Hello from Guatemala! The team is doing well and have had a great first couple of days getting settled in at Casa Bernabé.
Here’s a little bit about what we’ve learned:
- The orphanage operates in family units. There are nine “casas” (houses) around the property: 4 for girls, 4 for boys, and 1 baby house. Each casa has a Christian couple serving as house parents, one helper (often one of the teachers), and 10-15 kids (including any biological kids the couple has).
- Casa Bernabé switched to this family structure vs tradition orphanage 20 years ago and has seen great results in their children.
- While some of these children are true orphans, many have been neglected or abused by their parents and had to be removed from families either temporarily or permanently.
- Family reunification is a first priority when possible but they hope that when that can’t happen or in the mean time, the family unit structure helps kids know they belong and are loved.
- There is also a school on property which serves the 115 kids from Casa Bernabé along with about 200 from the community.
- Casa Bernabé was originally (35 years ago) out in the middle of nowhere in a place no one wanted. Now it is right in the middle of one of the richest sections of Guatemala.
- They also have both boys and girls transition homes where those over 18 can begin to live on their own yet still have support and community as they transition to adulthood.
What we’ve done:
- Saturdays are family days here at Casa Bernabè. For example, Edgar, the orphanage director shared with us this morning about how typically Guatemalan workers work half days on Saturdays, however for the masons or other workers who come on site they give Saturdays off if they promise to spend it with their families.
- Also, weekends are half-staffed meaning either the house parents or the helper in each house is off. This meant we got to help whoever was still in the homes working today care for the 10-15 kids. Mainly this just meant playing with them and trying to figure out what in the world they were saying in Spanish. Someone of us got to take some kids to a VBS type activity held by a local church here on property in the morning and others took in a reptile show in the afternoon. A highlight for many of us was seeing these families operate just as that. These kids have been through unimaginable trauma, abuse, and neglect… so much so that we had to have special training when we arrived yesterday. And yet, when you walk into these homes, you see normal sibling and parent roles. More than that, you see kids who absolutely love their moms and dads and house parents fiercely committed to caring for all the children as their own.
- Some of us got to work on some other projects throughout the day as well including painting the outside of the baby house, sorting all the clothes in the clothes closet, helping the cooks prepare food for tomorrow, and more. Liz held and fed a baby for the first time. Some of the guys got caught in a downpour. We hug kids, learned Spanish, taught English, made friendship bracelets, played games without really knowing the rules, and got really exhausted time and time again climbing the hundreds of stairs around the campus at an altitude of 6,000ft.
- As we shared our joys, challenges, and God-sightings at team devotion time tonight it is clear that we are seeing God so at work in this place and have been delighted to join in!
- Keep following our journey and see some pictures on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! If we get a chance we’ll try to post another blog later this week. Thanks for the prayers!