Our Story for 2018
Dear Friends and Supporters,
We have come to the end of another wonderful year in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Since Story International was founded in 2012, we have been blessed to serve the local community through our various on-the-ground programs; a bilingual elementary school, support for a children’s home, a transitional living program for young adults, and several small social enterprises.
This past year we have served over 150 children and young people through our programs, and we are excited for what’s to come in 2018. In 2017, the Lord proved himself faithful to us time and time again. He walked with us through challenging seasons of heartbreak and loss, He reminded us of His goodness in moments of triumph and great joy, and He is currently showing us more of His grace as we walk through a season of transition. This year has brought quite a few significant changes to our organization, and we want to take the time to explain these changes to you - our donors, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ on this journey.
Story International was originally started to support Fundacion Salvación, a children’s home located in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, after the tragic death of the original founder, Sandra de Temaj. Over the past six years, Story has been the primary funding agency for the home through our sponsorship program. We have also provided full scholarships for all kids living in the home.
In the last two years, Story leadership took on the primary administrative role at the home. We were able to make significant strides in restructuring the model of care according to what we believe to be best methods and practices for running a residential-care facility.
What the Past Two Months Have Brought for Our Story
As we brought changes to the home in the interest of the kids’ wellbeing and future, it became apparent that our vision was not in alignment with the founding family or Guatemalan board. As a result, they asked our leadership team to leave their role as directors within Fundación Salvación in November. The founding family made it clear that Story International would no longer have a role in decision making and vision casting within the children’s home.
The founding family wishes to follow a more traditional institutional model of orphan care. In contrast, Story International has been working to move away from an orphanage model and toward family-centered and family-style care. With this fundamental difference in mind, and given the fact that our leadership would no longer have direct involvement in decisions regarding the children’s wellbeing, we made the difficult decision to withdraw funding from Fundación Salvación starting January 1st, 2018.
At the same time, we made it clear that we would continue to support the kids with scholarships, uniforms and supplies at the School of Hope. Unfortunately, the founding family has communicated to our board that they will be withdrawing the elementary-school aged kids from the School of Hope. The younger children at the Fundación will instead attend the local public elementary school.
We know that this news is heavy for you as sponsors and supporters, and as individuals that have developed personal relationships with the children and young people at the home . Our hearts feel that same heaviness as we process this transition. We have poured the best of ourselves into this specific group of kids. We have watched them grow and mature and begin to step into God’s destiny for their lives. We are so incredibly thankful for all of it and look forward to continuing to be a part of the kids’ lives in any way we can. All of that said, we feel God pulling Story into a bigger dream in this season. We are committed to continuing to pursue God’s heart for Huehuetenango beyond what our roles have been at Fundacion Salvacion up until this point.
We share this news with the full knowledge that it will bring up many questions about the future and wellbeing of the kids. This change is not something that we take lightly, and we welcome your questions. We are thankful that many of our staff members (as teachers and past houseparents), will still have a daily role within the Fundación this coming year. We can tell you that we are fully committed to advocating for the wellbeing of the children that have been in our care, however and whenever we can.
Moving Forward in 2018 - Writing a New Story
Independently of these changes, the Lord began to place some big dreams and visions on our hearts several years ago. Those dreams have evolved as we’ve continued to educate ourselves and identify the greatest needs regarding orphan-care in the Guatemalan context. And now, with this current shift of our involvement at the Fundacion, we are actually being freed to step into and pursue those things.
We are seeking God’s direction in creating something that truly helps the most vulnerable in Guatemala. We are convinced that there are positive elements of family-based care that we can implement in the community of Huehuetenango. Our goal for the future is to strengthen Guatemalan families through support services, reunification and advocating for adoption and foster care. We are also looking to maintain our commitment to family-style residential care by establishing an emergency shelter for the children of Huehuetenango that most need it.
We would love to have you partner with us as we develop these programs focused on family-based care in Guatemala:
An emergency shelter to care for children with temporary cases, while their home situation is resolved or they find placement in family-based care options. The shelter will provide care for up to 12 months.
A permanent, family-style residential home for children who are unable to be reintegrated with biological family, adopted or placed in foster care.
A strong social services staff that will develop family-based care in Huehuetenango. Although over 5,000 children are in protective care in Guatemala, just over fifty were placed in foster care from 2015 to 2016 and 300 were adopted the same years. At the same time, the majority of these children remain in ‘temporary’ institutions for many years instead of being reunified with biological family. Our vision is to see family-based care become the new norm.
A community center focused on ‘orphan prevention’ and family support through educational, social and psychological services. We look to partner with churches, universities and other organizations in Huehuetenango to have an impact beyond the four walls of an residential institution.
We have a dedicated team of Guatemalans, Americans and Canadians who are passionate about seeing these plans come to fruition. In the next months, we are excited to share more specifics about these new programs as our team begins to plan and design all the details. We are currently looking at land and we will soon begin fundraising for a brand new facility that would encompass all of these elements. In the meantime, we will use our current facilities to have our social services staff provide support to families of kids who previously lived in the childrenś home. We will also begin to work on the advocacy and prevention pieces of family-based care.
On top of these new plans, we will continue to serve our community through our existing programs: El Puente as a transition program for kids coming out of the children’s home, the School of Hope as a source of education and mentorship for the local community and kids who previously lived at fundacion (about 15 total), and Fuego Cafe as a community hub and center of operations. The funds we receive that go beyond these programs will be used to establish family-based programs in the community we serve.
Your Continued Support for Guatemala’s Most Vulnerable
Our mission and vision remain the same: to empower and equip Guatemala’s most vulnerable so that we may one day see the end of generational poverty and the restoration of family structures. We ask you to continue supporting our work in Guatemala with this mission in mind.
Moving forward, child and school sponsorships will be shifted to monthly support for the new programs outlined above. If you would like to continue supporting our work, you do not need to change anything. If you have questions about the sponsorship changes, feel free to contact our leadership staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mission teams and visitors will still be welcome within the children’s home during their time in Huehuetenango, and we will continue to coordinate this involvement.
Your support is crucial to our mission and the work we do in Guatemala. Our work would not be possible without supporters like you! If you have any questions about the changes coming in 2018 do not hesitate to contact us directly.
Thank you and God Bless,
The Story International Board of Directors