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Posts Tagged ‘Guatemala’

Life Inside the Guatemala City Dump

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

A boy wandering in the trash at the Guatamal City dump.

By Kelly Shank –

As the trucks come into the dump working rush to sort through the rubble.Each morning at daybreak a steady stream of people and trucks begin their trek through the large green gates of the Guatemala City dump. If you’re lucky, you’re driving or riding on the trash truck. If not, you’ll spend your days working in the dump.

Thousands of people enter the dump every morning, the vast majority working as scavengers within the piles of garbage.

Imagine their normal day: They arrive early in the morning when the gates first open and rush to get a prominent place amongst the trucks. To have the best chance of a good day, they must be first to the trucks. Most importantly, they must be first to the trucks from the wealthiest zones of the city.

As trucks roll in, men run to touch each truck, signifying their right to then sort through the garbage about to be unloaded. Quickly, they rummage through the discarded trash, searching for anything of value—electronics, recyclables, maybe even food. Only a few moments exist between when the truck is unloaded and the bulldozers come through to push the trash onto the piles. They must work quickly or risk being injured.

In the midst of the suffocating smell of decaying trash, unprotected from the harsh weather, and with vultures circling overhead, these men and women sort trash 12 hours a day, hoping to gather enough goods that their family can survive.

Children, like this girl are the most vunerable to poverty's effects.For every one person working in the dump, many more work in the community outside the gates. At the end of each day, large bags are carried out through the green gates, back to homes where the goods are then processed. For some, the large bags of paper and plastic look like garbage, but for these families, those bags are their income source. Recyclables are sorted and bagged to be sold to the big recycling companies while electronics are repaired.

For generations, these families have survived because they’re willing to work hard amongst the trash of Guatemala City. They’re looked down upon and their plight is often ignored.

We believe they are valuable and refuse to ignore their needs. That’s why we partner with local organizations dedicated to meeting their needs, educating both adults and children, and helping families find opportunities outside the large green gates.

When you visit Dorie’s Promise, you have the opportunity to help these families. You will watch them work, hear their stories, and work with our partners. When you know their names, it’s harder to ignore their story.

Keeping Up With Our Kids

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

A glimpse into our normal school day at Dorie’s Promise.

By Kelly Shank –

Our teacher helping a student with their homework.School is winding down in America, but we’re only half way through in Guatemala. (Our school year runs from January through October.) This week we want to share a glimpse into our normal school day at Dorie’s Promise.

Imagine trying to get 40 kids ready for the day. School days require lots of outfits, breakfast dishes, book bags, lunches, and some occasional tears in our home. Our small army of Special Mothers, drivers, and cooks get everyone fed, dressed, cleaned up, and to school every day with precision.

Before the sun rises, our Special Mothers are up, getting kids ready. With more than 30 children attending 4 different schools this year, it takes a lot of coordination between our Special Mothers and drivers to get everyone to school on time. By 6 am, our kids are almost ready for school. When you visit Dorie’s Promise, you’ll start to hear the buzz coming from our children’s houses around 5:30 each morning.

While Oscar and Abel make the 2 hour loop between schools, our Special Mothers begin their daily routines in the quiet houses. With significantly fewer children at home during the day, they’re able to tackle all the daily tasks that keep our homes running.

Each morning they attack a mountain of laundry and breakfast dishes before tidying up the homes. Although, these daily tasks may seem dull, they’re actually one of my favorite parts of the day. Visiting with the Special Mothers while they fold laundry gives me the privilege of learning more about them and hearing them pray for our children. You’ll be amazed by how happy they are while folding laundry.

In the classroom at Dorie's Promise.Throughout the day, our teachers work with our homeschooled children and preschoolers. Each child has an individualized plan to help them progress. For the little ones, our teachers work to prepare them for school—colors, letters, numbers—just like you do. Our homeschooled children receive even more specialized attention to help them improve in the areas where they struggle, many with the goal of being school-ready for the next year.

In the afternoon, Abel and Oscar make the 2 hour loop again to pick up all of our children.

We do lots of homework in our home, sometimes with our teacher and other times with the Special Mothers. Either way, we cycle through everyone’s after-school snacks, homework, activities, and play time all before supper. There’s an amazing rhythm to our after-school routine.

Before we know it, it’s time to slow down, spend quiet time together, and start our bedtime routines—everyone tucked into bed, sleeping soundly, and ready to start again.

Without our staff at Dorie’s Promise, we’d be lost! When you see our Special Mothers, drivers, cooks, maintenance men, medical staff, cleaners, and office team, please let them know how much you appreciate their dedication to our children.

Celebrating 6 Years with Sweet Dulce

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Dulce at her 6th Birthday Party

By Kelly Shank –

A pinata for Dulce's 6th Birthday.This month, our sweet Dulce turns 6 years old! Her story is a celebration of strength and determination.

At just 4 days old, Dulce came to our home after being abandoned shortly after birth. Although we wish her story had a better beginning, we’re thankful she found her way into our home so quickly.

Many of us remember Dulce as the tiny baby sleeping in a bassinet in House 5. In many ways, she resembled a baby doll tucked beneath her blankets. Always small for her age, we quickly realized she had several serious medical conditions.  Luckily, Doc Castro and our Special Mothers watched her constantly as a baby to monitor her health. She experienced several medical scares over the last few years, but we’re confident Doc’s care gives her the best opportunity at a healthy childhood.

Despite her rough start and many challenges, Dulce is growing and loves living in our home.

When you visit our home, she’s one of the first little girls ready to give hugs. Always full of smiles and giggles, Dulce is welcoming to everyone and enjoys the company of anyone willing to play with her, especially if you have musical toys.

Dulce as a baby with one of her special mothers at Dorie's Promise.Children like Dulce are the reason our staff works so hard, even risking their own broken hearts when children leave our care for that of families. Our team understands that every child deserves a safe home and a loving family.

We don’t know why Dulce was abandoned, but we know she is loved by us. Doc and Mirna give her excellent medical care. Her Special Mothers help her play and learn new activities. Our teacher helps her develop new skills. Plus, she has a house full of “sisters” always looking to entertain her.

Dulce is one of the most loving little girls in our care. We’re lucky to have her in our family at Dorie’s Promise.

If you’d like to learn even more about Dulce, consider becoming her monthly sponsor  or visit our home in Guatemala.

A Mother’s Inspiration

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

From a mother's heart an orphanage took form in Guatemala.

By Kelly Shank –

A photo of Heather from the FCI archives.In 2000, a young mother went to Guatemala with a desire to help children find loving homes. With a decade of experience in orphan care and adoption, she saws the needs and knew there was a better way to help. Children thrive best in a loving home and she was determined to help children find families.

Our founder, Heather Radu, prefers to quietly work behind the scenes, but this week we want to highlight her tireless commitment to our children.

If you’ve ever worked with Heather, you understand her energy, drive, and passion for our work.

She is the heart of everything we do. From the earliest days of Dorie’s Promise, when she and her children lived in Guatemala, until today, her efforts are focused on providing the best possible home for every child in our care. Mediocre is not an option. Her passion is contagious and her drive makes the rest of us work even harder.

After international adoptions closed, Heather could have quietly stepped away from Guatemala. Instead, she chose to stay and transition to the hard work of orphan care. Her love for our children wouldn’t allow her to abandon them. They needed a family and she wanted to help. In the years since, we’ve seen our staff and children become a family, loving each other deeply and supporting our children as they heal.

Heather on the left with one of the teenagers at Dorie's Promise, Brayan.Eighteen years later, Heather’s goal and commitment in Guatemala hasn’t changed. Her primary goal will always be the well-being of our children. Every decision is based on how it improves the lives of our kids—schooling, staffing, even our missions program. Nothing will ever be more important than the opportunity we have to raise healthy, happy children. As our children get older, Heather is even more involved, guiding us through the responsibility to raise successful young men and women who break the cycle of poverty.

This year for Mother’s Day, we celebrate and thank Heather for inspiring us and giving us the opportunity to join her as we champion the children of Dorie’s Promise!

Behind the Scenes: Abel and Oscar

Friday, May 4th, 2018

Abel and OscarBy Kelly Shank –

Our home runs well because of the dedicated staff who work behind the scenes. We’ve introduced you to our office staff, medical team, teachers, and one of our Special Mothers recently.  Today, we want to highlight Abel and Oscar.

These men help keep our home running in ways you don’t normally notice. They’re drivers, maintenance men, mechanics, and helpers in all we do. More importantly, they’re men who show up every day and love our children, bringing stability and father figures to our home.

For more than a decade, Abel and Oscar have been a consistent presence in our homes. In their early years with us, they were vital for adoptive families. Abel was one of the first people adoptive families met when they visited our home. Both men were instrumental in helping us keep our adoptions on track by making sure everything and everyone arrived on time.

They’re still doing a lot of driving, but now it’s mostly to and from schools. Abel and Oscar take turns driving the school loop each day. Taking all of our kids to 4 different schools means spending about 2 hours each trip: morning, lunch, and afternoon. That’s a lot of time in the van each day.

Oscar especially enjoys his school trips because he gets to spend time with the children, talking with them and staying connected to what’s going on in their lives.

Abel

Abel joined our staff in 2004. Over the years he has done almost every job at Dorie’s Promise. Abel’s first priority is our children. He’s seen all of our children grow up and has a special connection with each of them.

Many past team members will remember him as the energetic trip leader with a knack for mixing concrete. If the words, “volcano, volcano” and “more water, more water” mean anything to you, you’ve definitely mixed concrete with Abel.

Helping with our community projects has also given him the opportunity to create friendships with the many people we serve, as well as trip participants. Once you work with Abel, you’ll never forget him. He shares that he “cannot be more grateful to belong to FCI. With my work and family, I have a full heart.”

Oscar

Oscar is everyone's "grandpa" at Dorie's Promise.In 2006, Oscar joined our staff. He is a quiet, calming presence in our home. Our children often call him Papa Oscar or Abuelo (grandfather), thanks to his gentle spirit. Oscar genuinely cares for all of our children and wants to connect with each one.

Oscar is also the person who knows how everything runs at Dorie’s Promise. If there is a problem with anything, including our cars, Oscar is the person who helps get it fixed.

He’s also the guy who helps us make all our legal appointments and deliver paperwork to be processed. Simply put, Oscar knows where to go and who to see to make sure we are doing the best for our kids.

Our Appreciation

We want to thank Abel and Oscar for their loyalty to our children.

Our Legal Assistant, Jessica, shares that Abel “has been here many years and is loyal to the organization, but more than that he is loyal to the children.” Oscar is a “hard and committed worker. You will never hear him say no to something related to the well-being of our children.”

We appreciate their dedication to Dorie’s Promise, but moreover we appreciate their dedication to our children.

Abraham Emanuel Reconnects with His Family

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

Abraham Emanuel at Dories Promise

By Kelly Shank –

4 year old Abraham Emanuel at Dorie's Promise

4 year old Abraham Emanuel

Our hope is for each of our children to find a loving family. Each time one of our children is able to reconnect with birth family or is matched with an adoptive family, we celebrate. Although we love our children, we know living with a family is best.

This past January, Abraham Emanuel (Abraham) finally went home with his sister and aunt.

Abraham’s Story

In September 2012, Abraham toddled into our home for the first time. Only 4 years old at the time, he was surrounded by new people in a new place and wasn’t sure what to think or do.

When he was only a baby, Abraham’s mother passed away, leaving his future uncertain. For the next several years where he would live was in question. Eventually, the courts referred him to our home where he would find stability. For the next 5 ½ years, Abraham became a member of our family at Dorie’s Promise.

We have watched Abraham grow and mature from a quiet toddler to a confident young man. Our home became his home and he grew to love the other children and staff. One of his favorite hobbies is playing soccer, and there was always other boys ready to play with him in our backyard.

Abraham’s Future

This past January, Abraham finally went home with his sister and aunt.Last year, Abraham’s older sister Karla began the process of seeking custody. At just 19 years old, becoming the primary caregiver for her younger brother would be difficult, but Karla was determined to reunite their family. She fought hard for her brother.

Along with Karla, their aunt also stepped up to help reunite Karla and Abraham. While Karla works, their aunt will be caring for Abraham when he’s not in school. Abraham will be surrounded by family who loves him every day. This is our dream come true.

The day Abraham left Dorie’s Promise was filled with mixed emotions for everyone. He was excited to go home with his sister but sad to leave everyone he had called family for the last 5 years. Most of his memories were made in our home, and leaving means he’s starting over again.

For our staff, watching him leave was both exciting and hard. We celebrate each time one of our children gets the chance to go home, but we will still miss him. Even in our sadness, we understand our part in his life may have been short, but was significant because we helped prepare him for his future.

We wish Abraham, Karla, and their whole family all the best!

Family Trips to Dorie’s Promise: The Johnson’s

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

The Johnson's visiting Dorie's Promise.

By Kelly Shank –

Every year, hundreds of people visit Dorie’s Promise as part of our teams. Although we enjoy everyone who visits, when families serve together, something special happens.

This week we want to highlight the Johnson family (Kevin, Debi, Sarah, and Josh) of Michigan.

Their First Trip to Guatemala

The Johnsons on a trip to GuatemalaMany years ago, a little girl named Amelia opened the eyes of the Johnson family to both Guatemala and Dorie’s Promise. Amelia lived at Dorie’s Promise and was one of the children whose adoption cases remained in limbo after international adoptions were closed*. As the Johnsons followed the story of Amelia’s adoption by their friends, they became connected to Dorie’s Promise and the greater story of orphans in Guatemala.

In 2012, the Johnson family accompanied their friends to Dorie’s Promise on a weeklong missions trip. Watching their friends’ daughter run to her parents when they arrived brought many years of prayers into reality. Not only was Amelia’s story now real to them, so was the stories of our other children. Following that trip, their family would never be the same.

Serving as a Family

Beginning with their very first trip, serving at Dorie’s Promise has been a family experience for the Johnsons. Sarah was 15 and Josh was only 10, on their first trip, but their ages didn’t stop them from serving our children and communities. They continued to visit with Sarah joining an annual teen trip for several years until Kevin and Debi began leading their own team trips.

According to Debi, “seeing God at work in our family, team members, and the children at Dorie’s Promise” is her greatest reward.

Over the years, each member of the Johnson family has found a special way of serving at Dorie’s Promise. Debi organizes their teams and enjoys spending time with our children. Through his photography skills, Kevin shares the stories of our children, staff, and communities with those in Michigan. Sarah’s Spanish fluency gives her a special way to connect with everyone she meets. While Josh enjoys working in the communities and entertaining the kids.

It’s encouraging to see each person grow and develop unique skills.

Lifelong ConnectionsThe Johnson's at Myra’s quinceanera

Coming back each year gives the Johnsons an opportunity to connect with our children and staff. They have watched our children grow up and witnessed special celebrations. Last year, they were able to help celebrate Myra’s quinceanera, a very special 15th birthday party. Their work helped make the day even more special for Myra.

We appreciate the Johnson family’s commitment to our children and home. For the past 7 years, they have loved, encouraged, and prayed for our children, our staff, and the vision of our ministry.

If your family is interested in experiencing a life-changing opportunity, join us this summer.

*International adoptions from Guatemala were closed in 2008.

Seeing Needs and Serving Families

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

The Gonzalez Aguilar Family of Cuilapa Guatemala

By Kelly Shank –

Each of our short-term missions teams will partner with a specific family.We believe God has called us to serve the forgotten children of Guatemala. Within our home, we care for 40 children who were orphaned or abandoned, but there are many more children who need our help as well.

What if we could prevent children from entering Guatemala’s orphanages?

Although we can’t prevent all vulnerable children from entering orphanages, we can work with families to make a difference. Our short-term missions teams help us meet the immediate needs of families who face extreme poverty.

Poverty causes stress, crisis, and trauma for families. Our goal is to offer immediate assistance and help preserve families who are facing a crisis, allowing them to remain whole and improve their lives.

Working with the children in our home has taught us that many came from loving families who were overcome from a crisis situation. Our goal this year is to make our community projects even more personal and connected to long-term progress. Each of our teams will partner with a specific family. They will know their family’s story, their needs, and be able to pray for them before landing in Guatemala.

This year we identified three new communities in need of our assistance. Great leaders in Santiago Sacatepéquez, Sanarate, and Cuilapa are helping us understand the needs of their communities and connect with families we can help. By working together, we provide help and resources, while the leaders nurture long-term relationships. With our help and the community support systems, these families have opportunities to change their lives.

Understanding Poverty

Poverty causes stress, crisis, and trauma for families.The families we help are “working poor.” In many households, between four and six family members survive on only $100 per month. Limited job opportunities in rural areas create a cycle of poverty. Many work on large vegetable farms six days a week, toiling in the hot sun to earn a meager income. Without money, these families cannot afford schooling, and without schooling, they can’t get better jobs.

Although these families are still intact, they are often struggling. With such limited resources, both financially and otherwise, every other part of their family struggles. They have limited funds for secure homes, sufficient food, and school, let alone any extravagances. For many families, the choice must be made between sending their children to school or having them work to help provide additional income for the family.

These families are faced with tough decisions every day just to survive.

Our Summer Plans

Already in 2018, five teams have worked in these villages. One family received a new house, while others received home repairs, concrete floors, and new stoves. Our Community Director, Bertha, is excited about the summer when even more families will be matched with our teams.

Will you please pray for the families we will help, our teams, our staff, and community partners? Together, we can help these families and prevent their children from entering Guatemala’s orphanages.

Interested in learning more about our short term missions? Click here.

Celebrating Guatemala’s Beauty: Semana Santa

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Celebrating Guatemala’s Beauty: Semana Santa

By Kelly Shank –

Semana SantaThe natural beauty of Guatemala’s landscape is rivaled only by the beauty of its people and traditions. This week we’re celebrating one of the country’s most significant holidays, Semana Santa (Holy Week). As a country with deep connections to the Catholic Church, Semana Santa represents the faith of many Guatemalans, their heritage, and cultural identity. For more than 500 years, Spanish influence and Catholicism have shaped this beautiful country.

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, the Lenten season prepares Catholics for the events of Easter. Semana Santa, the week preceding Easter Sunday, culminates the Lenten season. Preparation and celebrations fill each day of Semana Santa. As a holiday, many businesses and governments close so families can participate in local events.

Antigua, the original Guatemalan capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site, hosts the most famous celebration annually. Hundreds of thousands of visitors descend on the historic city to experience the excitement of Semana Santa. During the weeklong celebration, the city transforms into a daily celebration of history, faith, and artistry. Visitors experience daily processions, special services at the city’s historic cathedrals, and get a chance to witness long-held traditions.

Semana Santa colorful decorations.As a new visitor, each day’s procession will draw you in and hold your attention for hours.

Festive marching bands and dance troupes lead each day’s procession. Huge wooden floats, andas, depict the Holy Week story and are carried through the town. For those who are chosen to carry the float, it is a distinct honor. Along the path, families decorate their homes and street vendors sell special treats, adding to the excitement. From afternoon until late night, the procession’s music fills the city.

Cheerful music, colorful costumes, and massive floats may catch your attention, but the streets are one of the most spectacular features. The streets of Antigua transform into works of art. Families and businesses whose properties line the procession route spend days planning and hours creating the traditional carpets, alfombras.

Semana Santa decoration on the streets of Guatemala.The artistry of the alfombras is part skill and part soul. For those creating these masterpieces, their designs represent faith, national pride, and creativity. They meticulously layer dyed sawdust using stencils to create intricate designs. Once complete, the alfombras create the path each procession follows. In addition to sawdust, people add flowers, plants, and fruits to create unique designs, commemorating each unique community. Although scattered after the procession, sawdust along the city’s historic cobblestone streets reminds visitors of the city’s ongoing celebration.

Semana Santa represents the best of Guatemalan culture, hospitality, faith, and tradition.

Encouraging our children’s faith and cultural heritage is important. Although they enjoy a 10 day summer break from school to celebrate Semana Santa, we want this holiday to mean more than fun and games. Each day during Semana Santa, our Special Mothers prepare a devotion to help our children understand the Holy Week story. Their stories help connect the celebrations with the meaning of the season in ways our children understand.

As our children mature, we want them to appreciate their Guatemalan heritage and enjoy celebrating traditions together.

Get to Know Our Special Mothers: Mama Noemi

Monday, March 19th, 2018

Special Mother, Mama Noemi at Dorie's Promise

By Kelly Shank –

Mama Noemi has worked at Dorie's Promise for 12 years.Have you ever wondered why we call the ladies who work in our homes “Special Mothers”?

They are special, and most are mothers, but there is something more to these women. It takes a very special person to care for someone else’s children as if they are your own, and that is what the Special Mothers do for our children.

These very special women work alternating days, caring for our children. They are the ones who celebrate successes, kiss boo-boos, pray with our children, discipline our children, and hold them when painful memories are too much to handle. They stand in the gap between the biological families who aren’t able to care for these children and an uncertain future.

Meet Mama Noemi

Visitors to our home love Mama Noemi immediately. She’s welcoming to visitors, loving to our children, and dedicated to her staff. Her laugh is contagious and she loves life. If music is playing, Mama Noemi is dancing. She is the embodiment of what we stand for—steadfast, dependable, loving, and most of all, fun.

For more than 12 years, Mama Noemi has faithfully worked at Dorie’s Promise, serving currently as the Supervisor of our girls’ house. She oversees all of the daily tasks of that house, the general well-being of our girls, and the other Special Mothers who work with our girls.

Mama Noemi helping one of the Dorie's Promise children get ready for picture day.Joining our staff in 2005, she has experienced our growth as an organization and helped shape our homes. Mama Noemi worked at Dorie’s Promise while international adoptions were open and continued with us during our transition to orphan care. As she looks back, she describes her role during the international adoption period as that of an intermediary, caring for children until they could be united with an adoptive family. After the close of international adoptions, her work changed. Many of our children will live with us for most of their childhood. Mama Noemi enjoys the opportunity to create long-term relationships with our children, built on trust, respect, and love. Being able to watch them grow, learn, and mature is a unique opportunity not available during her early years with us.

Those who work closely with Mama Noemi understand her love for our children and commitment to their well-being. Her dream is for all of our girls to become strong young women who have the opportunity to be successful adults. Just like she loves her own children and grandchildren, she cares deeply for each of our children. Each morning after the children leave for school she leads our Special Mothers in prayer for our children, interceding for their needs and praying for our home.

Every day she comes to work with a positive attitude, ready to give her best to each of our girls.

The way Mama Noemi leads her staff and interacts with our children demonstrates a greater purpose. She recently shared, “for me, working at Dorie’s Promise is a mission, not a job.” We experience her focus and dedication every day.

Thank you, Mama Noemi for blessing our home with your love and dedication!