Archive for May, 2008

Let’s hear it for the girls

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Someone asked me yesterday why we had so many pictures of boys on the web site but not the girls. I guess we’re going to have to change that.

In late 2007, we started taking in a few girls. It was shortly before Christmas when we decided we just couldn’t turn away these girls. Formerly, we were an all boys home. Now that has changed. By Christmas 2007, we had 6 girls. By May 1st of this year, we had 15 girls.

Look at the smiling faces of these two girls.

Frances and Samantha are sisters and they are two of our girls. They are quiet, beautiful, smart girls. They are helpful, unobtrusive young women whose lives were at risk if they had not been taken into our hogar. And now, they are blossoming. Both of the girls tested and qualified for colegio, the Guatemalan version of private school. So, with funds that we raised, we are able to send these two sisters to colegio in Guatemala City. We now have 10 kids in colegio, thanks to the generous support of our donors. And every one of these children are deserving of a better life and a better education.

Taking in girls created problems that we needed to solve. In January, the girls were housed with the peques. While I was there, we cleared out a playroom, brought in beds and made a dorm room for the girls. A couple of the smaller girls had to share a bed. We had to coordinate bathroom and shower times, as the girls and the smaller boys (the pequenos) had to share the shower and toilet facilities.

Here are a few of the girls (with their decorated faces) in one of our outside play structures.

But, we didn’t have a teacher that could sleep in the dorm room with them. Eventually, Lorena, from the local village of Aguacate, was recruited to be the evening supervisor for the girls. Lorena and her 3 year old sister now stay at the hogar at night. In Lorena’s home, she doesn’t even have a bed. She doesn’t have a stove. She doesn’t have running water. Staying with us at night is safer for her and gives her a better place to sleep.

Now we have cleared out another part of a building and have a new room for the girls. They no longer have to share the bathroom with the boys. Instead, all 15 girls have to share one bathroom. But, it’s much better this way. Girls will be girls and they need their own spaces and their privacy, as do the boys.

All the girls have stories. Girls in Guatemala are at higher risk than the boys, for obvious reasons. And now we are providing some of them with a safe place to live. And they’re being fed and are getting an education.

This is what’s important…..helping others.

Another day, another wire

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

I am happy to say that we have now wired a total of $15,000 to Miguel Magone Orphanage in the past 4 months. Yep, that $15,000 is a good investment in the lives of these children. Thanks to all of you donors, the kids have a good place to live, have food in their tummys and they are thriving.

Thank You to all of our past, present and future supporters & donors.

Three more days

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

In just 3 days, the new orphanage capilla will be dedicated and used for the first time. On Sunday, we’ll have lots of visitors at the orphanage. The new chapel will be blessed and the first mass will be held in the new building. It will be a day of pride and celebration. Plans are underway and it will be a wonderful occasion. Check back to this web log sometime next week. I hope I’ll have pictures of the celebration posted by then.

To all our donors, thank you so much. You made it possible. It is a beautiful building and you should be proud. We built it. Yes we did.

One story, one life

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

So many of the kids at the hogar have had bad things happen in their lives. The children are much safer in the orphanage than they would be on the streets and some of them are safer than they would be in their family homes. They certainly do get nutritious food at the hogar, a clean place to sleep, clean clothes, they go to school, they develop friendships and alliances and they are learning to follow rules to help them as they grow older.

One child who became very dear to me in January 2008 is a boy of about 9 years of age. Let’s call him Randy for the purposes of this story. He is such an adorable looking child… very cute face, cute smile, beautiful skin and expressive eyes. He lived with his mom and his dad in their family home in Guatemala. One day, his dad ended life as Randy knew it. Randy’s family will never be the same. Randy’s dad stabbed Randy’s mom, multiple times. Yes, he killed his wife. And guess who witnessed it all? Yep… this small, vunerable boy saw his mom stabbed and killed.

The father did get arrested and was put in jail. Randy, of course, now had no parents to live with. So, his aunt took him in. Did he get counseling and other help? Unfortunately not. The aunt kept him for a while but Randy couldn’t get a handle on his life or the past. He was acting out, fighting, having nightmares, etc. and the aunt couldn’t continue to care for him. So, he came to the hogar to live.

He had some problems in the hogar and was getting help through our staff psychologist. This child needed love and needed to know that people cared about him. One night in January, while I was there, Randy had a meltdown. In the early evening, he finished taking his shower but he developed a problem. He refused to get dressed. He was agitated and walked around with only a towel wrapped around him. He was combative and refused to leave the dorm room. He was striking out with a broom. In fact, he barricaded himself into the dorm room. I tried to get in to talk to him but I had to stay outside the locked door. After talking to him for a while through the door, and getting nowhere, I decided to ignore him. I said my goodbyes and made sure he knew it was ok to stay there. Then I left. He got dressed a short time later, came out, found me and got big hugs from me. After that, he and I had a special bond.

I can still see him sitting at the table holding a Monster Truck that he had just been given. (My friend Fran, in Illinois, shipped me 47 Collectible Monster Trucks in early November). All the kids were given these gorgeous trucks one night. My daily vision of Randy is of him sitting at his table in the dining room, a huge grin on his face and he’s admiring his new possession, his new truck. At that point, he knew that people cared about him. He felt safe. He felt love. He felt like he belonged.

I gave Randy many hugs during the 5 weeks I was there and we certainly were buddies. But that is not enough for any child. Unfortunately, in the past 3 months, the fighting and acting out continued. The orphanage does not have the staff to watch someone 24/7. He was sometimes disruptive and was becoming a problem. Sometimes he threatened other boys. Threatening other boys, picking fights and creating unsafe conditions just wasn’t acceptable as the other boys were at risk. After all, his dad had killed someone… maybe he should threaten to kill or harm someone too. His dad did.

It was time. Randy had to leave the hogar. Luckily, his aunt was willing to try again and he now lives with his aunt. I hope his nightmares are abating, I hope his days get better and I hope that he finds calm, peace and love in his life.

I am just a woman and a mom who cares deeply for him, wishes him the best and thinks about him all the time. I mentally send my hugs and kisses to this one lost child. I wish I could do more for him. I wish we could save them all.


I ask, she responds

Friday, May 16th, 2008

I would like to say “Thank You” to our web master. I ask a question, she responds. I want to change something on the web site, she changes it. I ask for help, she helps. And she has become a friend.

The web master for Orphan’s Hope Project is Nicoline. She is a Dutch woman who moved from the Netherlands to Guatemala about 2 1/2 years ago. She came to volunteer in the orphanage and then stayed to work in the orphanage. My first trip to the hogar was exactly two years ago….May 2006. Nicoline was the on site administrator of the hogar in May 2006 when I first met her. There were 4 of us women sharing a small room and Nico (Nicoline) was one of my roomates. She was on call during the night and worked like a dog during the day. She picked up Spanish very quickly and is fluent.

And she met Aldo while she was in Guatemala. But that’s her story to tell, not mine. She continued to work at the orphanage and later moved off the grounds as she needed to have some personal time off and have a life. Eventually, the commute and the work wore on her a bit and she found a position in town. She later came back to become the English teacher to our colegio boys for about 6 months or so. She was a great English teacher and the kids thrived.

Now, Nico and Aldo are living in the Netherlands. Aldo learned Dutch and applied for his Dutch papers. They just came back from a bicycle trip in France. And… she is still our web master.

Nico, whatever life has in store for you in the future, I hope it’s a grand adventure and that it’s everything you want it to be. I am so glad you are helping Orphan’s Hope Project, which in turn benefits all the children in the hogar. I know the boys miss you. The faces change but some of the boys that you know are still there. Whenever you visit the hogar, I am sure they will welcome you with open arms.

And I thank you for all of your patience, your help and your friendship. Thanks Nicoline.

Aldo & Nicoline

What…. what is it?

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

What is it about all these spammers? Gee, we have been getting tons and tons of spam comments on this blog in the past few weeks. It’s like the dam broke and the flood gates opened. They were pouring in and it was taking time to delete the spam and filter out the good stuff that we wanted to keep. We are trying to change things and…. we deleted everything today. We managed to retreive a couple of them but not all of the past comments. So, if you wrote a nice comment in the past, I apologize. It has probably been deleted. But, we had to do it. It was not manageable anymore. Let’s hope that we have figured out how to solve the problem… we’re starting with a clean slate.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Well, the only kinds of lions and tigers and bears that we have at the orphanage are the stuffed kind but….. the exclamatory line suits the situation right now. And we are not in Kansas either!

I just got word that the number of children in the orphanage is now at 93. Wow! That’s a lot of kids. 15 of those children are girls. We even have a set of 3 year old twin sisters. I bet they’re cute. But, the point is, we are bursting at the seams and the orphanage is crowded. The girls have been moved into the other side of the peques dorm in what was formerly Karen’s office. Karen used it mainly for storage and now, the girls are in there. They have their own bathroom on that side of the building. That solves the privacy issues that we had when they were in the peques dorm a few months ago. Girls do need their privacy. Lorena, a beautiful, responsible young woman from Aguacate is supervising and sleeping in the room with the girls at night. Her little sister Andrea (3 years old) is also with her.

Diane and Andrea

So… things are definitely changing. Now we need clothes for girls as well as boys.

Please think of the many boys and girls in the hogar and how their lives are so different than ours and our children’s lives. They live in a large, somewhat chaotic orphanage with no immediate family other than sometimes a brother or sister. Please think good thoughts and hope that we can continue to feed, clothe and send them to school. It’s so much work and the staff is stressed and busy. We need all the help we can get.

Oh My!

Dia de la Madre – Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Today is Mother’s Day in the United States. Yesterday, May 10th was Mother’s Day in Guatemala. You can be sure that mothers are honored in both countries but the mothers in the U.S. definitely have it much better than the majority of moms in Guatemala or the moms in other third world countries.

With 80% of the population in Guatemala surviving on $2.00 a day, you can bet that the celebrations are different. Yesterday, I saw lots of shoppers, of both sexes and all ages, frantically gathering large bouquets of flowers into their baskets at one of our well known big box stores (here in the US). Some had 2 or 3 large arrangements of flowers. At approximately $20 for each bunch, we are the affluent ones compared to most of the people in Guatemala if we are buying flowers in mass. Yes, flowers cost much less in Guatemala but I can’t imagine many Guatemalans spending $20 just for flowers. Not to mention cards, little gifts and then the ultimate of decadence… brunch in a fancy restaurant. No, not everyone in the US celebrates that way. Some don’t go to brunch. They probably will have a large lunch or dinner with their moms and relatives, either in a restaurant or in their homes. And that folks, means $ is being spent like crazy to honor our moms. Yes, we should honor our moms. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to let your mom know that you appreciate her on this special day. You should let her know that each time you see her or speak to her… not just on one day.

Now, back to Guatemala. Moms in Guatemala do all the work around the house and yard. And this folks means lots of hard work for most of these women. Quite often, they are pregnant or are carrying their youngest child on their back, keeping them close and content. If they’re living on $2.00 a day, do you think they have can openers, vacuum cleaners, electric toothbrushes, a car, lawnmowers, washing machines and dryers, crock pots, nice shampoo and so many other luxuries? Just think of all the things that we have that we take for granted. Imagine making beans for breakfast, washing the dishes with cold water, stopping to nurse your youngest child, walking your children 1 or 2 miles to school, maybe stopping at the street market to get some eggs, rice or other vegetables and foods, coming back to a house that needs cleaning, clothes that need washing by hand and a never ending amount of meals that need to be cooked.

In the city of Antigua, Guatemala, some moms have to come to the town plaza to wash their clothes. They wash them in the large sinks, the pilas, using only cold water and washing and wringing them out by hand.

And the children ! Most women in Guatemala have many children… 4, 5 6, 7 or more. Do these women go to hospitals for pre-natal care and for the delivery of their many children? No, most do not. They can’t afford to, they can’t get to a doctor and even if they could, they couldn’t afford to wait for hours and hours for their turn to see the doctor. Many deliveries are handled by midwives. Doctors… well, there is an average of one doctor for every 2300 people in Guatemala. And that means most people don’t visit the doctor very often.

Mother’s Day is a big deal in Guatemala. In Guatemala, Mother’s Day is always on May 10th. And when the holdiay falls on a school day, the children don’t have school on that day. They get to be home with their brothers and sisters, other relatives, their moms and their dad, if there is still a man in the household. The kids might make their mothers a card. They might have some firecrackers to set off. Relatives might come by and a meal is shared. But the moms don’t have the day off, do they? They still have to do all the manual labor of running that household. In the rural areas, many of those homes don’t have running water. Some don’t have electricity. Their home might be a tin shack with a dirt floor. The stove might be a fire outside or perhaps a makeshift stove powered by propane gas. Yes, it’s quite a bit of work to survive in Guatemala and the moms are responsible. The moms are the backbones of the families in Guatemala. They are the glue that holds the family together. They should have their own day.

Moms, all over the world, we honor you on Mother’s Day and on every day.

Coming home

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Our volunteer carpenter at the orphanage, Brian, is coming home. He’s coming home to Guatemala, his second home. Many of us that have lived and worked at the orphanage truly feel like it is our home. Unless his plans change, he’ll be back in the hogar on the 14th of May.

Brian has been stateside for the past 5 weeks, taking care of some business and other details. Now he’s coming back. There will be a room waiting for him. It might have a few more spiders and a bit more dust, but it will quickly get swept and become Brian’s haven again.

Welcome home Brian. The kids will be waiting for you with open arms and open hearts!

You say chapel… I say capilla

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

We have been busy building the capilla. Now isn’t this a beautiful structure? I just had to show you a couple of pictures that were taken about 10 days ago.

This is the yet to be completed walkway that connects from a lower walkway (near the transition house) to the door of the capilla. This new walkway will be paved soon and it’s even wheelchair accessible. How about that?

The tile floors are cleaned up and we can now conduct activities in the chapel. Isn’t this a gorgeous building? The view from up here is positively heavenly.

We are so excited about this building. Wanna come to the grand opening of the capilla when it’s completely finished? That can be arranged! See you there !