Monday, December 30, 2013

Gladney Family Service Trip- Day 2

The bus picked us up this morning at 1030 and we headed back to Casitas Kennedy.  Today we wanted to take a group photo as soon as we arrived, but were quickly distracted as the children ran up to us to greet us with big hugs! It was an amazing start to the day!  We first took a tour through the casitas.  Josaline, the supervisor on duty, escorted us around and explained how the children are divided into houses by age. She first informed us that there are only about 30 children that live at Casitas Kennedy.  Typically there are 60-80, but since it's the holidays biological family members pick up the children to spend the holidays with them.  It can be the biological parents, aunts, cousins, anyone who is willing to be with the children for the holidays.  The children that remain are the children that no one wants which in itself was heartbreaking since we'd just spent a day with the kids and each of them were amazing!  How could anyone not want to spend time with this precious kiddos.  On the tour the first stop was the home for the teenage girls.  They were all inside sitting around a table making bracelets with the gifts we had brought the day before.  Scattered all around the house were the mattresses that they were airing out.   Since it's the holidays there really is no schedule, but typically the girls go to school in the morning and have some sort of education/training in the afternoon for either cooking, sewing, or crafts.

When we entered the house for children age 2-4 we met a little boy who had arrived last night with his sister.  We'll call him E and his sister V.  They were the most amazing 2 children.  When we first met each of them they were understandably confused, scared, almost catatonic not knowing what was going on.  Members from our team really embraced each of them throughout the day and just loved on them.  It was almost night and day difference from when we arrived.  It's hard to think about what they are going through today and how confused they must be that we're not there.

Next was the baby house where 8 babies live.  5 were up and watching TV and 3 were napping.  I'm not even sure how long we stayed in that house and just held the babies, but it was amazing.  Next was the birth mother home.  There were 5 teen moms (including a 12 year old), that had babies under 12 months of age.  The girls were absolutely fantastic.  They talked to us and also let us hold their babies.  Following the tour we had Wendy's for lunch.  We had 150 #1's.  I can't even imagine how the staff at Wendy's felt when our Honduran Helper, Juan, showed up with that order!  The kids absolutely loved it and even had a second helping!

The most heart wrenching part of the day was when 4 of the teenage girls decided to befriend me.  They came over to where I was sitting with some of the younger children and asked me what I do.  We started talking about adoption and very matter of fact they told me that they don't have families and want to be adopted.  Their understanding of their situation and the vulnerability in their questions really hit me hard.  Toward the end of the conversation one girl flat out asked me, "What is the likelihood I'll ever be adopted?"  She's 16.  She's no longer eligible for international adoption to the US.  Her hope now is to be adopted domestically in Honduras before she's 18.  How was I supposed to tell her that her chances of having a life beyond the orphanage or have a mom and dad were virtually impossible?  What was my answer?  "I don't know."  Before we left I promised each of the 4 that I would be their Godparent and would send them letters and they could write back to me.  Such a simple gesture and they were so excited.  How easy would it to send an email for me?  I send hundreds of emails a day.  What would be the impact of these girls receiving messages from their Godmother in the US even once a week?  Priceless. 

I want to urge you to consider to do something.  Maybe you can't jump on a plane and spend a week in Honduras, but could you be a godparent to one of the orphans at Casitas Kennedy?  Would you take a few minutes out of your day to let them know someone is thinking about them?  We are beyond fortunate to have a roof over our heads and the guarantee that tomorrow we'll wake up and someone will know that we exist.  We can go into our kitchen and there will be food for breakfast and someone to tell us Good Morning.  Maybe we don't always like our families or get along with them, but we have someone we can call family which is more than these girls have.

If you want more information on Gladney's humanitarian aid projects or ways you can get involved check out or send an email to  For more information on Gladney's Service Trips go to

Photos from Day 2:

Gladney Family Service Trip- Day 1

What a crazy start we had!  Having been on previous trips I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but there's always new obstacles to overcome!  Frank Garrott, President of the Gladney Center for Adoption, and Pattye Hicks, Director of Post Adoption Services, and myself, Beth Whitacre, Intercountry Adoption Caseworker, were the staff accompanying 5 Gladney families on a life changing trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  Let me start with a few caveats.  First, you'll see throughout the trip that everything was planned out methodically and that is a huge thanks to Pattye, Wendy Lee, and Fabiola Pineda.  However, when it's game time things don't always go as planned so I'll be leaving out all the sitting around and waiting that occurred and the "it'll just be 15 more minutes."  It's a part of the culture that I absolutely love, but that also drives me crazy at times.

Frank, Pattye, and myself met at the DFW airport at 2 pm on Thursday to start the trip. As soon as we arrived at the airport we tried to check in at the TACA ticket counter, only to discover it didn't exist.  We wandered around for 15 minutes before we were informed that TACA is now Avianca.  Arriving in San Salvador at 7:50 pm we were supposed to have  a 40 minute layover in San Salvador before boarding the plane to Tegucigalpa.  We were off the plane and walking across the runway to enter the terminal at 8:20pm.  As soon as we entered the terminal we were informed our connecting flight was departing and we were automatically rolled over to the next flight which departed the following morning at 8:30am.  As soon as the shock at frustration wore off we were shuttled to the hotel and had a very pleasant evening at the Quality Hotel near the airport.  I cannot say enough wonderful things about the hotel and their staff.  They made an otherwise disappointing evening into a great experience!  El Salvador is now on my list of places to visit in the future.

Finally arriving in Tegucigalpa Friday, the 27th, at 10 am we dropped off our bags at the hotel and met up with the 4 families to head to Casitas Kennedy.  Casitas Kennedy is a government run orphanage in Tegucigalpa.  When we arrived we were greeted by the foster families and children in the foster care program.  One very amazing little girl and her foster brother performed "Noche de Paz" for us.  A video of the performance will be available on the Gladney facebook page shortly.  The foster families were absolutely amazing.  Many of these Moms have had more than 50 foster children and were currently caring for 2-5 children each.  They receive very little funding from the government and many months receive nothing.  They are extraordinary individuals.

For lunch our team, the kids, foster families, and orphanage staff all had pizza and soda and then the foster families had to go home to take care of their families.  After lunch we handed out the Christmas presents to the kids.  You would have expected mass chaos, but it was a very calm and orderly process!  There was no shoving or pushing or fighting or any of it.  Some of the kids didn't even want to open their presents, they were just excited to have something.  One little girl was so fascinated with the wrapping paper and bows she didn't realize there was anything else inside.  The kids put away their toys and then we then started our project working in 2 gardens.  Each of the teenage girls were allowed to select "their" flower to plant and water and that they'd be responsible for.  It would give them a project to keep caring for the plants after we arrived.  The ground was like concrete.  Little kids, big kids, and adults pounded at the ground for hours trying to dig a whole big enough to plant a small flower.  I don't know how many gallons of water it took to loosen the dirt, but I'm amazed at the determination of everyone to get those plants in the ground!  At the end of the day we headed back to the hotel and had dinner at a Mexican restaurant just 5 minutes walking distance from the Intercontinental.

The highlights of the day for me were handing out Christmas presents and working in the garden with the girls who didn't say much, but wanted to help us plant flowers and several smaller children probably 4-7 years old who had so much personality it bubbled over!  Below are some photos from day 1: