Involucrar: A Spanish Word I Didn't Know Before Family-Care

I had worked in orphan care in Guatemala for over three years by the time I learned the Spanish word for “involve”. I realized this last month, as our Guatemalan staff jumped in full force with our new family-based care approach to orphan care. In one of our first meetings, our social worker highlighted the importance of asking churches, universities, and government officials to be involved in our work - involucrar.

Before this moment, it never even occurred to me that I didn’t know it, because there was never the need to use it in our previous context, working within the four walls of an orphanage. Local churches did visitas. Mission groups had actividades and proyectos. Staff members had their horarios and focused on the tareas of their wards. 

As we get our family-based care programming off the ground, I’ve noticed that the language that we use has shifted. We began focusing on involving the outside community in our work. We started talking about how to involve churches, universities, businesses, government agencies, and more. It may seem like just one little word, but I honestly believe it makes a world of difference.

Involucrar has the same implication as involve does in English: to bring in, take into account, encompass, embrace, and cover. The meaning of the word explains why I hadn’t heard it in our context before. I heard all about visits, groups, support, donations - even connection. But family-based care is about more than that. Involvement is the difference between orphan care through orphanages and orphan care through families. It is to bring in entire families, take into account their stories, encompass them with family-strengthening services, embrace them with the love and support of the local church, and to cover them with community connection.

In pursuing excellence and the best interest of the families we work with, we can’t be content to provide a monthly stipend to cover their needs and call it good. We need to be involved in their lives - providing psychosocial support, spiritual encouragement and personal connection. In the same way, we can’t be content to simply look out for the interests of the kids that we are involved with and ignore their parents or families. We need to be involved with all of them. 

More than that, as our social worker pointed out from day one, we need to be encouraging involvement within the local community. This comes through the form of a shared school experience, encouraging churches to take up the banner, and pointing outside supporters like yourself toward how to be involved.

All of this reminds me of the idea of accompaniment from Paul Farmer. He may be in healthcare and we may be in orphan care, but the idea is the same: in order to be effective in family reunification and orphan prevention, we need to come alongside the families we are working with and share life with them. Our (currently limited) staff cannot expect to do that on their own - and so we are exploring ways to encourage the involvement of the local community.

In April, we are planning to hold a community event designed for just this. The idea is to open the eyes of the local community not only to the plight of the orphan but also to the avenues they can take to address it. We will have representatives and participants from local churches, nonprofits, government agencies, universities and more. Our goal is to start the conversation about family-based care in churches and the community. Please pray with us as we prepare for this event in April! We will keep you posted on the progress. 

More than anything in our new work here in Guatemala, we want it to be about involvement - about partnership and accompaniments, both big and little. This may take more time and effort than embarking on something on our own, but the foundation will be more than worth it in the years to come.

meg hobbs