The visit to the government-operated children’s home just outside of Guatemala City was beyond eye-opening for Keith Henry – it was nearly overwhelming.
Henry was familiar with the stories describing the overcrowded conditions of the residential homes Guatemala’s child welfare services provides for orphans and youth, but it was the first time Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) Chief Operating Officer saw it with his own eyes.
“The home was packed with children. They were everywhere,” Henry says. “The building was supposed to be a home for around 300 children. Instead, there were about 800 boys and girls living inside.”
BCH cares for Guatemala orphans through the Good Shepherd Children’s Home in Quetzaltenango (also known as Xela), the second-largest city in the Central American country. BCH has taken its successful model of childcare and implemented it at the orphanage.
Since the BCH-affiliated orphanage opened in October 2014, the exceptional care provided to abandoned and neglected children at Good Shepherd has caught the attention of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and wife Hilda Patricia Morales. Henry along with Roger and Vicki Grossman, longtime Guatemala missionaries who oversee Good Shepherd Children’s Home and its nearby medical clinic, were invited to the Guatemala government’s launch of its new family foster care initiative. Henry was asked to speak at the event and discuss BCH’s childcare practices.
“It was an honor to be among so many dignitaries and other people who are active in the care of the country’s children,” Henry says. “I was able to share BCH’s history, the state of child care in the United States, and how BCH has arrived at the model of care we use.”
At the event’s conclusion, First Lady Morales personally invited Henry and the Grossmans to visit the government-operated children’s home.
“This was a huge overture on her part. They seldom allow outsiders to see their homes,” Henry states. “They see the success of Good Shepherd Children’s Home and are interested in using our model as a blueprint for enhancing their efforts to help children.”
After a lunch with Guatemalan officials, the group were taken to the government-operated home near Guatemala City where Henry and the Grossmans saw the overcrowdings firsthand. Henry says that much of the conditions are due to the incredible need.
“The ratio between caregivers and children is 40:1. You can tell they care deeply for the children, but they are in a difficult situation,” he explains. “Poverty and neglect are so rampant that they do not have the adequate structure in place to keep up with the needs.”
Since returning to North Carolina, Henry has heard from First Lady Morales’ office requesting BCH’s assistance as Guatemala moves forward with improving its child care practices.
“We are looking at ideas to help them establish small homes based on BCH’s proven model of care,” Henry says. “If we can change the lives of Guatemala’s children, like the ones I met, by sharing our experience and expertise, then it’s a good thing to do.”
If you would like more information about the Good Shepherd Children’s Home, or to make a financial gift, contact Keith Henry at 336-474-1215 or Brenda Gray at 336-474-1230.