Belize children benefit from OHW surplus

PAT FRIDGEN
Children at a girl’s school in Belize posed for a group photo in their matching T-shirts from Greencastle, Pennsylvania, the home of Old Home Week.

Children in Belize are wearing some new old T-shirts. The boys and girls at Hosanna House in Valley Community are sporting 2004 Old Home Week shirts, compliments of the OHW committee and a Greencastle couple.

The home for girls was established by Bob Eberly, who serves as president of the non-profit organization Here's Hope Ministries. The youngsters, as wards of the court, live in the house situated on 42 acres. Brothers are allowed to reside there as well to keep sibling groups intact. The 25 children range in age from seven months to 16 years. They stay from 30 to 90 days.

While leftover shirts are usually discounted at the next OHW, the small sizes were a special feature six years ago and did not sell well. Last fall Tom Stine, the T-shirt chairman, wondered what to do with them. Registrar Bob Johnston thought of the mission.

Eberly took a box full along on one of his monthly trips. His wife Darlene, who doesn't get down quite as often, snapped the photo of the happy recipients.

Johnston was delighted with the outcome. "The Old Home Week Association made a contribution to a good cause and got rid of the 2004 t-shirts."

The mission

The Eberlys served in the mission field in Sierra Leone for three years, and through Greencastle Otterbein United Brethren Church helped establish churches in several Central American countries. Bob couldn't explain how he decided to found Here's Hope, other than to imply it was God's calling. On a trip to Honduras, a Belize native told him of the needs in her country.

"One thing led to another," he said.

The organization began in 1997 and bought the land in 2003. The government approved the license for Hosanna House two years later, and the children began arriving.

Bob estimated they have served over 300 girls, most victims of abuse. Some are illegal aliens waiting to be deported. The younger school-age kids attend a Baptist school in the village, and the older go to high school 20 miles away. Darlene finds their work rewarding. "Child abuse is everywhere, but this is the little piece we can work on," she said.

The operation is supported by donations, with much coming from the Greencastle area.

"One hundred percent of what people give goes to the ministry," she said.

The Eberlys cover their own expenses, and Bob travels so frequently to handle the bills, buy groceries, fill out paperwork and monitor operations.

Volunteers also travel down to help with maintenance, do construction, offer professional services, tutor or teach Vacation Bible School. Comunication is not a problem since the population speaks English.

The Here's Hope website states the purpose of the endeavor. "Here's Hope exists for one reason. We believe hope is found in Christ alone. Best of all, it is a hope that is forever."