deemed unable to be provided for by their families. It is structured with space for the children’s clothes, toys and pictures close to their beds to give it a sense of family rather than an institution.

When the McKnight family arrived in Honduras, Ana Aleman Tower, head mistress of the nutrition center/orphanage, met them at the airport in San Pedro Sula. Evelyn said they had gathered and transported almost 500 pounds of medicine, clothing and toys for the center.

“They didn’t need us to do any clinic checks, because they have regular physician services. Ana loaded all the supplies we brought into her truck and took off, while we went on our vacation,” Evelyn said.

At the end of their vacation, the McKnights returned to El Progresso to visit the center and orphanage.

“They were delighted with everything we brought,” Evelyn said.

The McKnight family was delighted with the children at the center and the orphanage, because they were so outgoing and friendly. There was some sadness, too, as the McKnights looked at pictures of the children when they were first brought to the center or the orphanage.

“It’s at that stage they are suffering from extreme malnutrition. They looked like skeletons with huge, sad eyes,” Evelyn said.

Those little bodies do respond to the care and nutrition they receive, Evelyn said.

Volunteers come from all over the world to work in the center/orphanage to help give the care children need. They live with local families and can stay for one month or 12.

Evelyn said her family will take supplies and visit again, and urged anyone going on vacation in that area to take supplies also.

“To see and play with the same children who were sad-eyed skeletons, and are now happy, healthy, and rambunctious was very inspiring,” she said.

Evelyn also said with the overwhelming problems in the world, people may believe there isn’t much any one person can do. After witnessing the humanitarian work of the parish in El Progresso, the McKnight family knows differently.

“We have seen how each person can make a profound difference in the world. Whether going to be a volunteer for a few month, donating clothing and supplies, or delivering supplies, the life of a child can be changed,” Evelyn said. “There is no greater accomplishment in life.”

This story was written by Carolyn Gibbs for the Fremont Tribune.

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