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Saying Good-Bye to Missions Director Pablo Villagran

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

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

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

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

Monday, May 8th, 2017

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

Monday, May 1st, 2017

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.

Monday, April 24th, 2017

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

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

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.

Child Sponsorship Needed

Monday, April 10th, 2017

The smiling faces of children whose lives have been Forever Changed at Dorie's Promise.

By Bradley Burck –

Orphans from fire in Guatemala

Marbely is a survivor of the fire at Virgen de Asuncion. She is now at Dorie’s Promise.

The current situation at Dorie’s Promise underscores the importance of Forever Changed International’s child sponsorship program.

As you may have read on our blog, the home recently accepted four children from the Virgen de Asuncion orphanage in Guatemala after a disastrous fire there in early March. The death toll at the state-run home recently reached 41, with several dozen others sustaining injuries.

In addition, we recently accepted three other children from desperate circumstances, which increased the number living at the home to 44, which is several above capacity.

Given the needs in Guatemala, sponsoring residents through FCI is an excellent way for people wanting to help to respond.

News reports outline the seriousness of the situation. Although designed to accommodate 400 people, the week of the fire the New York Times reported that 750 were crammed into the aging structures at the state-run orphanage.

The newspaper also reported that, although they had been removed from their homes for their own safety, many were victims of sexual assault and other abuse by staff members. The situation prompted criminal cases and complaints with the country’s human rights commission.

Alejandra Diaz, the director of Dorie’s Promise, says that feelings of frustration are common around Guatemala. This situation could have been avoided if the government had provided the care that the children at the state orphanage needed, she says.

Children like Elvis are in need of sponsors.

Children like Elvis (Age 5) are in need of sponsors.

“We are accepting the challenge to take more children, which has filled us beyond our capacity,” Alejandra says. “But we cannot stay indifferent to the need of a safe place for so many children.

“I wish we could have more space and resources to take more children so we could offer them the opportunities that we have provided to the children who have been with us for a long time.”

This situation cries out for prayer, which Alejandra says is one of the most important things that supporters in the United States and elsewhere can offer right now.

  • Pray for emotional relief for our newcomers
  • Pray that they would have a smooth transition
  • Pray too for the nation of Guatemala—that that positive changes can be made for so many children who live in poverty and serious circumstances

“The other important thing we need is their commitment to support us,” Alejandra says. “Not just now during this emergency, but ongoing support so we can offer as many children as possible a future and the opportunities to forever change their life.”

To read more about children who need sponsors, visit this page. Monthly sponsors provide ongoing safety and security for children and are needed now more than ever. Or give today, a special one time gift, to help the children who survived the fire at Virgen de Asuncion.

A Message From Dorie About The Fire At Virgen de Asuncion Orphanage

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

Dear Friends,

I am horrified and heartbroken for all the orphaned children who lost their lives in the fire in Guatemala as well as the hundreds who were made homeless. I visited this orphanage years ago and I remember thinking it was much like the one I grew up and was abused in. The worst of the worst has happened to these precious children and they desperately need someone to care. Please help Forever Changed bring some of these little ones into Dorie’s Promise by offering your support so we can give them God’s promise of a loving home. A place of safety filled with a future and hope. I know how lost they must feel and how much they long for someone to reach out and lift them out of this nightmare. It was something I felt and longed for too. I invite you to pray with me as we ask the Lord together to restore and heal each precious life. We are all called and commanded “to look after the orphan in their distress” James 1:27. This is a distress of disastrous proportions. Please reach out to help rescue them with me.

For His Glory and in His name.
Dorie

Yes, I want to make a gift today to help the children who survived the fire at Virgen de Asuncion!

New Arrivals from Virgen de Asuncion

Monday, March 27th, 2017

The fire at Virgen de Asuncion happened just over two weeks ago. In addition to helping the leadership of that orphanage with supplies for the children still in their care, we also committed to the government to take some children at Dorie’s Promise Guatemala.

As of today four children from the State Orphanage arrived. Three more from other circumstances have also entered our home. The crisis at Virgen de Asuncion has created overcrowding at all the state’s facilities. Because of this overcrowding, the courts started to send children to private orphanages like ours because the state simply doesn’t have the capacity in their current facilities.

This has all happened very quickly. We want to take a moment to update you on all that has transpired at Dorie’s Promise Guatemala in the last few weeks.

As of this post, we now have seven new children in our care. That takes us up to 44 children living at Dorie’s Promise. We are now slightly over our preferred capacity of 40 children. That’s a big deal! Pray for us.

Our team in Guatemala is working their hearts out to make this happen. They value these children and want to make right the bad decisions their government made.

Cost

As you know from all the letters and emails we send, we have been making ends with 37 children in our care (just barely). Adding 7 more children to the mix changes our situation considerably. Many of you have stepped forward and made gifts to help. Thank you! The situation is that these 7 children are going to be with us until they are adults. That cost to us is close to $100,000 a year.

I think you will agree. We need to get Dorie’s Promise 100 percent sponsored as soon as possible. Help us spread the world!

Meet the New Children

Orphans from fire in GuatMyra is 14 years old. She is very friendly and has made herself at home at Dorie’s Promise. Myra’s mother died when she was younger. After being passed around to relatives, she ended up at the state orphanage. She lived there for 10 months before the fire destroyed the building.

When she came to Dorie’s Promise, she stayed in an isolation room for several days with one special mother. We do this with all new children who come to Dorie’s Promise until Doc Castro clears them. Myra told us she loved the isolation and having the attention of one person. After living at the state orphanage where the adult to child ratio was 20 to 1, she felt special having all the attention and care of one person.

Myra is a great girl. She loves to play basketball, bike, and do Zumba. One thing she wants to learn how to do is play the piano. Her favorite foods are pizza and pollo campero.

She will start at Hosanna School soon and will be enrolled in the 8th grade. She says that she would like to be a lawyer or designer when she grows up.

New at Dorie's PromiseManuel came to Dorie’s Promise on Monday, March 13th. He comes to us from the orphanage Virgen de Asuncion. The tragic fire there has changed his life (hopefully for the better)!

Manuel is 6. He has the biggest smile you have ever seen. Our staff keeps commenting on how infectious his smile is in our home.

As a baby Manuel was abandoned at the hospital because of some severe physical issues. Over the years, he has had a number of surgeries to allow him to function and get by in life. His medical issues have made it so most orphanages in the country don’t want him because they can’t care for him. Because we have Doc Castro on staff and have experience with children with special needs, we know how to care for him properly.

Manuel likes to play soccer. He enjoys coloring books and playing with cars. He is every bit a little boy!

His transition to Dorie’s Promise has been very good. Manuel started at Hosanna School in kindergarden this week. This is his first time in school. He says when he grows up he wants to be a police officer.

Guatemala's OrphansMaberly also came to us on March 13, 2017. Her psychologist called Dorie’s Promise and specially asked that she come and stay with us. How could we turn down a personal request from a doctor caring for children at Virgen de Asuncion. When our staff came to pick her up, Marberly got excited! She immediately recognized our team from all our missions’ teams visits to Virgen de Asuncion. She was so excited!

This wonderful little girl was totally abandoned at age 10 when her father died. Nobody would claim her and care for her. As a result, she was sent to the state run orphanage and lived there for three years.

Doc Castro is monitoring her health and will be working with our psychology team to make sure that she gets the best possible care and transitions well into our home.

New child at Dorie's PromiseNew orphan at Dorie'sFlor and Mateo are a brother and sister dynamic duo. They came to Dorie’s Promise on March 17, 2017. These two have a hard story. They were abandoned and then adopted by a Guatemalan family. The adoptive family eventually gave them up. They were put back into the government system. That’s how they came to us!

The change and transition to Dorie’s Promise has been hard on them. Abandonment is always tough on children. When it happens twice at a very young age, you can only begin to image the pain and frustration these two children are feeling. Despite their trials, Flor and Mateo love each other very much and look after each other. Flor is 11 and Mateo is 9. They are friendly and happy children. In the next few weeks, we will get them started at Hosanna School. We are so excited to see how they do at Dories Promise and in school. Our team in Guatemala thinks they are going to thrive!

Christina Pedro ArrivesChristina Pedro arrived at Dorie’s Promise on Wednesday, March 22, 2017. We call day a child arrive at Dorie’s promise their Forever Changed Day! Christina was at Virgen de Asuncion when the fire happened. She was moved to Zacapa (hours from Guatemala City) immediately after the fire, but her social worker contacted us and asked us to take her in at Dorie’s Promise.

The life of an orphan is never easy, but Christina’s life has been tough. She is a child of abuse and neglect. Her official record says that she is 9 years old but she has never been registered with the government and has no birth certificate. Nobody at the government agencies knows her real age or anything about her.

One of the things we do in this situation is work the beauracy and try to find out everything possible about the child. After years of working with orphans, we know how to find out things. Our team is tenacious about details. We will find out the true story of Christina’s life. As her life changes and she matures, we will share more about her with you.

Eswin arrives at Dorie's PromiseEswin is seven! He arrived at Dorie’s Promise just two days ago. Because he just arrived, we don’t know very much about him. The judge who sent him to us spent the day trying to find him a safe spot to live. He couldn’t so he called us and asked us to take him in and care for him.

Your Help is Needed

Pray about each of these children. Ask God to bless them and allow them to thrive in our care!

As you pray, remember that our finance barely cover 38 children. We need to get our children 100 percent sponsored. Whatever you can do to help with a monthly give would be a huge help.

Give a special gift today!

New Child at Dorie’s Promise

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Orphans from fire in GuatThe first of the orphans from the tragic fire at the Virgen de Asuncion Orphanage has arrived at Dorie’s Promise Guatemala.

Her name is Mayra. She is 13. Both of her parents have passed away and no relatives have made a petition for her.

Pray for her transition into our home.

For more information about our response to the fire at Virgen de Asuncion please read our last blog post about the fire in Guatemala and the tragic loss of life.