Central American Partnerships Bring Hope in the Midst of the Pandemic
— Mary Kathryn Tiller · Tuesday, August 25, 2020 —
On March 16, 2020, the Honduran government declared a national shutdown in response to the Coronavirus. Guatemala and the United States followed suit, as did nearly every other country on the globe. While sectors of the United States have since opened up, Guatemala and Honduras are entering into their seventh month in lockdown. This prolonged shutdown is having catastrophic effects, especially among the most marginalized populations.
Amid this tragedy, however, God is on the move. After years of relationship building, local agencies are reaching out and linking arms with Orphan Outreach to restore hope in some of the most dire situations caused by the pandemic.
Francisco Campos, the Executive Director of Asociacion Manos Extendidas(AME), shared about one such opportunity:
“A few months ago, the Dirección de Niñez Adolescencia y Familia(DINAF) asked if we could provide food and baby items for a group of children living within the women’s prison. We have been working with DINAF for the last several years, helping develop a foster care system for Honduras, but for them to reach out to us for this need was a big step,” Francisco said.
The children in need were born to mothers serving drug- and gang-related sentences. According to the law, these children can live with their mothers within the prison system up to three years of age. While the government will provide for the inmates, they will not provide for their children, so it is up to the mothers to find a way to feed and clothe their babies.
“Typically, there are organizations that help support these mothers. Some mothers even have family members who bring food and supplies to the prison. Unfortunately, due to COVID, these individuals and organizations are not allowed to travel to, or enter into, the prisons, leaving mothers without access to childcare essentials,” explained Francisco.
Orphan Outreach made two donations totaling around $6,000, including items such as formula, juice, snacks, diapers, and wipes. During one of the deliveries, Francisco was invited inside the prison.
“One of the prison sectors functions like a small orphanage. There are dozens of rooms, which house between six to eight beds each, with nothing but curtains between them. That was all the private space a mother and her child would have. It’s an overwhelming reality. Even after seeing it...it’s just hard to understand.”
The reality outside of the prison walls isn’t much better. The spread of COVID has cost many families their jobs, landing many of the country’s most vulnerable on the streets.
“Honduras does not offer government assistance. So as lockdown has continued and families have lost their jobs, their only option is to beg on the streets.”
Orphan Outreach once again partnered with DINAF to provide $1,000 worth of food bags for these families. Unfortunately, Francisco believes the need for humanitarian aid will continue even after the COVID restrictions end.
“The big problem that we have right now is businesses have been closed down for nearly six months. We don’t know how many businesses have died. A lot of people simply won’t have jobs to go back to. I see this need continuing even after lockdown is suspended.”
Like Honduras, Guatemala has seen life go from bad to worse for many in their community.
“It’s been heartbreaking,” said Austin South, Orphan Outreach’s Latin America Regional Director.“Families are losing their jobs, domestic violence is on the rise, and kids who were growing and progressing in our programs no longer know if their home is safe or where their next meal is coming from. Right now, we’re doing everything we can to adapt our programs and continue serving these kids right where they are.”
Orphan Outreach is not the only organization to see its progress hindered. Consejo Nacional de Adopciones de la República de Guatemala(CNA) is a governmental agency overseeing all adoptions in the country, including a program that that shares Orphan Outreach’s passion for orphan prevention. When a single mother or struggling family is considering placing their child up for adoption, CNA attempts to first strengthen the family in hopes that the child can remain in their home.
“CNA’s program has proven to be very effective, but when COVID hit, they saw a large increase in calls. Some are new families, others are families that CNA had helped stabilize, but due to complications caused by COVID, they no longer feel they can parent,” explained Austin.
Having partnered with CNA in the past, it was an easy‘yes’ when they reached out for help. Orphan Outreach donated formula, diapers, and food bags to help ease the burden and keep these families intact.
Needs have risen from the private sector as well, as word of a struggling private home for special needs children and adults found its way to the staff of the Community Care Center(CCC) in Chimaltenango.
“One of the family members of a CCC staffer told us about a private, special-needs home in their community who was in desperate need of supplies and food. We sent our staff over to vet the organization and they affirmed the situation was dire. So, we quickly set to work arranging the purchase and delivery of food and basic supplies,” Austin shared.
The Coronavirus is a formidable force, but Austin and his team believe they were placed in these communities for such a time as this.
“It’s been hard, but God is at work,” Austin declared.“We’re thankful for the opportunity to partner with the government and these local organizations. It‘s a chance for them to see that we’re here for the long-term and we do what we say we’re going to do. I firmly believe these relief efforts will strengthen these relationships and will enable us to further impact policies and improve outcomes for orphaned and vulnerable children well beyond the impact of COVID.”
The donations provided to these organizations have been funded through Orphan Outreach's supporters worldwide. Donate today and help Orphan Outreach continue to meet the needs arising in this ongoing crisis.