By Diane Springer, Founder – Orphan’s Hope Project, Inc., and Pinole Resident
When you travel to a third world country and live as the locals do, you see, feel and understand so much more than if you were staying in a hotel. May 2006, 8 years ago, I found myself in Guatemala, in a small village in the mountains. As a long time homeowner, business woman and resident of Pinole, I soon discovered that Guatemala was not at all like the comforts of Pinole, CA. I was one of 7 adults, volunteering for two weeks at Hogar Miguel Magone, an all boys’ orphanage outside of Guatemala City. The days were warm, the small bedroom (shared with 3 other adults) was cramped and hot but the smiles and hugs of the 55 boys were endearing. Staff was limited and that’s why our presence was so important to the children.
Some of the boys were indeed orphans. Some were without family members that could care for them or educate them. Some had been abused, in horrible ways, and they were little wounded souls. Some had been street children who needed a home and adult guidance. Some were malnourished when they arrived, but with many other active children around them, we saw kids change, grow and trust. They learned the rules, ate life sustaining food and started going to school. They were fed wholesome food, they had a bed and they had adults that cared.
Fast forward a few months to my second trip, with my adult son Aaron, in December 2006 and January 2007. Changes had been made. Things were improving and the Oakland Raider organization, the Exchange Club and other service clubs had become big supporters of me and my plans. Unfortunately, after that second trip, the support of the earlier organization was pulled from Guatemala and we feared that the orphanage would flounder. Financially strapped without funds from volunteer fees and without volunteers coming in, the work would increase and the children would struggle for attention and love.
February 2006 was a pivotal point in my life. After a few days of thinking about it, I decided that I could do this. I could find ways to help fund the orphanage and I could get paying volunteers to the home to be with and to work with the boys. I sought legal help and started the process to become a 501(c)3. Forming a non-profit organization meant I had to file all sorts of forms, register with multiple government agencies, do lots of research and reading, establish a board of directors, get a business license, file state and federal taxes for the non-profit in subsequent years, create a web site, etc. It was just something that had to be done to make it legal and to be recognized as a viable non-profit organization. In the fall of 2006, I received notification that the non-profit status of Orphan’s Hope Project, Inc. had been approved and that approval was retroactive to April 2006. Ah yes, I felt success at having done it and relief that the real work could begin.
Many trips were taken, many volunteers from all over the US went to Guatemala and worked (some local Pinole teens and college students also), many friends and families donated, many improvements were made and so many people and organizations supported our work. Many individuals and families came to Guatemala and fell in love with the children. For that, I will always be grateful.
Approximately 4 years ago, the Melia Family Foundation, a group of LegalShield Associates, decided to choose Orphan’s Hope Project, Inc. as their charity of the year for 2010. They worked hard and had various fundraisers, golf tournaments, bracelet sales, 5K Runs, auctions, cookbook sales, t-shirt sales and more. Instead of lending their support for just one year, they are now starting their 5th year of raising funds for Orphan’s Hope Project, Inc.
Fast forward again. With 16 trips to Guatemala under my belt, I am pleased to announce that we created something special in Guatemala. On May 24, 2014 we had the grand opening of Maria Auxiliadora, a brand new, architecturally designed, all girls’ orphanage. It is fully independent of the boys’ orphanage and will house 32 girls at capacity. It is next door to the boys’ orphanage and on a separate parcel of land, with tall walls for security and protection of the girls. It was designed with a princess theme, it looks like a castle, and we feel like the girls that live there are our princesses. They deserve it and they deserve a better life. We hope to empower the girls and teach them to be strong, independent women. There are two dorm rooms with bunk beds, multiple sinks and bathrooms, ample storage, a TV room, a study room, a large play room, an office, a couple of bedrooms for female volunteers, a restaurant quality kitchen, a large dining room, a laundry room and more. It is beautiful! Last year, we did buy a new Mitsubishi van for the new orphanage and it is the source of transportation for the girls and staff.
Yes, we did it. With the financial backing of the Melia Family Foundation and their Work, Play, Love organization, the new orphanage was fully funded and built. The Work, Play, Love organization continues to raise funds to pay the monthly administrative costs and other costs to run the new girls’ home. We hope you enjoy the photos and the tale of our incredible journey to get to this point. People helping people, across the world, donating what they can spare, working together selflessly, can make great changes in the world and in the lives of the innocents; the children.
For more photos and on-going updates, please ‘Like’ our Facebook page. It is Orphans Hope Project Inc. The web site is http://www.OrphansHopeProject.org but updates appear more often on the Orphans Hope Project Inc Facebook page. For additional questions, please contact me at OrphansHope@aol.com. Thank you to all who made this possible! You are heroes.