Finding Children Homes and Hope
For the superstitious, 13 is an unlucky number.
For Jenny (Owens) Kast '04, it's a number she hopes never grows. That is the number - at minimum - of beloved lives lost to the streets of Honduras, a place that owns her heart.
Kast had always wanted to be a missionary, and lived for a year in Honduras with her husband Sean nearly a decade ago, where they spent time in a government-operated children's home. One little boy in particular was the catalyst for the non-profit organization she started, The Children's Home Project.
"He was constantly being bullied there, and I sat with him while he sobbed over and over, 'I don't want to be here. I want my mommy. God, please help me,'" Kast said.
Kast worked to get him moved to a private children's home, and was able to keep visiting him and made sure he was able to get the care he needed. After their year in Honduras, she and her husband returned to the U.S., but her work continues to this day. TCHP works with approximately 60 Honduran children who have been separated from their parents due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or financial crisis. TCHP connects the children with resources to help them, such as Proniño, a private children's home that particularly cares for children who have been through trauma by providing educational scholarships and mental health professionals for the children. TCHP also operates Crecer, a day center in San Pedro Sula. Learn more about the work at: tchproject.org/our-work.
Kast, a social work major, said she was deeply impacted by her time at Malone.
"Our class sizes were small, which created this safe and intimate setting to wrestle with extremely hard issues," she said. "Dr. Jane Hoyt-Oliver in particular created a culture of safety and never-ending learning. My way of thinking dramatically changed, not because she forced us to accept her ideas, but because she allowed us to explore and talk things through."
Kast and Sean have adopted a son, Leo, who now travels with them to Honduras. And the tiny children Kast met when she first spent that life-changing year in Honduras are now young adults.
“The terrible reality is that at least 13 kids that I have known and loved have died,” she said. “Others are still on the street and are repeating the terrible cycle of poverty, drug use and child abandonment. But, those kids who are breaking free, in college, working and supporting themselves, or are in healthy, committed relationships? They make every moment of sadness worth it. In this work, the lows are very low, but the highs are extremely high!”