Guatemala (Orphan Outreach/ MNN) — The scent of lavender and hibiscus fills the air of the hallway, and laughter and conversation breaks the silence of the otherwise quiet hillside building. It’s afternoon in Xela at Little House of Refuge, and while the younger children enjoy playtime outside, a group of young women are hard at work taking care of special guests who have come to visit. And the fragrance and laughter and care might just be what saves their lives in years to come.
Orphan Outreach partners with Little House, a privately-run orphanage in Xela, Guatemala. They provide monthly sponsorship for all the children, funding for teachers, school supplies, and other needs. Little House provides vocational classes to teach the children important skills to help support themselves.
But there is an even more profound purpose at work in the classroom. Rescue.
The odds are stacked against an orphan who ages out. Those at highest risk for human trafficking are the uneducated and unskilled. But with every computer program learned, cake baked, apron sewn, or French braid mastered, the children at Little House become less vulnerable to slave trade, gang activity, and prostitution.
“So often, we think of rescue as going into brothels or sweatshops and saving the innocent,” says Mike Douris, Orphan Outreach Founder and President. “We believe that’s absolutely necessary. But we also believe rescue can be preventative, and that’s why we come alongside national ministries that have a passion for providing complete care for the orphaned and the poor.”
Guatemala is one of the most impoverished nations in the region. According to Orphan Outreach, 56% of the population lives below the poverty line. There are an estimated 370,000 children (0-17) orphaned (2005). Many of these children are victims of forced labor or human trafficking.
The U.S. Department of State says that “Guatemala is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.” While the Government does not fully comply with minimum standards to eliminate trafficking, they are working toward it.
Lourdes and Teresa, the two women who run Little House, have never viewed simple basic care to the children as an option. The women want to ensure the girls and boys are also well-educated and vocationally trained. With help from Orphan Outreach partners and donors, the school at the children’s home now features a computer lab, sewing room, bakery, and beauty school. For the young women learning to cut, color, and style hair, and for their guests from the United States who participate in the training, the vocational classes inspire dreams of working in a salon or resort. The students are attentive to every moment of coaching and direction, and even the most shy of students can’t help but smile as she sees the work of her hands.
For Madison Rock, an Orphan Outreach mission trip participant (pictured left), the time spent having her hair styled was powerful. “To think about the eternal impact of a simple afternoon in a classroom, that allowing someone to shampoo and dry my hair could mean a great job and a safe future? That’s overwhelming and beautiful.”
From child sponsorship to offering vocational training on mission trips and investing in educators and much-needed resources, you can be part of a bright future for orphans.