A Young Director With a Servant’s Heart
Gives His All for Kids in Honduras

By Kalis Parra, Dominican Republic Field Communications Specialist   |  Photos by Stephanie Reindel, Child Champion, U.S.A., and Kalis Parra

A boy with a servant’s heart who volunteered at his church’s Hope Center becomes one of the youngest Hope Center Directors in OneChild history, impacting the lives of hundreds of kids living in poverty in his community with his love and passion.

Isaí began working at a Hope Center as a volunteer because he’s always had a passion for helping kids.

Isaí was born in La Ceiba, Honduras. His neighborhood, nicknamed La Borda, is a place unsafe for an outsider to enter without a resident by their side.

Poverty is deeply entrenched there, and it’s not unusual for people to sleep on a sheet spread on the floor because they have no bed.

But in the midst of this hard neighborhood is a church bringing hope to families.

From an early age, Isaí had the desire in his heart to be part of the Hope Center. He was already past the age of enrollment, but he wouldn’t let that stop him. At all costs he wanted to be part of the Hope Center, so at the age of 12 he began to serve as a volunteer, assisting a tutor in his work.

‘’I was born in this church,” Isaí says. “I remember that as a church, before OneChild, we used to give away food every day to the families in need. Then we partnered with One Child. The pastor’s wife invited me to come and serve on Saturdays, so I said ‘Yes!’ Since that day, I have not missed a Saturday. That was 12 years ago.”

From Volunteer to Director

Isaí shares what motivated him to come that first day and continue coming for all these years.

Isaí helps a child tie his shoelaces.

“I think what happened to me happened to all of us who came to the Hope Center. We fell in love with what is done here. And seeing the needs of the children and how they live — so much need and hunger — motivates us to continue here.

“What made me fall in love with my Hope Center was sharing with the children, seeing how they have fun here, how they play and seeing how they get the love here that they may not get at home. We are the hope they are needing.”

Isaí had been serving as a Child Champion at the Hope Center for several years when the Hope Center Director had to step down due to illness.

Though Isaí helped fill the gap in any way he could, he had never dreamed that he might be a director himself. But leaders in the church recognized his leadership ability and commitment to the children.

Now Isaí is the Director of the Hope Center he has loved since childhood.

Among the Kids

When the kids are at the Hope Center, you’ll seldom find Isaí in his office. You’ll find him in the hallways, the classrooms, or the recreation area — wherever the kids are.

Kids naturally gravitate to Isaí, and he always welcomes them with open arms.

He may be talking quietly with a teen, standing at a whiteboard helping with a lesson, or sitting on the ground giving his full attention to helping a little girl tie her string of beads.

Whatever he’s doing, he’s never hard to find. The kids clamor around him, eager for his attention, his smile, or his hand on their shoulder.

Besides serving as the Director of the Huerto De Riego Hope Center (Watered Garden Hope Center), Isaí is currently earning his degree in finance. He works in a pharmacy six days a week to pay for his studies and chose to take the night shift so he can still serve in the Hope Center. Isaí also helps support his parents since his dad has diabetes and is constantly on dialysis.

Through all these circumstances, Isaí continues serving with love and dedication at the Hope Center.

A Role Model for the Children

Isaí is an admirable young man whose life is full of dreams and challenges. But it is his dedication, commitment, and hard work that led him, at such a young age, to become the Hope Center Director.

Isaí is happy to spend as much time possible with each child at the Hope Center.

It’s a big responsibility, but at the same time an example for the children of this community who are growing up seeing him live differently from others.

Isaí knows the children are looking for a role model, and because of the brokenness of the homes many come from, they may not have one at home. When a child wants his attention he gives it, because he understands it’s important to them.

Asked what advice he would give to every youth who is afraid of taking big steps in life, Isaí says, “God has called us to serve and not be served. When we realize how good God has been to us in all His blessings to us, we begin to serve Him with an attitude of gratitude, not for the benefits that it could bring.

“The best advice I can give is to do whatever you do out of love. When you love God and what you do, you do everything without excuses.’’

Going to Where the Kids Are

In the community around the Hope Center, kids face a lot of challenges. Dengue fever is a constant threat, and inadequate sanitation means that children suffer from frequent stomach illnesses.

Isaí encourages kids in all of their endeavors, including decorating a wall.

Some parents work as day laborers or street vendors, but finding good employment opportunities is difficult.

The pressures of poverty and the need to go elsewhere to find work have also led to a breakdown in families. Substance abuse and domestic violence are common.

But Isaí is there to encourage children to keep reaching for a better future.

In Honduras, kids living in poverty are often forced to work at a young age to provide for their families. If they don’t work, they don’t eat.

Isaí is so committed to these children that he sometimes goes to their homes and workplaces to see how they are doing and help them write letters to their sponsors.

“One day I was missing a child; he wasn’t coming to the Hope Center,” Isaí recalls. “I figured something was happening, so I decided to visit him. I found him selling water at the bus station. He had no choice. If he didn’t work, his father disciplined him, and he had to help his family and take care of his sister who was sick with epilepsy.”

So Isaí sat with the little boy at the bus station and tutored him there.

“These children have no opportunities to be kids and have fun. From when they are 8 or 10 years old, they must work and take care of their younger siblings to help and provide for their families,” he says.

But Isaí is there for them.

Isaí goes the extra mile in encouraging kids to keep attending the programs at the Hope Center. He also does all he can to help kids in their studies.

He goes the extra mile and does what he can to find ways for the children to continue coming to the program because he knows there’s hope and love for them at the Hope Center.

Helping in the Heartbreak

Isaí has been impacted by the kids in so many ways, but one story that he especially recalls is a that of a boy who lost both of his parents in a tragic accident.

“Last year a child lost his parents in a car accident; both died,” Isaí says. “In his Christmas letter to his sponsor, he wrote that this Christmas would be different for him, since his parents would be missing. That letter broke my heart, knowing that this kid was left with just his older sister to care for him, who was also a minor. He asked his sponsors to pray for him.

“This is the reality we face every day. But we are here to remind them that God has a plan and a purpose for every situation in our lives.’’

And Isaí doesn’t just care about the kids. He takes action.

After the loss of their parents, Isaí made sure that one of the boy’s sisters who wasn’t part of the Hope Center was also enrolled. Now they can grow surrounded by people who love them and take care of them. Isaí also checks in on the family often to make sure any needs they have are provided for.

Vision and Calling

Isaí is clear in his heart about the call of God on his life.

“I enjoy everything in the Hope Center,” he says. “Even the hardest things. And what has kept me here all these years is that I have learned the purpose for which God brought me here.

Isaí admires Esperanza, the Hope Center cook, calling her “a gift from God.”

“Sometimes we think we are giving these children a lot. But what we receive from them is priceless — a sincere and real love. This is what God called us to do, to love the little ones.”

Despite his leadership skills at such a young age, the Child Champion Isaí points to the one who inspires him most, the Hope Center cook, Esperanza.

“She is a gift from God, always smiling, always serving with love,” Isaí says. “She takes care of her granddaughters and grandsons. Before coming to the Hope Center, she has to drop them off at school. She comes to the Hope Center, serves, and then goes back to pick them up from school.

“I have never seen her complaining, or in a bad mood. She is always so joyful. Seeing her daily making all this sacrifice inspires me a lot — she is an older lady in charge of all these responsibilities without complaining. Her service and her commitment to the children is what makes me admire her.

Esperanza dutifully serves the kids meals at the Hope Center, always with a smile on her face.

“Perhaps her work is behind the scenes,” Isaí adds. “But without her, the center really doesn’t work. If a tutor is absent, I or someone else can cover. But if Esperanza is missing, how will we feed the children?

“God has given us the privilege of serving these kids, and she understands that’s the reason why we are here. That’s why I admire her.”

Dreaming Big for the Whole Community

Isaí has big dreams and expectations for all the children and their community.

‘’My dream for all the kids from the Hope Center is to complete the program. That they can finish their studies. That the negative words that at some point were spoken over them — that they couldn’t achieve anything in life — instead of marking them in a bad way will encourage them to go further.

“I want to see them thriving and serving the Lord. I know we provide for them in so many ways, but our main goal is for them to get to know Jesus, and through them, that their families will come to know Jesus, too. If we impact the life of a child, the child will impact the life of his parents.

‘’I don’t know how long God will allow me to be part of the Hope Center,” says Isaí. “But I can’t imagine a life without my Hope Center. The Hope Center has become part of my life. Many people pass through the Hope Center, but few people have let the Hope Center pass from their hearts.

“My biggest dream is to live a life dedicated to service.”

And Isaí is living that dream every day.

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