As the investigation over the past couple of weeks into the fire at the government orphanage intensified, the news became increasingly disturbing. I already related in the last blog that rumors of abuse at the government orphanages are not new. Neither is the fact that they are overcrowded and, in general, very unsavory places to put children. The following story of a 14 year old girl will give you an idea of what third world life is like and what was going on at the orphanage.
Anna—as we will call her—was approached by one of the many gangs where she lived and told she needed to provide sexual services for the gang members. This is a first step to sex-trafficking. She told them no and they threatened to kill her family. In Guatemala this is not an idle threat since placing a hit on someone only costs $50. To protect her family she ran away. She was soon picked up by the police and the court refused to send her home, instead they sent her to the city orphanage in question. Before long she was drugged and gang raped there. After a couple of torturous months, she jumped the wall and escaped. She ran to her brother who was able to raise the $50 it costs for an attorney and was able to get her out of the orphanage. She refused to talk about the abuse at the orphanage until the recent fire and now she has come forward to tell her story. And unfortunately her tale is not unique.
Current news articles are confirming that the 40 girls that died were indeed locked in a classroom as a sort of punishment. When they were not allowed out to use the bathroom, they protested and started a fire. The fire got out of control and even with the girls screaming and the smoke billowing out, the monitors outside would not open the doors.
Our orphanage is a paradise compared to the tragedy in the city and we have more room. Please pray for us as we are approached about taking these and other children. As I mentioned before, our first responsibility is to protect the children already in our hogar. We have been praying about upgrading our staff so that we can take more children.
We especially have a heart for mildly handicapped children. There are currently 40 handicapped children from the government orphanage living in a temporary classroom. If we took some of them, they would be long term and they definitely need a home. We would like to reproduce the miracles of Hophi and Alex. We have some resistance from our staff. It would of course mean more work for them and I think that is the root of the problem. Even more than money, right now we need your prayers as we make some crucial decisions and some changes. But, of course, we can always use your money. And keep in mind that we and all that work in the US take no money from the Safe Homes account. All your money goes straight to the heart of the problem in Guatemala.