- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2000

Members of Christ Church in Alexandria, Va., although worlds removed from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, want to help a small group home there that gives a second chance to physically and emotionally abused girls.

Our Little Roses, home to 64 girls ages 18 months to 17 years, survives entirely on donations of money and time which is where members of Christ Church come in. A 13-person group will embark on a mission south today to lend a hand. Last year, the church raised $15,000 for computer equipment for the children.

"It's an incredible experience to see the girls," said Joanne Newton, the mission's organizer.

"There is a lot of contrast in the culture. There are a lot of very wealthy people and a lot of very poor people, but not a whole lot in between. We can help."

The home takes girls afflicted by poverty, disease and oppression and helps them get back on track.

"These kids come from homes without parents, or single-parent families. We are trying to reach out to them," said Hugh Newton, Joanne's husband.

One such girl is Tania Santos, age 5, whose adopted parents had beaten her and locked her in a barrel. The little girl had arrived at Our Little Roses after being thrown through a window.

It is with children like Tania in mind that Christ Church begins packing for its journey of mercy.

The group meets on Monday at the Newtons' house to finish packing, discuss departure times and complete paperwork. Never far from the minds of the missionaries, however, is the cause behind their efforts.

"We have incredible wealth in this country and sometimes we don't see, or don't care what it is like for people across the world," said Mrs. Newton.

"You think about how things need to change. Some things are just more important than if your e-mail gets sent on time."

One group working for change is the Committee to Assist the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras (CAEDH). It raises money in the District to support the orphanage. Founded in 1988, the nonprofit organization has a staff of only four.

Groups such as Christ Church have enabled CAEDH to expand Our Little Roses from a three-bedroom rented home to a three-building complex. The girls receive healthy food, clothing, health care, secular and religious education and emotional support.

"The groups are wonderful," said CAEDH employee Joanne McDaniel.

"They help out at the human level. The girls enjoy having them so much. They are sad when they leave."

While in Honduras, the group will do painting, landscaping and teach the girls about the Internet.

The church group will stay in the home which is surrounded by armed guards. They have heard stories about people robbing missionaries once they leave the airport.

When the eight-day trip is over, the work is supposed to continue. Missionaries are expected to write the girls, send things to them and ideally develop a special relationships with a particular girl.

This will be the second trip to Honduras for Mrs. Newton, who says she will continue to go there because it's hard to find a more satisfying experience.

"The most significant thing is to see how much these girls' lives have been changed," she said.

"We are not trying to make them Americans or bring them back with us. These girls are proud to be Hondurans. They come back and help with their community. They are creating the next middle-class society. The people benefiting from this program are women and children."

Both Mr. and Mrs. Newton note that most of the girls at Our Little Roses have had some sort of trouble at home, whether it be abuse or abandonment.

Organizers said the potential of the girls is obvious.

"Some of the children are very bright," said Mrs. Newton.

"A lot of them are incredibly small for their age. But that is another aspect of their lives the program turns around."

Most people are very interested in the program after returning from the mission, but lose interest after time. She recommends the experience.

"I think it's good for young people to go down. It has life-changing aspects. Sometimes [volunteers] go on to other ventures."

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