Now that I’ve been here for almost a month, I figure it’s time to finally get around to explaining what exactly Esperanza de Ana does.
This is a description of their work from the website:
Our passion is to strengthen families while offering a place of healing for the hearts and minds of each child and parent who has experienced trauma or is suffering crisis. Through the education center we focus on the integral development of each child while we work to encourage parents to value each child and discover their gifts.
We offer part-time residential care for a limited time when intervention is necessary for child safety, if there is a crisis in the family that warrants the need, and/or for a time of teaching children the routines of a healthy life-style that they can take back home with them each weekend.
Above all things, we remain committed to being a hand that guides on the way to restoration and eternal hope. Systems come and go, but children are individuals created and called by God. Only He knows the future He has for them. We are to be committed to uphold their rights as children and to bring justice and mercy as our Heavenly Father directs for each child and family…to bring eternal hope through Christ’s love.
The truth is that we do not know how the journey will develop for each child. But we cling to the verse that we memorize with the children, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11.
That’s a lot to take in, and to fully understand it, I think it’s important to go over some of the history of the ministry. Throughout the 5-year construction period (2006-2010), there was a changing vision of what the mission of Esperanza de Ana would be. By the time it was ready to begin operating (2011), the thought was that it would be a children’s home. An existing children’s home across the street was closing, and the nine children who lived there were taken in.
Quickly, the missionaries and national staff realized that the children they were taking care of weren’t orphans in the literal sense of having no living parents. They were “social orphans” – kids who were separated from their parents due to trauma, crisis, or other strains on the family unit. This realization, plus the belief that every child has the right to grow up in family rather than institutionalized and feeling unwanted and unloved (abuse and other extreme cases aside), led to a shift in mission. Esperanza de Ana transformed into a family restoration and preservation program. The children’s parents were brought into the children’s lives again and became responsible for taking care of them on the weekends.
As you might imagine, this wasn’t an easy path for anyone. The parents were faced with getting to know and care for children who they had given up and hadn’t interacted with in years. The kids were adjusting to changes in every part of their lives. The missionaries and national staff were trying to figure out how to manage a program that was completely different from what they were expecting. The families all met weekly with a social worker and psychologist and slowly adjusted to the changes and new expectations.
Fast forward to today, and all of those original kids are living full-time in family. Pretty amazing, right? Even after kids move out of part-time residential care, the kids and parents remain in the program and continue to receive aid, including scholarships and emotional support from the staff.
The program has evolved even more and is now divided into three parts: Launching Leaders (the scholarship program), La Escuela (the after-school program), and Strong Families (the program for parents). Launching Leaders includes kids who are in part-time residential care and kids who are living with their families full-time but are still receiving support in other ways. The kids receive scholarships and school supply support as needed and attend the after-school program. La Escuela also includes kids from the community and provides lunches during the school day and education reinforcement after school. Strong Families works with the parents to develop action plans and set goals and supports them as they strive to reach those goals.
The summer school that is going on now includes both program kids and community kids. It’s cool that the ministry is really becoming an integral part of the community, through this program and the after-school program. The summer school is seriously awesome. The kids are being exposed to so many different things, and it’s fun to see how excited they get and how brilliant their ideas are. They all have so much potential inside of them, and when they have opportunities to explore their interests, learn new things, and be creative, it’s amazing to see what they’re capable of.
After meeting the people who are/were a part of making it all happen, I can see how this seemingly impossible story came together. The missionaries and national staff have such a love for God, for these kids, and for the work that they’re doing. They’re motivated and practical and have taken on challenges that seem insurmountable. I’m amazed by the team that God has assembled to do His work here and by how faithful He has been in providing exactly who and what is needed. I know it kind of sounds like I’m making them out to be saints, but that’s not my intent. They’re normal people who have listened to the call to use their skills to build this ministry, and God has equipped each of them with what they need to do so.
In conclusion, it’s a cool place to be a part of, I’m learning a lot about myself and about helping people effectively, and I’m beyond happy that I ended up here for however short a time. If you’re interested in seeing more of the work they’re doing or getting involved, definitely check out their website or their Facebook page to see updates.