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Generous Donation – “We Wanted to Help.”

June 27th, 2017 by

Photo Provided By Bryan and Rachel Kreitz

By Heather Radu –

Photo Provided By Bryan and Rachel KreitzBryan and Rachel Kreitz were among 18 members of a mission team that came to Guatemala on spring break in March. Although it was the Houston couple’s first trip to Dorie’s Promise, it won’t be their last.

That’s because the children at our home captured their hearts. In addition to planning a return trip next June, they recently made a generous donation of 1 percent of their sales during May.

It was the first business-related donation made by the couple, who purchased Trinity Legal Discovery in Houston nearly two years ago.

“It was my wife’s idea,” Bryan says. “She wanted to start giving back to community groups and charities. I asked, ‘What do you want to do for the first month?’ and she said, ‘Dorie’s.’

“We fell in love with those kids. It’s a tough road for them and we wanted to help. We took downloadable pictures off the web site and put stickers on our boxes. So during May, every box of client documents we sent out had pictures from Dorie’s Promise on them.”

The Kreitzes learned about us through some friends who made their first mission trip to Guatemala last year. Bryan and Rachel were eager to come after hearing about Dorie’s Promise; ultimately, they helped assemble a team from various places. It included six children age 12 or younger.

The trip touched the couple in a dramatic way. As the owners of a small (14 employees) business that includes constant cash-flow pressures, they saw that what they face isn’t that tough compared to the poor in Guatemala.

“We were dealing with people who live in an eight-by-eight-foot home and four people sleeping in one bed and they weren’t complaining,” Bryan says. “There’s a week’s worth of food in our refrigerator, and they may not eat more than once a day.”

Photo Provided By Bryan and Rachel KreitzThe team completed a number of community projects in the town of Palencia, where we are building a school. Among their efforts: delivering two weeks of food to a soup kitchen, 50 water filters and two sets of bunk beds to residents, and completing two house extensions.

The trip also impacted their nine-year-old and 12-year-old daughter. Back home, the couple still discuss their visit as they remind their children of how much more they have than kids in Central America.

“It was great to see them get outside themselves,” Bryan says. “It was eye opening for all the kids. One of them talked about wanting this and that, but the second day he said, ‘Mom, I don’t want anything. I want to help these kids.’ She started bawling.”

In addition to helping in the community, the spring break team spent a lot of time with our kids—playing soccer, throwing a football around, going to a trampoline park, and attending church together.

The team was especially impressed with the care and attention offered by our Special Mothers.

“The kids wanted to be loved on and you can tell they are,” Bryan says. “These kids need our help and a dollar there goes so much further. I look at it as being able to help one kid at a time.”

Needless to say, supporters like the Kreitzes make our work a little easier.

English Tutor Helps Children Improve Their Language Skills

June 22nd, 2017 by

Learning English at Dorie's Promise

By Alejandra Diaz –

Several of our older students who are receiving tutoring in English from Paul Stickland.Early last year we included a blog on our website about our older students who are receiving tutoring in English from Paul Stickland, an Englishman who has been living in Guatemala for eight years.

I am happy to report that Paul is still coming twice a week, and the classes are proving quite beneficial to our children.

We have around a dozen students taking the class; some days it is more and some days less, depending on their school schedules and other activities.

To show the progress they are making, students in the class are getting good grades at school. They ask their teachers more questions, and feel more confident about speaking English with visiting mission team members. This confidence stems from an increased vocabulary, helping them with conversation.

Paul lives close to Dorie’s Promise and saw our children walking in the park many times. Finally, he decided to come here to offer his help teaching English.

Before retiring, he worked as a banker, and his office supported three charities for children. Each time Paul visited them, he met bright and happy children, and saw how important it is for children to have a loving home and good education.

“I would always come away full of admiration for the people who helped them,” he recalls. “The experience here has been incredibly rewarding. The children are always keen to learn, and their progress has been truly remarkable.”

We deeply appreciate Paul’s volunteering to help us with these classes.Not only does he try to make the classes fun by asking silly questions to help students practice their English, Paul has warmed up to them. Last December, he organized a nice Christmas party for the children, and sometimes has brought donations for them.

Sometimes Paul will help them with a special presentation they need to make at school and give them a chance to practice it before the class. Learning to speak English has helped considerably, and when they have a question, they will bring their school books and ask Mr. Stickland about it.

Besides their improved ability to carry on conversations with visiting missionaries, the kids are learning not to be shy. They realize if they want to learn English they need to practice and take the risk of making mistakes.

We deeply appreciate Paul’s volunteering to help us with these classes. They are a great help because they offer our children a great education without having to invest our limited resources.

The English classes are a symbol of the help each and every volunteer missionary makes to FCI’s ministry. Your efforts are appreciated and stretch our resources much further than they would go without your help.

Gymnastics Boosts Girls’ Confidence

June 8th, 2017 by

The girls from Doire's Promise who participated in the gymnastic classes last fall.

By Alejandra Diaz –

Three of our students get ready for their final performance.Even though Guatemala just passed the halfway point of the 2017 school year, our girls are already looking forward to their Gymnastics Vacation Course this fall.

A dozen of our girls participated in last fall’s course. About 100 students overall were involved in the classes, which start after the school year—which begins in January—ends in October.

Our children participated for the first time two years ago, but were eager to enroll again last year because some of the girls are very talented. (To see some photos from the classes, click here.)

Although they only have the chance to take formal lessons in October and November, every time they have the chance to practice at home, they do it! Sometimes we have to caution them to watch out for other people when they do their tumbles, flips and other moves.

These gymnastics classes have made a huge impact on our girls, improving their school work and self-confidence. We have seen big changes in their outlook and attitudes.

They have shown themselves they are able to do great things. The girls felt so good when they made their presentations at the final show and everyone congratulated them.

After all, taking part in the gymnastics classes requires a lot of effort and self-discipline. These sessions demanded a lot of practice and meant they had to demonstrate a daily commitment to improve.

Not only do these classes show the kind of achievements that are possible with hard work and dedication, they emphasize the value of child sponsorship.

Several of the girls from Dorie's Promise performing iat the end of their gymnastic class.It is only because of the support of so many generous donors that we can take the girls to these vacation courses. Indeed, we would really love to find a way to give them the opportunity to participate in gymnastics year-round to allow them to further develop and use their talents.

Since the costs of shelter, food, clothing and other necessities require so much of our resources, it is only when children receive full sponsorship that monies are available to sign them up for additional opportunities.

Our goal is to meet all our ongoing monthly expenses through child sponsorship, which will enable us to be much more flexible in our operations.

If you would like to help our children take part in things like the gymnastics course and other character-building and educational exercises, consider becoming a child sponsor today.

Ten-Year Employees Recognized

May 30th, 2017 by

The employees who have been with Dorie’s Promise for 10 years or longer. We couldn’t have done it without them.

By Heather Radu –

Founder, Heather Radu recognizes the long term employees.One of the most joyous occasions of this spring was honoring—and saying thanks to—all the employees who have been with Dorie’s Promise for 10 years or longer.

We couldn’t have done it without them. They have stayed with us through the years and even in the most difficult of times, have been there with a smile.

Their names are Lucia, Diana, Marleni, Ingrid, Mina, Mimi, Juanita, Noemi, Lucky, Ismelda, Oscar, Abel, Doc and Ale.

Showing what kind of caring spirit they have, on their night of recognition they also thanked me for the opportunity to be part of the organization. They gave a special thanks to God too because, here at Forever Changed International, they found their real calling for life.

It is difficult to over-estimate the value of our long-term employees to the stability of the ministry, the smooth operations at Dorie’s Promise, and the security our children sense from seeing many of the same faces day after day, year after year.

It was a big moment for me, too, as the occasion reminded me of how I hired some of them in 2000, when the home just opened.

Later, when we were living in Guatemala, some of them were part of our family. Literally, since they pitched in and helped us raise our own children. Though now grown, our kids retain many fond memories of their time at Dorie’s Promise.

After these many years, it is not just the hard work or a salary that keeps those people with FCI. It is because we have become a family and, by seeing them working every day, I can tell they are passionate about what they do. Our children are lucky to have people who really care about them and love them.

It is worth noting that their efforts often lack the “glamor” of a mission trip or the excitement that many people associate with “ministry.”At the ceremony to recognize employees.

Every parent can understand the long hours, constant effort, training and worry that is part of raising a child. The same can be said of raising orphans, many whom come from backgrounds of poverty and abuse.

It requires diligence, patience of the highest order, and a willingness to devote your life outside of the spotlight, wondering whether you will ever see breakthroughs with children who struggle against enormous odds.

Why do they do it? In one word: love. Love of God and love for the children treated by many as outcasts.

Their rewards come in the form of caring smiles, words spoken for the first time, and children who achieve the kind of things once thought impossible. We can’t thank them enough for their devotion.

Saying Good-Bye to Missions Director Pablo Villagran

May 25th, 2017 by

Pablo with children from Dorie's Promise.

By Heather Radu –

Pablo recently joined the United Nations’ public information department in Guatemala City. We received news recently that both excites and disappoints us. We are thrilled over the possibilities opening up for Pablo Villagran, but are sad to see him depart as our Missions Director.

Pablo recently joined the United Nations’ public information department in Guatemala City. Though not an easy decision to make, Pablo is confident that this where God wants him to be.

“It’s been an amazing opportunity to work with Forever Changed International for four years,” says Pablo, who started with us as a ministry assistant. “I truly enjoyed my time here.

I have experienced many highlights, such as getting to be a part of children’s lives, working with so many missions teams, building schools, and supporting programs that will benefit hundreds of children in vulnerable areas.”

Moving forward, we will rely on four different mission trip leaders to coordinate volunteer missionaries’ visits. They will work in rotating teams of two or three, depending on the size of each group.

Missions Coordinator Naomi Beazely spent nearly two weeks in Guatemala to help facilitate the hiring and training of new team leaders. We have hired three motivated and passionate leaders. The fourth is expected soon.

“We have been able to spend time getting to know each of them personally,” Naomi says. “We have started training, and they are all excited to meet the teams this summer. As I go home, I am confident in our staff to continue to train and support them.”

Pablo racing with some of the children from Dorie's Promise.Granted, these new leaders will have big shoes to fill. Pablo built an amazing community program by personally visiting different areas and creating relationships with various community leaders.

Naomi says such relationships built trust and an understanding of the need to better residents’ lives. Because of that, she is confident the foundation established since 2013 will continue to expand.

“We have been able to work with families by building up their spiritual strength, education and living conditions,” Naomi says. “Pablo was very successful because when he listened to the needs of these families, he not only thought of how we could help them immediately, but also how to help better their future.”

Pablo says working with Forever Changed International showed him the overwhelming needs within Guatemala and how much progress remains to be made.

During his time, Pablo documented many harsh realities, but also helped empower Guatemalans and bring solutions to those in need. His experience included working with the orphan crisis and helping children who suffered from abuse and abandonment.

“Dorie’s Promise helped me a lot in preparing for my new position,” Pablo says. “I have a hard time saying good-bye, so I will just say until next time.”

It is hard for us to say good-bye to Pablo too, but we wish him the best.

Former Resident Raises $1,000

May 17th, 2017 by

When she and a friend set up a lemonade stand, Abigail made a Guatemalan flag to attach to their collection jar.

By Heather Radu –

Abigail raised $1000 by appealing to family, neighbors and friends for donations. Many generous donors sponsor children, conduct fund-raising events, and give to keep Dorie’s Promise running. But we recently learned about the most unique fund-raising effort conducted in 2016: a former resident organized it.

Nine-year-old Abigail Standifer was one of our last children involved in an international adoption, becoming John and Susan Standifer’s daughter in 2008.

While John sent us a check in late December for $1,000, he only recently shared the full story. Abigail raised those funds by appealing to family, neighbors and friends for donations.

Originally, she told nearby residents she was raising money for children in an orphanage in Guatemala. When she and a friend set up a lemonade stand, Abigail made a Guatemalan flag to attach to their collection jar.

“After that, she took the flag jar and went to some other neighbors,” says John, the sales manager for a small pharmaceutical company in Knoxville, Tennessee. “With our extended family, we used a letter from Forever Changed to discuss specific needs. She explained to everyone that this was the orphanage where she was born.”

The fund-raising effort took two months. The largest single donation of $250 came from one of Abigail’s aunts.

However, another one that really touched her heart came from a 22-year-old cousin. After she talked about the drive, he gave her everything in his wallet—twenty dollars. $20. She tried to return it, but he insisted she keep it.

While Abigail felt good about her campaign, later she wondered whether she had raised enough. However, FCI’s letter of thanks that explained its significance helped her better understand her accomplishment.Forever Changed International

“We are so proud of Abigail,” her father says. “She has this huge heart and desire to help people, and talks about this quite a bit. We were not surprised when she decided she wanted to raise money for her orphanage. I suspect she will want to do it again.”

In addition, Abigail has sparked interest among family members about visiting Dorie’s Promise. One of her cousins took a mission trip this spring; he had his choice of destinations and picked Guatemala because of Abigail’s influence.

The Standifers hope to return, too, especially since their daughter has been asking about going. Though much younger than brothers Weston (17) and Cade (13), John says Abigail has made their family complete.

Noting that Abigail’s name means “a father’s joy,” he says Susan felt like God placed that word in her heart during the adoption process.

“When we got the call about Abigail, we knew immediately she was our daughter,” John says. “She has brought tons of joy into our house since day one. We have friends who nicknamed her ‘Smiley.’ We can’t imagine her not being here.”

Such stories put a smile on our face, too.

A Connection with Merary

May 8th, 2017 by

By Alejandra Diaz –

Merary at Dorie's Promise GuatemalaWhile numerous donors have visited Dorie’s Promise, a couple of our most avid supporters have yet to come to Guatemala. However, Christina and Patrick Wallis are saving for the mission trip they plan to take with their five children.

The couple started following FCI after sensing a strong attraction to missions and short-term possibilities where they could serve as a family.

After discovering Dorie’s Promise in online research, they signed up for email updates and started a mission trip savings account.

Then, a few years ago, Patrick found himself repeating “Merary” at work. Later, the couple discovered several references to this name in the Bible and recognized the Holy Spirit was speaking.

“One day we got an email about a new girl at Dorie’s, whose name was Merary,” Christina says. “We both immediately knew that was the Merary we had been praying about. Immediately, we began to give and help support her.” (Learn how you can sponsor Merary too.)

Christina, Patrick and their children—Carissa, 17; Grace, 14; Elyse, 13; Hannah, 11; and Levi, 6—pray for Merary regularly. After learning her name means “bitter” or “sad,” their prayers included the request that she would know joy and happiness.

Recently, the Wallises learned they can correspond with the girl and plan to start writing her letters. As adoptive parents, the Wallises would love to take Merary into their family. Since Guatemala has closed internal adoptions they realize that isn’t possible, but they want Merary to know that she is loved.

Merary loves to color.Through the Special Mothers, Patrick has sent her pictures of the family and money to buy special gifts. In turn, we have sent them photographs of Merary enjoying the gifts.

Christina says they have read her profile online and watched videos of her, as well as keeping Merary’s picture on the refrigerator and their phones. “I know she likes most food, but not onions,” Christina says. “She loves jokes and to make people laugh—very much like our family does.”

The spiritual connection that originated with the Holy Spirit leading Patrick to repeat Merary’s name has dramatically affected the Wallises faith, which continues to grow.

“I think of how specifically, how personally, and with great detail the Lord worked to make sure Merary knows she is loved,” Christina says. “There is a God that loves her and He took great effort to communicate with a family across the world about her very existence.

“She can also know there is a mom, a dad, and siblings out there who know her name, who care what is happening to her, and love her because she is precious.”

Needless to say, these kinds of stories are an incredible blessing to us!

School Completed in Santa Elena

May 1st, 2017 by

At long last, the school that Dorie’s Promise and more than 25 of our volunteer mission teams helped build is nearly complete.

By Heather Radu –

At long last, the school that Dorie’s Promise and more than 25 of our volunteer mission teams helped build is nearly complete.Located in Santa Elena, about an hour from Guatemala City, there are presently 100 children enrolled there. When the 2018 school year starts next January, more than 260 students, ages 5 to 14, are expected to attend.

Located in Santa Elena, about an hour from Guatemala City, there are presently 100 children enrolled there. When the 2018 school year starts next January, more than 260 students, ages 5 to 14, are expected to attend.

FCI coordinated the project through city hall and community leaders. Construction started in April of 2016 and was finished in February.

The final touches will be installation of a retaining wall and drainpipe. Members of Bethany Lutheran Church in Connecticut have donated funds to purchase the materials.

Pablo Villagran, who recently stepped down as DP’s missions director, coordinated most of the project. This school is invaluable to the people of Santa Elena, who have been waiting for a school for more than 30 years.

In the past, residents took their children to another school across the highway. Sadly, several kids lost their lives trying to cross the busy road to attend this crowded, overpopulated school.

Sergio Mejia was the architect in charge of the design and logistics. The project became a reality because of the great financial support of Ronald Hille.

Because of limited storage space, a fluctuating number of masons, and changing weather, we decided to complete the construction in stages. We finished the foundation, walls and flooring for the first module before moving on to the second.

The steps for each module included installation of the roof, bathrooms and septic tank, doors and windows, perimeter, painting, and interior systems—lighting, electricity and plumbing.

Because of limited storage space, a fluctuating number of masons, and changing weather, we decided to complete the construction in stages. We faced challenges along the way. There was an agreement that FCI would be the benefactor, supplying all materials and coordinating the work. Meanwhile, the municipality was to provide much of the manpower. However, on some days only one or two workers came to the site, which slowed construction. We wound up having to hire a couple workers to help for six weeks.

In addition, after work had begun, municipal leaders pressed for changes in the design. We adapted the design to fulfill their requests.

Even though most of the construction is complete, the school will require ongoing maintenance. Among the recommendations are painting the classrooms annually to avoid moisture damage to the walls, cleaning the septic tank every two years, and applying waterproofing to the roof every five years to avoid oxidation.

Needless to say, the mission teams who supplemented the ongoing construction at the school, were invaluable to this effort. This is a great success for FCI as an organization. It is also a great motivator for our ministry to keep working on behalf of people living in vulnerable areas.

Three Lives Dramatically Impacted By Medical Care At Dorie’s Promise.

April 24th, 2017 by

DOctor Castro is a beloved member of the team at Dorie's Promise

By Dr. Francisco Castro (Medical Director) –

Second of two parts

In my last blog, I talked about our success last year with the child care program at Dorie’s Promise. Today, I want to relate personal stories about three children whose lives have been impacted dramatically by Forever Changed International.

Doctor Castro checks on Josue

Doctor Castro checks on Josue after a surgery in 2015.

The first is Josue, who will celebrate his fifth birthday on July 3. His life started out with little promise after his mother abandoned him on the street just two days after his birth. A firefighter rescued him and took him to a hospital in Guatemala City.

Through a physical exam and imaging tests, a pediatrician discovered serious birth defects that required urgent surgery.

When Josue arrived at Dorie’s Promise, he still had a colostomy bag in place. We prescribed antibiotics, laxatives, special fluids and other measures, including reconstructive surgery, to correct his condition.

We later discovered that Josue suffered from urinary tract malformations, urinary infections, and kidney damage. After several operations, we discovered his bladder was not functioning. He needed another operation.

This brave, resilient—and loved—child will continue receiving antibiotics, urinary tests, and check-ups. Though he will need multidisciplinary medical interventions, thankfully Josue has the promise of a future.

Efrain is 13 years old and has been diagnosed with a condition associated with severe intellectual disabilities and physical abnormalities. Among them are blindness, small hands, and partial convulsions.

Other health problems he suffers from are chronic bronchitis, recurrent upper respiratory infections, and breathing difficulties. Efrain has received continuous pediatric care to address his needs since arriving at Dorie’s Promise in 2005.

This has included neurologists’ and geneticists’ assistance, physiotherapy, and pediatric surgeons’ interventions. He receives physiotherapy daily and a weekly visit from a specialized therapist.

This intervention delays, and improves, stiffness in Efrain’s joints and spine, and paralysis of his limbs. A cataract on his left eye was successfully removed in 2011; he now uses glasses.

Doctor Castro checks Lester.

Doctor Castro with Lester in 2010.

Last year Efrain underwent two successful operations by pediatric surgeons at Hospital Roosevelt in Guatemala. They corrected abdominal and adenoid problems, and removed his tonsils.

Nine-year-old Lester has been at Dorie’s Promise since before he turned two. He arrived chronically undernourished, which left him with short stature and a low IQ. He also suffered from chronic asthma, rhinitis, and middle ear infections.

Due to Lester’ s lack of progress in hearing and speech development, and upper respiratory infections, I decided to operate with a pediatric surgeon’s assistance, removing his tonsils and adenoids.

The operation last October was successful. Lester’s speech and respiratory problems (infections and allergies) are expected to improve gradually, enhancing his quality of life.

Stories like these demonstrate the value of your gifts to children at Dorie’s Promise. You are literally helping save their lives!

Personal and Medical Reflections

April 18th, 2017 by

Personal and Medical Reflections by Dr. Francisco Castro Medical Director

By Dr. Francisco Castro (Medical Director) –

First of two parts

Dorie's Promise Medical Director Dr CastroEvery year at Dorie’s Promise has been a special one, and this past year was no exception. During 2016, we provided shelter for dozens of kids, but much more than that as we met many other prerequisites for a happy life.

Our goal is to fulfill children’s needs in four basic areas: physical, safety, affection, and spiritual life. These are the most important needs to take care of as soon as an orphan arrives. Then, we seek to reinforce them in an individualized and continuous manner during their stay at the home.

Improved self-esteem and education are our other primary goals. Of course, we want to care for children’s mental and social aspects of health as well.

Most of the children remained at Dorie’s Promise throughout the year, although some returned to their immediate families or relatives. Only a few were adopted by Guatemalan families. Others came to us for the first time, from other homes or families, or from at-risk situations on the streets.

Many arrive in poor health, with most suffering from acute and chronic physical illnesses. Twenty percent of our child population come with special needs and permanent neurological damage.

In most, we found negative psychological and spiritual conditions because of abandonment, abuse and lack of love. Without exception, these kids are coming from backgrounds of poverty, which is the common denominator.

Dr Castro gives Silvia a check up at Dorie's PromiseThat doesn’t surprise me, since nearly 60 percent of Guatemala’s population lives in poverty and 43 percent of children under five are chronically undernourished.

Because of my experience and extensive reading, I have concluded that Guatemala needs more children’s homes providing the kind of care that Dorie’s Promise delivers. Foster care is still a weak, idealistic social program and adoptive families few in number.

Culturally and economically, adoption hasn’t been viable for many families or social programs. To recruit, maintain, follow up, and train families to do so means a huge financial commitment, or at least better organized, collaborative communities.

Our programs are not perfect. I am aware that there is a need to reinforce financially our health and psychological programs, as well as education, arts and sports. In addition to Special Mothers improving their love and care, we need the presence of more men to improve role examples and gender identity.

Yet, despite our imperfections I am pleased to say that—thanks to our friends in the U.S.  and Guatemala—Dorie’s Promise and FCI have successfully provided a good home to many children in need.

They have achieved happiness and have a much brighter future. They could have otherwise been lost to an unjust and dangerous environment. We appreciate your support.