Operation Underground Railroad – Part 2
I don’t think my heart was prepared for the roller coaster of emotions we all experienced in a few shorts days visiting Central America with Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.). I’ve followed and participated in small ways with the organization for a few years, and was always amazed by the impact and integrity of everyone involved. When the opportunity to travel and visit with their after care programs arose, I knew it was something we had to take advantage of.
When we found out we would be visiting one of O.U.R.’s aftercare partners, a private non profit orphanage for younger children, many which were directly or indirectly impacted by human trafficking, my first emotion was fear. I didn’t know how my mama heart would handle it. You always hear of children who have suffered imaginable heartache and trials, but to see their faces? It’s a whole different level of impact. I didn’t know what to expect and visions of crying children with soiled diapers, in cribs, came to my mind.
How happy I was to see that exact opposite.
I want you all to meet, House of Hope.
House of Hope is exactly what it’s name depicts. It’s a place of refugee and love. Have you ever walked into a place and felt love bounce off the walls, and permeate your heart? That’s what it felt like the when we first walked through the gates.
House of Hope is run by a woman named Diane. I’m sure, if you sit and think about it, you have a list of 5-10 people who have impacted your life for good, forever. Diane is this person for me. Though we only met her for a short time, her story and her soul were something I will never forget. She, unintentionally, helped me to heal some of my own life wounds.
Diane’s story is important. House of Hope started in Northern Colorado in 2009. Diane’s family took the project to Guatemala after a short term mission trip in 2011. The poverty, desperation and despair had a huge impact on their family. Diane and her family were familiar with loss, suffering and heartbreak. Her middle daughter, Hope, was 9 when she was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, cancer of the bone. She suffered unbelievably in her battle and eventually succumbed to the cancer.
Out of this heartache, Diane found greater purpose in service. She became a beacon of “Hope” to so many Guatemalan children. I wish you could all meet this woman and spend just a few minutes in her presence. She’s a great example of not only finding strength after tragedy, but also of taking that strength and using it to impact the world.
House of Hope takes children from a variety of difficult situations, and provides a safe place for them to stay. Once we got over the incredible cuteness that surrounded us (Babies!), we began to learn of their stories. A newborn rescued from the recent volcano eruption. A child abandoned by his parents. A child whose mother was murdered. An infant rescued from “The Line” where her mother was forced into sex slavery. These are stories you don’t forget.
O.U.R. provided support for babies when they were near death after the volcano eruption, due to not being able to keep their normal formula down. Also, they’re currently working with Diane to open a home for girls who are rescued from human trafficking specifically. This home is SO needed and we’re hoping that it will all come together in 2019! O.U.R also helps Diane with other humanitarian aid as well. O.U.R and their partnership with Diane is huge because they’ll always have a place for babies to be placed when they’re not able to stay with their mom when she’s rescued from human trafficking. One of the youngest moms of one of the babies is only 11 years old.
It’s a beautiful place, with a wonderful staff and several volunteers. When we arrived, many of the kids were in the living area. They’d just been through a bought of the chicken pox – those poor little guys, but all the children were so happy! It was comforting to see.
Diane gave us a tour of the home. Several rooms lined with cribs and beds did exist, but everything was clean and bright and had a feeling of home. The house was humble, and there wasn’t a ton of room, but what they had was well taken care of.
We got to hold and play with beautiful babies, and though it was wonderful, it was also difficult to not let those thoughts of “What has this child endured?” haunt you. The great news is, they are SAFE. That’s something that we often take for granted. I realize there are always exceptions, but the majority of us don’t go to bed wondering if we’ll live through the night. These are the types of situations they often deal with.
One thing that struck me was that for many of these kids, no one even knows their birthday. In some situations when they’re dropped off or rescued, Diane and her team really have no idea the medical history of the child. Many come into the home with lice – even as newborns. Many come with REAL health problems. If you’ve ever had a child with health issues, you know how frustrating and draining it can be. Yet, House of Hope works diligently to find the root of the problems and find QUALITY health care.
Diane showed us to another small building which was her office. While taking care of kids, running the business side of things, and taking care of her OWN family, she also runs a non profit that helps to fund House of Hope. She employs local artisan women to create LUM products and all profits go to House of Hope. Plus it helps provide an income for women in remote villages. Here, women typically don’t have the opportunity to pursue education or work to help their families. The LÜM Project is empowering women by instilling confidence, teaching business skills, and providing a source of income to help better their families. And when I say these products are beautiful, I’m putting it SO lightly. They’re amazing! Earrings to bags to blankets, it’s all a beautiful array of woven love. We are always excited to see women using their talents to create businesses that HELP. You can check out the shop HERE.
Spending time with these children, and with these adults who are making such a difference, was a humbling experience. It’s so easy to live our “safe” lives and forget that some people don’t have the same good fortune we have. Some are innocent victims, brought into this world in difficult circumstances, and sometimes not even wanted. On the other hand, there are powerful and wonderful people, who may never receive public accolades, who are fighting for these innocent children. There are people fighting for the good.
After returning from this trip, I had a difficult time adjusting. It was, for lack of a better word, haunting. I know those sweet babies and kids we had met were still there. I went about my day, curling my hair, picking up my kids, taxiing them around to their million different activities, made my family a large healthy dinner…..all the while knowing I was loved. Knowing when my birthday was. Knowing where I came from.
Operation Underground Railroad and the partners they work with are doing powerful things. They’re going into the belly of the beast and fighting evil and darkness with goodness and light. I know quite a few people who get uncomfortable when we talk about human trafficking and child sex slavery. GOOD! It should make you uncomfortable. It’s, in my opinion, one of the most awful things going on in our world. And, it’s rampant. Even here in the United States. In fact, did you know the US is the #1 consumer and producer of child pornography? This is a real and awful thing facing our world, and O.U.R. is doing something about it!
We are so grateful to be able to join this fight, and hope you will join too.
Right now, the biggest need O.U.R. has is financial. They need to do things like keep rescue operations running, fund aftercare facilities, and buy formula. We would love you to join us in becoming an ABOLITIONIST! Having seen O.U.R. in action, we know firsthand that these funds are being used sacredly and correctly. This organization is making a REAL difference taking the BEST part of our civilization (kids) and rescuing them from the most abhorrent.
Consider giving just $5 a month, or if you can do more, this is such a worthwhile cause. I’m willing to give up 2 Diet cokes a month in order to help kids like the ones we met at House of Hope! Are you?