I took a trip - Guatemala 2022
Last week I traveled to Guatemala as part of The World Orphan Fund team. It had been exactly two years since my last international trip, which was to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda in February of 2020. As we returned home then on the eve of the pandemic, the many masks being worn in the airports were a harbinger of what was to come, but we could never have imagined how the pandemic was about to disrupt our world.
The 2020 Africa trip was for the World Orphan Fund, so it is fitting that the first trip outside the USA since then was also as part of a team visiting children’s homes in Guatemala—some where we have ongoing projects and others where we were assessing potential areas of need. If you don’t know the story of how my husband founded The World Orphan Fund, you can catch up with it in my post about the Africa 2020 trip here. Or you can watch this fab video, recently created for our ten-year anniversary.
On that Africa trip we identified two homes where additional and updated housing were needed: Mum’s Love Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya and Acres of Hope in Nebbi, Uganda. Both projects were completed recently. See the photos below of the new Mum’s Love Home and the girls’ dormitory at Acres of Hope. It is so fulfilling to see these new, safe spaces sheltering children who have had very little shelter from the harsh realities of the world.
So, while we are celebrating victories with projects like this, the work goes on to identify and improve situations for children all over the world.
Guatemala is a beautiful country. (If you’ve been there, you know what I mean). But childhood malnutrition is a huge problem—and that’s particularly bad when it’s combined with the abuse and neglect that kids often suffer before coming to live in a home. These traumas cause delays in learning and development. It’s something that we had been seeing again and again, but there were no resources to provide the therapies to help these little ones overcome their delays and heal from these traumas. That’s why in 2017 we founded the Walker Center for Childhood Development just outside of Guatemala City. It’s truly the only center of its kind in the country. The staff here is remarkable, dedicated, smart, and – well – pretty much every praise-worthy adjective I could come up with. We are humbled by their commitment and the progress they’re making. We are also grateful for the support of our donors, which has allowed for a program expansion to reach even more children with a traveling therapy team.
(Here we are with the staff in the photo below.)
In addition to brainstorming solutions with the Walker Center team on this trip, we visited seven other children’s homes, many of which care for profoundly disabled children. As we always do after a trip of this nature, we are reviewing our notes, gathering more information, and putting plans together to collaborate with the wonderful caregivers to help them with projects ranging from additional staff, therapeutic supplies, corrective surgeries, medical assessments, special education plans, space reconfiguration, and potential full building expansions. As part of our operating procedures, The World Orphan Fund never donates money to a home that hasn’t been visited to be sure that the children are being properly cared for and that there are good systems in place for health, education, general well-being and more.
While COVID protocols kept us from interacting one-on-one with children in most locations, that didn’t hinder our ability to see their special potential! There’s so much to learn when we go on a trip like this, but the most important things you gain are true friendships and the confirmation that we are all more alike than we are different as we work to make the world a little better one child at a time.
A tourist perspective:
While we spent most of the week visiting children’s homes, we did leave time for a little sightseeing. We stayed in Antigua—which had been the capital of Guatemala until 1773 when earthquakes destroyed much of the city. The capital was then moved to a safer location. (Interestingly enough, I received a message from one of our Walker Center directors this morning – February 16 – that they had a 6.2 earthquake overnight, but that everyone’s okay!) Antigua contains the ruins of many colonial-era buildings and is truly delightful city, home to a lot of expats from many countries. I sure wouldn’t mind spending a few weeks there and enrolling in a Spanish language intensive to bring my skills up to speed. (I know I need it!)
We also traveled to Tecpan where the Iximche Mayan ruins are truly amazing. (This only fueled my desire to see the even larger Mayan site of Tikal, which has been on my bucket list.)
If you haven’t had the chance to visit Guatemala, I highly encourage a trip there!
Where have you traveled lately??