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A Passion for Orphans

Dr. Cari Burck (left) with Dorie Van Stone.

Dr. Cari Burck (left) with Dorie Van Stone.

By Dr. Cari Burck –

Working on the orphan train for the Artisans Express

Working on a project to raise public awareness of orphans in my hometown of Huntington, WV.

Most people don’t know it, but there is an orphan crisis in the world today. Depending on whose statistics you read, there are as many as eighteen million children in the world who have lost both their parents and are growing up in orphanages.

International adoptions were a huge thing for the last twenty-five years. The problem is that most countries have been shutting down international adoptions because of the criminal elements that worked their way into the process. So, countries like Romania, Bulgaria, and Guatemala (all which continue to have orphan issues) no longer allow Americans to adopt their orphaned children. Those children go into poorly-run and scarcely funded orphanages. Most of which, if you could see them, would make you turn your head in disgust.

We are not immune to the orphan challenge in the United States, where more than 397,000 children do not have permanent families and grow up in the foster care system. Sometimes that’s a wonderful experience for children. Sometimes it isn’t. About 25 percent of these children are eligible for adoption.

How we got involved with orphans is all a blur to me now. However, one of my husband’s clients was involved in international adoptions in Guatemala. When the Guatemalan government shut that process down, most adoption agencies just left. One of his clients decided to take over an orphanage there and run it. The home had forty children who would have been shipped out to the kinds of dreary institutions you see on television, where there is one caretaker for fifty children. She called us and said, “I need you to do this with me.” We agreed.

Lester's first smile.

Lester’s first smile.

I remember my first trip down to Guatemala. Although I went to take pictures for the new website we built, I spent most of my time getting up close to little ones, looking in their eyes, and smiling. There was a little guy about eight months old named Lester. Lester didn’t smile. The Special Mothers (that’s what we call our care takers) told me that he never smiled, no matter what. So I made it my mission to get Lester to smile. I just loved on him, gave him attention, and acted silly. I remember the Special Mothers watching me. I know they thought I was a little crazy. Little by little Lester began to crack. Before I left, I snapped the first picture of him smiling.

Today I’m on the board of directors of the organization we helped start. It is called Forever Changed International.

Our goal for our children is to always have one Special Mother for four children. We want our children always surrounded by love, to know they are loved, and to know that God loves them. That’s starting to pay off too. Our children in Guatemala are growing up and thriving. They have self-esteem and confidence like you wouldn’t imagine. I see the smiling pictures every month of Lester at school and playing with the other children. His Special Mom tells me that he has come so far since he was a little guy.

Coming in the next blog the Artisans Express public art project in Huntington, WV and the message I created to raise awareness of orphans. Meanwhile you can read more about the Artisans Express project here- Public Art Inspires.

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