The Cry of an Orphan
Paaaaaaaaaaapi! A little girl screamed as I walked into an orphanage in Guatemala recently. Several of us adults heard the cry from around the corner and froze. We knew there was no papi around.
A child yearning for the loving arms of her parent, but there is no parent to be found. What could be more cruel?
In this article, I would like to share with you about my recent trip to Guatemala and about one organization that has shown great leadership for over 100 years in caring for orphans. It was trip where I contemplated hope, how we all need it, and why we must give it to those who need it the most.
I was honored to travel with Dr. Albert Reyes, President and CEO of Buckner International, and his leadership team to the beautiful Central American country of Guatemala last month. Buckner is a 130 year-old organization, whose vision is centered around giving hope to orphaned children. Their mission is beautiful: Hope Shines Here. And that’s exactly what I observed last month. I saw hope extended where hope is needed most.
This organization’s founder, R.C. Buckner, started building orphanages in Texas after the American Civil War. A great leader, he made sure that the small organization he began would survive and flourish. Now, Buckner International has become a trusted global organization, which excels at giving hope to children and families all over the world.
With my own eyes, I saw how hope can be crushed. In that same orphanage, a mother came in sobbing uncontrollably. The story we heard was that she could not find her child and was looking for him there. My heart broke for her. And again when I met another woman who was forced to take her young kids out of school because she could not afford the school uniforms. And once more as I kneeled down to put new shoes on kids, whose feet were dirty because of the torn shoes they were wearing off. I witnessed hope challenged.
And while hope is ripped away from many, Buckner is stepping in the gap. Through the work of local Guatemalans and Buckner’s staff, in the last year, over sixty-eight children that had been in orphanages have been placed back with their families through family tracings and aggressive social work and case management.
See, as Dr. Reyes explained to me, if a child is neglected, or on the streets, an orphanage is clearly a better option for them. However, this is not where a child should be raised. Children deserve a home, a family. In the USA and a few other developed countries, orphanages are rarely in existence anymore because we have a foster home system. This is not the case in most of the world.
Better than an orphanage, group foster homes become another option. But group foster homes are not cheap to maintain. These are homes of five to eight orphaned children, with a couple acting as their parents. The children live in the foster home until the court determines that there is better placement for them (with an individual foster family, through adoption, or the best option if at all possible—back with their biological family). However, sometimes children stay in the foster home until they are eighteen. Buckner runs several foster homes in Guatemala. We visited a couple of these homes, and I was truly moved.
About four foster families met us at one of the homes and put on an evening of creative drama for our visiting party. Ages twelve to eighteen, these children, whose childhoods have been torn apart by sadness and abandonment, came together and performed beautiful plays and dances they had created that spoke about their story.
Two young boys stood up at the end and said a few words. With tear-filled eyes, they touched our hearts, as they thanked Buckner for giving them a family. One of them said, “My whole life I have been in institutions. Here, I feel loved. You gave me hope. You gave me confidence. You gave me a future. You gave me a home.” Wow.
That night, these wonderful children gave me hope. Hope in us collectively, that even with all the selfish and cruel ambitions we see guiding our world, there are still a few people and a few organizations who aim to touch the lives of the most pained among us.
Afterward I sat down with a few of the young boys, and we ate Domino’s pizza. They were as happy as any teenagers would be, eating pizza. I asked one of the boys, who had been there eight months, what was most challenging for him at the home. He said he feared being moved again to another institution. He wanted to stay with his new family at the Buckner home. See, under Buckner’s care, he was in school and happy to be learning and belonging. Before getting to the Buckner home, he had been neglected to the point that at sixteen years old, he is only in the 2nd grade.
Although my heart broke hearing this, and other stories, as I spent a few days with the angelic staff of Buckner, I also saw the power we all have to resurrect hope.
Hope Shines Here
A few months ago, our patients at the clinic in Fort Worth donated over 50 pairs of shoes to Buckner. I would like to thank each of them for their donation. In Guatemala, we were able to put new shoes on the feet of children who could not afford them. Everyone in our group knelt down, removed the old shoes, cleaned the small dirty feet with wet cloths, put brand new socks on clean feet, and then fit them with brand new shoes. There were smiles all around.
On the tomb of R.C. Buckner is this inscription: Not One Orphan Child, But All Orphan Children. That’s how he wanted to be remembered. I wonder what moved this great man to act, when many others only watched. I wonder what moment was the tipping point for him to begin a work that would impact so many lives. Maybe it was a paaaaapi that he heard from an orphan…
I hope you will join me in supporting the most needy: the orphaned child. Buckner’s international humanitarian work in Central America and Africa is supported totally by donors, like you and I. I completely trust their work and highly respect their leadership. Dr. Reyes is one of the finest leaders I have ever met. If you would like to support them, I encourage you to click here.
I want to thank the entire Buckner staff for an enlightening Vision Trip to Guatemala. God bless you all.
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