By Anita McCafferty–
My name is Anita, and I wanted to share with you some thoughts my husband Michael and I put together about our mission trip to Dorie’s Promise Guatemala.
As a child therapist, I wondered about the impact that the often fleeting relationships formed during short term mission trips would have on the children. But after experiencing the mission, it became clear that although our individual time spent was limited, the children were experiencing a continual, common message from all those missioners with whom they spent time. This message was that they are important, they are valued, they are special, they are loveable. As victims of neglect and abandonment, this becomes a corrective emotional experience which heals their wounded self-concept and self-esteem.
Although our time was only a brief instant in their lives, the significance and impact of our time there is made up of moments, moments that can last a lifetime for each child and each moment is a building block in their lives. For example, I can recall the triumph in the eyes of Lester when, with my husband’s help, he finally conquered his fears on the jungle gym, or Franco’s excitement at hearing his own whistle sound fill the air when Michael was teaching him how to whistle. These moments were building blocks for their self-confidence.
Our first moment in meeting the children was a memorable one. We entered the baby’s room to meet Valentino, Sheily, and Dulce. When Sheily heard Michael’s voice, she threw herself down in the crib with uncontrollable fits of crying. We were told that because of the past experiences in her young, vulnerable life, she was afraid of men, and Michael had to retreat out of sight. Our hearts opened up to her and we were able to witness the beginning seeds of trust in men by the fact that she lit up when she saw Michael and reached out to him to be held by the end of our mission.
We wondered what we could possibly contribute besides financial support to such a wonderful program which was sensitive to every need of the children: physically, socially, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. We realized we could offer these healing moments of affirmation to each child we encountered with the crucial message that they are loved and lovable, valued and valuable.
Spirituality and Christianity consistently colored the daily atmosphere of the orphanage, as well as our mission experience. It was impressive that no meal or snack went by without an expression of thankfulness to God. My image of little Alejandra at McDonald’s on our outing to see Christmas lights in the city with her hands held up in a thankful prayer to God before she took that first lick of her ice cream cone will always remain in my mind as an example of this. Moreover, our daily meditations lead by Pablo before our mission day began and after it was over attested to the team’s desire to assure that this time was spiritually meaningful and provided an opportunity for spiritual growth through prayer and reflection.
Since we were regretfully unsuccessful in convincing our fellow parishioners, our family, and our friends to join us, we attended this mission as a team of two. We expected that the energy expended toward us would not be as great since it was just the two of us. I can attest to the fact that all the efforts put forth by the staff was as accommodating and sensitive as if we were a group of twenty. Paolo put forth preparation each day in his daily meditations with increased insight into our spiritual needs as the week went on. Abel was fervent in his goal to keep us safe and was like a “grizzly bear mom protecting her cubs” when we were out in the community.
We were able to bring along some donations with us to be spent toward the mission and Paolo was vigilant in accounting for all he spent, itemizing each day where the money went (i.e. food for the profoundly poor outreach families, feeding centers, Christmas decorations for the children at the state orphanage, bunk beds and cement to made an extra room for a needy grandmother and her grandchildren, varnish to preserve the tables in a community center, as well as outings for the children of Dorie’s Promise). When we returned home, we were able to give those who generously gave a clear picture of how they contributed.
Besides working to help the special mothers in daily chores and care of the children and participating in the outreach projects, we PLAYED lots of soccer, played with play-dough, enjoyed several craft projects, and many more fun activities. I noticed when we entered one community, the playground was empty. By the time we finished our service project, the word had gotten out that Paolo and Abel were in town and the children began to gather for a highly anticipated soccer match. What energy and joy the mission brought to the day of these children, as well as an affirming message of them being valuable!
The unity of the children at Dorie’s promise was impressive, many of them strangers who bonded as a family. The younger sat on the lap of the older and the older spontaneously nurtured the younger, all the while learning what a loving, nurturing relationship is. This other-centered nurturance was one that many may not have experienced in their family lives and were being taught in the orphanage by the special mothers and staff. We witnessed love, respect, and cooperation throughout our stay by staff and the children. Even the older teens like Brayan sat and made Winnie the Pooh hand puppets with the younger children with as much enthusiasm. They played soccer together with all ages, combining in a loving family atmosphere of mutuality.
Not all our craft projects were successful. The felt butterfly pins we made with the young girls at the state orphanage would not stick together because we brought the wrong glue. It was a disaster! Glue was everywhere and after the project, as we toured the facility, we saw butterfly antennae, wings, and spots all over the ground. We felt disappointed. Suddenly the girls passed us by with huge smiles on their face, proudly wearing their butterfly pins as if they were priceless pieces of jewelry. We realized that in that disaster of a project, they found beauty and we had reached them by just giving them our time and effort . . . those MOMENTS that build self-worth and affirm their value.
The quality of care given at Dorie’s Promise was like being in an oasis in the desert. The children are well taken care of, and their program is individualized and sensitive to the unique needs of each child. The exposure to the community, wrought with poverty and violence, made us appreciate the blessing of this program for the children who are fortunate enough to be there.
It is a program of HOPE . . . for each of these children are given a chance to be in a caring environment that attends to their physical growth and safety; their intellectual development, promoting aspirations and dreams for their future; as well as providing a spiritual atmosphere pivoting around the love of God and gratitude for his blessings.
We look forward to the newsletters we receive and marvel at the growth of the children already since our mission there. We know they probably don’t remember us now, but we feel confident that the common message of worth given by all the missioners by carving out time for them will have a lasting effect on them and help them to continue to grow into God-loving, giving adults who will in turn open their loving hearts to others.
If you’d like to experience a missions trip like Anita and Michael’s click here to watch our video and request more info.