Day 43: Guatemala City, Guatemala (2008)
There he was. That face, a familiar one staring through the bars at the boys’ home. Only seven months earlier, I had met him at another orphanage – a former prison turned place for throwaways. He wanted to sit and talk to the missionaries rather than play soccer with the boys. We had talked there of his life before, of being one of two sons dropped off by parents who couldn’t feed seven kids and felt boys could make their own way. Alfredo. He always smiled. I wondered if he might someday find his home in my home if adoption ever opened again in Guatemala.
This time, we would see each other but a brief moment. There were 703 miles to travel to deliver 739 pairs of shoes. Forty-five hours in a bus, five cities in five days. Alfredo’s would be one of five orphanages we would visit, along with a babies’ home, a widows’ home, and a school that had never seen North American faces before. But that moment was a good moment, because it told me he was still alive – and so was I.
I saw him again in 2010 at another orphanage – a place called the City of Children. With its high walls and guard shacks, it hearkened back to the former prison, and 1000 children slept and attended school and did chores there. He asked that day if he could come home with me – if it was time yet – and he said he would need to bring his little brother too. Our eyes filled with tears as we wondered what life would be like if the answer could been “yes.” And I asked him to promise to find a good job when the metal gate opened in two years and he was ushered into the stark reality of the outside.
Alfredo would be 21 now, and I pray he has that job. Maybe he has a family now, and his little brother is with him. I’ll return to Guatemala in just a precious few days, and I’ll be looking for his face. Always looking for his smile.
In December of 2007, the United States said it would no longer support adoptions from Guatemala due to the country’s reputation for corruption and trafficking of infants. At the time, adoption was one of the top revenue streams for the Central American country. The following spring, Guatemala closed international adoption. Though efforts have been made to improve the system, and domestic adoption is now on the rise in the country, international adoption remains closed. I am thankful to now work with Orphan Outreach, a ministry committed to providing care for orphans and to advocating for their rights, not only in Guatemala but in five other countries around the world.
Shoot like a Girl began as part of the #31days project. You can learn more about the “why” of my story and see all my daily posts here. I’d love to stay in touch with you – be sure to subscribe to my blog and visit my writer’s page to get updates on stories and special projects, including a collaborative that will publish this spring and a book about women who are fighting for change and beauty. Thank you for your encouragement!