Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Today a child will be abandoned in Guatemala. Every four days with tragic regularity, children are left on the streets of this Central American country. Sixty percent are infants. Some are cared for by older children or street families; many die.
Lisa and David Gencarella of Post Falls knew little of this when they traveled to Antigua, Guatemala, in 2007 to adopt twin girls. What they saw at first was a 13th-century Spanish colonial town with brightly painted buildings, picturesque ruins and Mayan women wearing elaborately embroidered traditional clothing. They lived in Antigua for six months finalizing the adoption of their daughters, and while there met Lilly Ferrer, a Guatemalan woman whose mission was creating a safe haven for teenage mothers and their babies.
"My family always knew that we would give back to Guatemala — the country we fell in love with while living there," Lisa says.
She returned in 2009 to support Lilly and work in the orphanage. In 2012, the Gencarellas and Charles and Kelly Secker, a couple who share their passion for vulnerable children, created Called For His Purpose, a nondenominational, faith-based nonprofit founded to provide financial, material and spiritual support that would eventually help Lilly open Esperanza y Futuro (Hope and Future).
"The goal at Esperanza y Futuro is to break the cycle of abuse and abandonment," Lisa says. "The girls learn healthy habits for themselves and their babies in a safe, loving atmosphere where they can heal physically and emotionally. Many are illiterate, so they attend a private Christian school or are tutored at the orphanage. Training programs teach the girls marketable skills like cooking, sewing, flower arranging and cosmetology." Today the facility houses 28 children and their teen mothers.
"Lilly is truly the heartbeat of Esperanza y Futuro," Lisa says, "and you rarely see her without one or two children in her arms. It is a beautiful sight!"
Lisa travels to Guatemala three to four times a year with volunteer teams who spend time with the children and their mothers, delivering books, clothing and supplies. Many volunteers then tour Guatemala or nearby Costa Rica or Belize.
Baeley Hathaway, a junior at Boise State University, was 14 years old the first time she joined Lisa and traveled to Esperanza y Futuro.
"The main thing I do is build friendships and be a safe and gentle friend," Baeley says. "I credit these amazing children for the way I am striving to be a woman who facilitates compassion and empathy in every interaction. They taught me that the most valuable thing I can do with my life is give love and validation to others, and that no matter what, healing is possible — love is all around us."
Called For His Purpose volunteers pay for their flights, lodging and meals, approximately $1,000 to $1,500 depending on airfare. calledforhispurpose.org