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Posts Tagged ‘Guatemala’

Celebrating Myra’s Quinceañera

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Myra’s Quinceañera

By Kelly Shank –

We host a beautiful party for Myra’s Quinceañera.We love to celebrate the big moments in our children’s lives. Last month we had the chance to celebrate Myra’s 15th birthday with a traditional quinceañera.

Similar to a Sweet 16 party in the United States, a quinceañera celebrates a girl’s transition into womanhood. In Guatemala, these are important events, complete with fancy dresses, special meals, music, dancing, and lot of family and friends. Little girls dream of their quinceañera and we couldn’t imagine letting this special day pass by without celebrating Myra.

Creating an event as special as Myra took the work of everyone in our home. The day of the party our backyard was transformed by Abel and friends for the special event with decorations and balloons. The littler children helped prepare “fancy” place settings for the dinner party and assembled gift bags for guests. Come evening our home was filled with people who love Myra—our staff, their families, the children from our home, and Myra’s friends from school. Having so many people come and celebrate Myra was overwhelming.

Alej gives a special speech for Myra's QuinceañeraOur children had the chance to get dressed up for the night and share in the festivities. For our girls it was a chance to experience the fun of getting their hair done and dreaming of how they would like their own quinceañera to be when they are older.

Myra enjoyed a day of pampering thanks to our staff and friends. Watching her as she had her hair, makeup, and nails were done was like watching her grow up before our eyes. We could see how much she appreciated and enjoyed the whole day. The final piece for her dream was a beautiful blue gown. Her joy and thankfulness reminded us that all of our children just want to be loved and celebrated. That day it was Myra’s turn. Before heading down to her party Myra shared with our Director Alejandra that she felt “like a princess.”

We have the great pleasure of helping to usher our children into adulthood and we want to do so in a way that lets them know just how special they are as individuals.

Myra's first dance.As part of our celebration, we took time to thank God for Myra’s life and to ask his blessings on her future. One of the most special moments of the evening was the first dance when our Director’s husband shared the first dance with Myra. As we think about that evening, watching Alejandra’s husband share the first dance represents the heart of Dorie’s Promise. Even though Myra couldn’t celebrate this moment with her biological family our staff created an evening that showed her how much they love her and are willing to support her during both the happy and sad times of life. Our employees, and their families, have become her extended family.

A friend at the party shared these words, “To think back just 10 months ago we served Myra in the State Orphanage, then to see her enjoy a day like today is ONLY Jesus! Many, many tears were shed.”

Good News from Doc Castro

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Doc Castro and Children from Dorie's Promise

By Kelly Shank –

Doc Castro offers a comforting hug to a child.Recently we shared a behind-the-scenes story about our medical staff, Doc and Mirna. This week we’d like to share good news about a few of our children, as well as an update from Doc about our home.

According to Doc’s evaluations, approximately 30% of our children have a condition that requires specialized care beyond our norm, ranging from mild developmental delays and emotional health concerns to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Cerebral Palsy. Our holistic care model is helping us identify and meet the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of each child.

Doc is excited to share that 2017 was a great year for our children. Aside from the chronic conditions some of our children endure, the general health of our home is excellent and we’re focusing on maintaining our children’s health to help them heal mentally.

Updates about Josue, Mario, and Lester

Josue is a very brave and resilient boy. Not many little boys would still be smiling after visiting the doctor as many times as he has. We’ve shared about his medical concerns before but this time we have good news. Although he suffers from congenital intestinal and urinary defects, his updated care plan and recent procedures have finally stabilized his condition. We are hoping this new treatment plan will help him avoid a more invasive surgery in the future.

As a child with autism Mario faces many challenges. This year was especially difficult as he transitioned to school. At the beginning of the year he struggled with paying attention, learning, and behaving in class. Thanks to our staff and his teachers Mario has made tremendous progress. His teachers made changes in his class to accommodate his needs and our Special Mothers are spending time in the evenings helping him keep up with him classwork. He was much more successful and happy at school once we found a better way for him to learn.

Both developmental delays and chronic respiratory issues have affected Lester his entire childhood. Several years ago we were able to enroll him in a school that better fit his learning style and this year he finally experienced relief for his health problems. He had surgery earlier this year that alleviated many of his respiratory issues and helped him avoid the frequent infections he previously experienced. He’s much happier and doing better at school because he’s healthier.

Looking forward to 2018

We are so lucky to have Doc Castro on our team.Building on this year’s success, in 2018 Doc will concentrate even more on improving the health of our children by teaching about healthy lifestyles, nutrition, and advanced care for our special needs children.

We are committed to maintaining the health of our children while also meeting the needs of new children we welcome into our home. It’s a delicate balance between protecting the health of those currently living in our home while also fulfilling our desire to help additional children. Plus, as more of our children approach adolescence we’re facing a different set of needs and concerns. We want to make sure our teenagers are healthy, both mentally and physically, as they approach adulthood.

Today we’re celebrating children who have seen great successes this year. If you would like to help us continue expanding our health care program so we can celebrate even more healthy kids please consider giving a one-time gift for Medical Care (please mention Medical Care in the comment when you give online) or becoming a monthly sponsor. Your help makes all the difference in the lives of our children.

The Importance of All Saint’s Day

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Colourful Mayan cemetery in Chichicastenango, Guatemala.

Photo By Ralf Steinberger. (CC BY 2.0)

By Kelly Shank –

Guatemala is known for its big, colorful celebrations. National holidays are packed full of fireworks, music, food, and big gatherings. Family is also very important within Latin American culture and is at the center of celebrations. All Saint’s Day incorporates the importance of family into a very special holiday celebration.

Guatemalan FiambreWhile those of us in the United States celebrate Halloween on October 31st, our Guatemalan friends focus on November 1st, the holiday known as All Saint’s Day. Based in long-standing tradition, All Saint’s Day is one of the most important holidays for Guatemalan families and serves as a way for families to recognize and honor their deceased relatives, an annual memorial day to their families. Although the day celebrates those who have died, it is not a day of sadness. Instead families truly celebrate the lives of their family members.

Unlike what we might expect in Northern America, on November 1st the cemeteries of Guatemala are transformed into elaborate festivals. Relatives spend hours creating brightly painted designs on tombs and fill the area with fresh flowers. The wonderful colors, fragrant smells, and marimba music offer the perfect backdrop for a day of celebrations.

Ladies prepare a special traditional meal called Fiambre, a large salad that incorporates the favorite foods of the families—vegetables, sausages, lunch meats, and cheeses, specifically for the occasion. Although each family’s version is passed down amongst generations, the meal itself is a tradition throughout the country. In the midst of the transformed cemeteries families gather to spend the day celebrating.

All Saints Days Kite

Photo by rpphotos. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

In places like Sumpango, families carry on the tradition of kite flying for All Saints Day. Tradition states that the kites were originally created to carry messages to the souls of dead family members in the sky. As the kites were released the notes would be carried away. The kite flying tradition continues today as families spend months designing and building the intricate structures. A mixture of art, tradition, and pride, each kite is uniquely designed using colored paper and then affixed on a bamboo frame. Ranging in size from 2 meters to more than 20 meters the kites each include messages for the community. Many share messages of love, peace, and unity while others also promote awareness of social issues. The artistry of these creations is beyond words.

On the morning of November 1st families begin to assemble their kites at the local cemetery. Although some smaller kites may be flown throughout the day, the full spectacle does not take place until evening. After honoring the dead and celebrating with family during the day, locals hoist the magnificent kites into the air at dusk. For a short period of time the sky is a colorful display of Guatemalan artistry.

Although the holiday occurs only once each year we see the love that Guatemalan families share every day when we work in communities. Every time our teams are welcomed into homes, offered meals, and prayed for, we experience a glimpse of being family.

School’s Out for Summer (in Guatemala)

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Dorie's Promise Director Alej, cheks in on children doing homework.

By Kelly Shank –

Let the fun begin and the homework end at Dorie’s Promise!

Nayeli Soto reading at her school El Shaddai.Summer vacation starts this week for most of our children and they are excited for later mornings and fun activities. Everyone at Dorie’s Promise is taking a much needed break this week. We had 30 children in 5 different schools this past year. That’s 30 lunches to pack each day, 30 children to get ready each morning, and a lot of time spent driving to drop-offs and pick-ups.

We’ll share more stories about the fun activities we have planned for them over the next few months but for now we want to brag about how great our children did in school.

Three of our boys graduated from Kindergarten. Elvis, Yire, and Abraham Najera spent the year working on their reading, writing, and math, when they weren’t running around playing soccer or tag. Our home had no shortage of colorful art projects either thanks to these boys. They are excited to join the bigger children in elementary school next January.

School is where Nayeli Soto shines. Ever since she was little Nayeli loved learning, even getting extra help on math from visitors when children others were outside playing. Her hard work paid off this year. She was recognized as one of the top students in her grade. We’re so proud of how hard she works in school.

Brayan took a cooking class at his vocational school.Our oldest child, Brayan, finishes school next month. His vocational school helped him discover skills that are both useful and enjoyable. Participating in the “Mini Chefs” program furthered his love of cooking and also gave him the opportunity to experience cooking in a restaurant environment. We were very proud to see his art work and sculpture included in an exhibition at the Rozas Botran Foundation as well.

Mario had the most difficulty transitioning to school. At the beginning of the school year he had trouble following directions, sharing with his classmates, and would cry because school was overwhelming. Working with both the Special Mothers and his school, he was able to move him into a different program that accommodates his challenges but still allows him learn. We’re grateful that he attends a school where he can learn, despite his challenges.

Second grade was tough for Juanita and Monica at the beginning of the year. Both girls struggled with reading and writing, making their classwork difficult. Thanks to the Special Mothers and our teacher the girls received extra help at home on these two subjects. As they became more comfortable reading and writing their self-confidence grew. By the end of the school year the girls became avid readers who now enjoy looking for new books to read on their own. Reading has unlocked their confidence and excitement for school.

Summerr break has started for the kids of Dorie's Promise.Some of the biggest successes we watched came from Myra, Cristina, and Manuel. These three came to our home after the fire at the Virgen de la Asuncion orphanage. We didn’t transition them into school until May but the success they experienced is phenomenal. Manuel and Cristina are learning to read and Myra is excited for the chance to attend school. Seeing how grateful they were for the opportunity to attend school reminds us just how important education is.

Education gives our children the ability to dream.

Thanks to the support of faithful donors, our children were able to achieve their goals in great schools. Early morning wake-up calls, packing 30 lunches each morning, and spending hours driving between schools is worth the effort as we watch our children thrive as individuals.

We’re committed to providing high quality, individualized education for our children again next year. If you would like to support the education of our children, please make a one-time education donation today or consider becoming a monthly sponsor.

6 Months After the Fire… Moving Forward On Faith

Friday, October 20th, 2017

The three children from Virgen de la Asuncion who now live at Dorie's Promise.

By Heather Radu –

Myra is now thriving at Dorie's PromiseSix months ago the news rang out across the world that an orphanage in Guatemala had burned to the ground and children had died. 

After the fire, our team immediately knew that we wanted to help in any way possible.  We did many things like send food, water, and blankets to help the children there in need.

The best thing our team did was accept several children into our home.

We didn’t really have the space or the budget to accept them but we took them anyway moving forward on faith knowing it was the right action to take.

Each child that came to us faced different challenges because of their individual background and the conditions that they had lived in previously.  The government orphanage was a large facility that housed hundreds of children and the caregivers weren’t able to give the level of individual care that we would expect in our home.  The ensuing investigation brought to light a history of abuse, mistreatment, and neglect resulting in several people being charged with various offenses related to the facility and fire.

Moving from those conditions to our home after such a traumatic event has been difficult for the children, but we are happy to share six months later, we are seeing great progress.

Cecilia, our staff psychologist, shared with me some of the growth that she has seen in these children.  I want to share that with you and ask for your continued help to take care of them.

Manuel and one of the Special Mother's enjoy a game of UNO at Dorie's Promise.Christina was scared, Myra was skeptical, Manuel needed extra care. It was not easy for them to learn to trust again, but because of the patient loving care of our staff the children have opened up. They are engaging with others, trusting again, and dreaming again.

We are so thankful for the opportunity to impact these children and help them thrive after experiencing such a great trauma and loss.

Now it is time to take the next step and get them enrolled in school!

Please stand with me and consider a special gift to help make sure that each and every one of our children receives the education they need to learn and mature.

The average cost of sending a child to a private school in Guatemala is $1,700 per year. That’s just about $142 a month — which covers everything they need; tuition, books, uniforms, after-school activities, tutoring, supplies, and transportation. We’d like to raise $25,500 before December 31. 

Give Today!

 

P.S. Thanks to you Myra, Manuel, and Christina are thriving.  Let’s help them take the next step in their care and make sure they get the best education we can give them in Guatemala City.

We’re Building a School in Paradise

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

We’re Building a School in Paradise

Pictures provided by Muni Palencia on Facebook

By Kelly Shank –

At the heart of our missions program is the belief that we can make big impacts through long-term partnerships with communities. Last year we partnered with the municipality of Palencia to build an elementary school in Santa Elena. 

This year we have the opportunity to help build a new elementary school in el Paraiso (Paradise), another village within Palencia.

This year we have the opportunity to help build a new elementary schoolThe rural village of Paradise is located about an hour and a half outside of Guatemala City. For the last four years we have worked with the local community and families, regularly visiting with much needed food and school donations while also helping with home improvement projects. Now, we’re meeting an even greater need in the community.

The local middle school currently doubles as an elementary school by morning and middle school by afternoon. Our new school will expand both the number of children served and the types of services provided in this community, opening doors to new possibilities for these families.

By partnering with the municipality of Palencia and the community of Paradise we are combining our shared interests and resources to provide a meaningful opportunity for the children of Paradise. The municipality has provided land adjacent to the existing school for the building site and skilled construction labor for the project. Families from the local community work alongside municipality employees and as additional labor. Through designated donations, FCI is funding the material costs for the project. Each group offers a critical component in the success of the project.

Beginning with January’s first meeting to discuss the community’s needs, the people of Paradise have shown up to champion the construction of a new school. During our weekly visits to Paradise since the groundbreaking in July we have witnessed the impact this project is having on the community. Mothers come during the day when their children are in school to help. Fathers come in the evenings once they are finished at their jobs. They are giving their time to help make the new school a reality for their children.

During our weekly visits to Paradise since the groundbreaking in July we have witnessed the impact this project is having on the community. Along with local residents, several mission teams visited this summer and helped the workers reach a critical milestone. People of all ages, from kids to adults, wielded shovels and pickaxes to help the school become a reality. Sitting against a mountain, the site is rocky and each footer was dug by hand. We want to thank every person who has worked at the site of the new school. Your willingness to spend long days in the heat, doing hard work is appreciated by us and the community.

FCI’s partnership with Paradise and the municipality of Palencia is doing more than just building a school. By working together with the community we are proving our commitment to their future and inspiring local residents to seek opportunities to improve their lives. One local resident shared that “they [the team members] are coming from so far away to help us, giving us a good example of dedication and hard work, so we have to do the same for our own community.”

We are excited to work with local communities that are committed to bettering themselves.

We are happy to report that school construction is progressing well. With block work well underway the building is starting to take shape. Our goal is for construction to be substantially complete before school begins in January so the children of Paradise can begin the 2018 school year in their new building!

Behind the Scenes: Doc and Mirna

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Doctor Castro with children from Dorie's Promise Guatemala.

By Kelly Shank –

IMany children who live in our home have endured malnourishment, abandonment, and abuse.f you’re a parent you understand how scary it can be when your child is sick, that helpless feeling when you don’t know what is wrong or what to do. Now imagine multiplying those feelings by 40 children. Describing how important Dr. Castro “Doc” and Mirna, our nurse, are is almost impossible. They play a critical role in the care we give our children and help us maintain the overall health of our home so we can continue to accept new children.

If you have the chance to chat with Doc you will soon understand that his focus is on the total health of our kids, not just the physical. In his mind, the physical health of our children helps unlock the emotional and spiritual health of our kids too.

Many children who live in our home have endured malnourishment, abandonment, and abuse. He believes that physical health and the relief of physical ailments support the other therapies our children receive and help them recover. He helps them become physically strong so they can then focus on their emotional health.

Several very special children have called Dorie’s Promise home because of the daily care given by Doc and Mirna. Those who have been with us for many years will remember Alex. Although confined to a wheelchair and non-verbal he had an infectious smile and loved to be around people. Doc and Mirna made sure that Alex experienced life to the fullest. Josue, Efraim, and Lester are all also thriving in their own unique ways today thanks to Doc.

Thanks to the love and care given by Doc and Mirna we continue to welcome children with difficult medical conditions that other homes are not able to accommodate.

Learn more about Doc and Mirna.

Doc:

Doctor Castro in his office at Dorie's Promise,Doc really has been a lifesaver at Dorie’s Promise. Early in his tenure with us he was able to combat an outbreak that sickened many children by working around the clock to care for our children. In the years since he has established an outstanding medical care program for our children. Having dedicated his career to Pediatrics, he now focuses on caring for the most vulnerable children who do not have access to medical care. In additional to his work at Dorie’s Promise, he also provides medical care in several rural villages and is our coffee guy. If you meet him, he’ll be sure to tell you about his coffee, it’s the second best in the world!

Mirna:

Mirna assists Doctor CastroConsistency and compassion are two traits that help children thrive in our home. With her genuine love of our children, Mirna has embodied these traits over the last twelve years. Being one of nine children, and mother to three daughters herself, family is very important to Mirna. Her love for our children shines through every day as we greets everyone with a smile. Working in our home is more than just a job for her. Children come into our home with many fears and problems but slowly they begin to heal. Mirna is humbled to be doing the work for which God has equipped her and to have part in caring for vulnerable children. Outside of work you will find Mirna using her nursing skills to care for those in her community or spending time with her family.

We are so thankful for Doc and Mirna’s commitment to our children. You can help support our medical services by making a one-time donation towards medical care today (leave Medical Care in the comment field) or joining us as a monthly sponsor.

Being Family for Orphans Remaining in Guatemala

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Being Family for Orphans Remaining in Guatemala

By Kelly Shank –

Mission team members with staff and children at Dorie's Promise Guatemala.Interestingly, when you have the chance to sit on our couch holding the most beautiful baby or run through the grass and listen to kids laugh as you chase them, there’s something that happens deep inside your soul. You start to see our kids as your own. They aren’t just another orphan. You know their names, what they like to do, and maybe a little bit about their story.

Visiting our home changes people and one of the most frequent questions we get is if our kids can be adopted. The short answer is yes, but only by Guatemalan families.

Believe me, we understand the desire to scoop up our kids and bring them home where we can love on them every day. Each of us at Forever Changed International can tell our own stories about the children we have bonded with and our struggle with the reality that we cannot bring them home with us. This is my story.

Kelly and Alejandra:

Alejandra in 2015 before being adopted by a Guatemalan family.Probably because I had a 1 year old at home, I was drawn to the babies’ house during my first visit in 2011. Imagine 8 highchairs lined up along the living room wall and cribs filling the bedrooms. The dining room was a playroom at the time and someone always needed attention. In the midst of the toddlers was a little girl named Alejandra. She was the rambunctious one, always testing the limits and instigating trouble. Needless to say, we bonded quickly.

Even more so, Alejandra bonded with my husband. When he joined me the following year, the two became inseparable. The first hug my husband received would always be from Alejandra. When she spotted him, all things stopped, and she would run to give him a hug. The man who openly admits that he’s “not really into little kids” would scoop her up like one of his own. With her, our family felt complete. Even the Special Mothers noticed how much she loved my husband and their special bond.

By coincidence my husband and I were working at Dorie’s Promise on Alejandra’s fifth birthday. It was her birthday but the gift was ours as we sang and ate cake. Returning just a few months later I also witnessed Alejandra’s adoption story. On a sunny Sunday afternoon I met the lady who is now Alejandra’s adoptive mother and her biological brother who had been previously adopted. The following Friday morning I had the privilege of saying goodbye to the little girl I wanted to make my daughter as she left with her forever family.

God’s plan for Alejandra was not to take her away from Guatemala. Her story did not include having me as her mother. Instead, she was going to find her brother and a Guatemalan family who would love her. As I look back on the time we spent with Alejandra and the opportunities that God gave us to share in her life I understand that He was showing me how be a family to the orphaned children who will remain in Guatemala.

A special mother reads to children at Dorie's Promise.When Heather Radu started working in Guatemala our primary focus was facilitating adoptions with American families. More than 400 children found forever families through our efforts until international adoptions were halted in 2008.

The transition away from international adoptions gave us the opportunity to refocus how we serve the children in our home and the people of Guatemala. Although we pray each of our children will find a loving family, for many kids we become their family as they grow up in our home.

Just as you do for your children, we give each child opportunities that meet their unique gifts and needs. Some will attend trade schools or universities while others may be in our care long-term due to medical needs. Seeing them succeed is our goal.

In May 2016 the Guatemalan government announced that their priority is to develop a successful domestic adoption program within their country before they will consider reestablishing an international adoption program. Although some people may be disappointed by this decision, we see it as an opportunity for us to do important work.

We want to raise a generation of leaders who will bring about justice and change in Guatemala. We truly believe that the children currently living in our home have the ability to become successful teachers, lawyers, doctors, business owners, and so much more in Guatemala. By instilling faith, integrity, and intellect into our children as they mature we envision leaders coming of age who are able to impact change for all the people of Guatemala, especially children and families with backgrounds similar to their own.

Our children have the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty one child at a time through education, opportunity, and love!

What We Did This Summer: In Our Communities

Monday, September 25th, 2017

A Mission's Team Helping in one of the neighboring communities.By Kelly Shank –

Helping communities, especially struggling families is the mission of our community projects.The children of Dorie’s Promise are our highest priority. Through adoption, safe reunification, and community empowerment we’d love to see the number of vulnerable children in Guatemala decrease. Helping communities, especially struggling families is the mission of our community projects. As our mission program has grown we’ve worked hard to become better so that we’re making a positive difference in every community where we work. We’ve learned what helps and how to promote self-reliance and dignity within communities.

One of the biggest differences for us this year has been the addition of a new position, dedicated strictly to managing our community projects and helping us make the best impact with our time, money, and talents. Those who visited Dorie’s Promise this summer had the chance to meet Bertha, our new Community Development Director. She brought together all of the community relationships and the experience of our staff to start building a vision for long-term involvement in communities.

Thanks to the help of our generous trip participants this year, we were able to provide families with these gifts:

  • 213 Water Filters
  • 180 Food Baskets
  • 48 Bunkbeds
  • 17 Pilas
  • 16 Concrete Floors
  • 3 Concrete Stoves
  • 2 Home Repairs
  • 1 Metal House
  • 1 Prefabricated House

Community members work with our teams on projects.Numbers help you understand how much we did but they don’t convey the impact we made in the lives of these families.

When we give water filters to families not only do they have clean drinking water in their homes but they also save money otherwise spent on buying water. What if that money could buy food or school supplies? During one visit this summer we were able to surprise a single mother with a food basket. She was completely overwhelmed by our gift. Although she works hard there are times that she struggles just to buy food for her family. Our gift came at a time when she desperately needed help.

We are finally finding our identity as a missions organization. Our experience providing high quality care in our orphan home has taught us a very valuable lesson that we are using to define our community projects.

We are going to do the highest quality projects we are capable of doing with the money, time, and abilities that God provides while empowering local communities and extending dignity to those we serve. This principle is guiding us towards the types of projects we will do in the future and who we work with.

As she reflected on her first summer with us, Bertha shared tA new home, built by a missions team with Dorie's Promise.wo experiences that highlight her vision for communities:

The Cil Hernandez family received a new house this summer during the Clyne family’s visit. Receiving a new house was about more than just a building to their family. After losing their home to a fire, the family was desperate to provide even the bare necessities for their children. The family explained to our team that receiving a home and bunkbeds renewed their hope. They didn’t expect help and our overwhelming gift gave them hope for their future.

Later in the summer, the Perez Albizures family also received a new home. This single mother and her daughters are committed to their community, giving their time to help work on the new school being built near their home. Bertha was inspired by the team’s dedication to building the best home they could for this family. Even during a rain storm, the team and family worked together to ensure the project would be completed before the end of the week. Seeing the excitement as the little girls danced in their new home helped us all understand that by working with the community we give people the opportunity to help themselves and improve their lives.

Our work in these communities is about more than meeting material needs. We intend to form long-term relationships that strengthen families and show the most marginalized and vulnerable people that they are loved, they are worthy, and they are able to live fulfilling lives.

Road to Recovery: 6 Months after the Virgen de la Asuncion Fire

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

The three children from Virgen de la Asuncion who now live at Dorie's Promise.

By Kelly Shank –

When news broke about the horrific Guatemalan orphanage fire earlier this year our hearts sank. The fire at Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asuncion orphanage in San Jose Pinula, outside Guatemala City, on March 8, 2017 impacted the lives of everyone who cares for children in Guatemala.

Although a government-run facility, Virgen de la Asuncion was deeply connected to Forever Changed International. For more than 6 years our mission teams visited each week and fostered deep connections with many of the children who lived there. Many returning trip participants knew the names of the children there just like at Dorie’s Promise. You could always count on David to give you a hug, Iris loved to dance with teams, and the Princesas enjoyed making jewelry. Despite where they lived, these children were just like our own. After the fire, we immediately knew that we wanted to help in any way possible.

In the weeks following the fire, we accepted several children into our home. During their transition each of them faced different challenges because of their individual background and the conditions that they had lived in previously.

The government orphanage was a large facility that housed hundreds of children and the caregivers weren’t able to give the level of individual care that we would expect in our home. The ensuing investigation brought to light a history of abuse, mistreatment, and neglect resulting in several people being charged with various offenses related to the facility and fire.

Moving from those conditions to our home after such a traumatic event has been difficult for the children but we are happy to share that six months later, we are seeing great progress. Cecilia, our staff psychologist, is excited to share the growth that she has seen in these children.

Cristina:Cristina six months after the fire.

Christina was very scared when she first came to our home. After leaving her mother and living in the government orphanage she didn’t have the ability to trust anyone. Instead, she clung tightly to her few belongings and built a wall of protection around herself. She didn’t want to be hurt or disappointed anymore. Our staff was determined to show Cristina how they loved her, despite her rejection. Slowly, after they repeatedly loved her, showed up for her, and did what they promised day after day, Cristina began to change.

She’s now learning how to have healthy relationships with our staff and the other children. The girl who didn’t even want her clothes washed because she was afraid they’d be stolen now creates gifts for her Special Mothers and enjoys playing Uno and checkers with the other kids. Hearing her say “I love you” to the Special Mothers makes our job a success.

Manuel:Manuel six months after the fire.

Manuel came to Dorie’s Promise because he has several medical conditions that require specialized care other orphanages couldn’t provide. Luckily, Doc and Mirna have experience handling difficult medical conditions. Like many little boys, Manuel is quite active. Adapting to our home, our daily schedules, and our expectations was hard because his previous life wasn’t structured in the same way as Dorie’s Promise. Managing impulse control when he was upset or frustrated was one of the biggest challenges during the transition.

Cecilia is very proud of the changes she’s seen in Manuel. He is a different little boy. His self-esteem is higher, he’s respectful, and he has learned how to be caring towards the other children. Instead of acting out, he’s now using his curiosity to learn new things and enjoy being a kid.

Myra:Myra six months after the fire.

Myra was the first child we received after the fire. For a while after she came, she was very skeptical about living in our home and worried constantly about how long she would be with us and if she would have to return to the government orphanage. Instead of trying to transition she chose to be self-reliant so she didn’t make any connections that would have to be broken.

We are so proud of her. She is resilient and we have finally been able to gain her trust. As the months have passed and she experienced our love, she’s started to engage with our staff and the other children. Most importantly, she’s started to dream again. Myra wants to become a lawyer so that she can help children like herself. From what we’ve seen so far, we think she will do great things in the future.

 

We are so thankful for the opportunity to impact these children and help them thrive after experiencing such a great loss. Please continue to pray for all of the children affected by the fire and the officials who are responsible for creating a system to care for the forgotten children of Guatemala.