Every once in a while you encounter a place so special and unique that describing it with words falls short. This is how I feel about Village of Hope, Guatemala.
Having been in Santiago Atitlan, we drove over a high mountain pass to reach them – crossing rivers in our van, and moving stones and firewood from the road to pass.
Upon arrival, Todd Block, the founder of Village of Hope, met us with his casual and genuine smile. We immediately liked him. He sat us down in their gathering area and explained the history, mission and vision behind the Village. This is their gathering and worship area centered in the middle of the 2 acre complex.
After adopting five of their own children (2 from Guatemala, 2 from the US foster system, and one from Ethiopia), God kept growing the Block’s hearts for the orphan. Specifically, they developed a passion to minister to to those living with HIV and other special needs. They did their homework, interviewing countless orphanages via Skype and in person to find out what worked, what didn’t work, and what kids in those situations really long for in the deepest places of their heart.
Turns out those children longed for what we all do: a family where they belong.
So with a little knowledge and a giant-sized faith in their hands, in 2011 they partnered with Lifesong for Orphans and moved to Guatemala to open the doors of Village of Hope.
The children are divided into families, and live in houses on site. The house parents are local Guatemalans who are raising these children with cultural tradition, love, faith, and most of all, hope.
Some of the kids have HIV, others have disabilities (two of their houses are wheelchair accessible). They have also started a new program called Pure Hope, which allows children to stay with their biological mothers. The majority of these moms are impacted by the HIV virus, and many are also very poor and have been subject to extreme abuses.
“Because of severe poverty, women in Guatemala are trafficked for prostitution at a young age, leaving them vulnerable to serious abuse and disease, including HIV.
This cycle of poverty and violence often repeats itself in the lives of their children.
Our Pure Hope program seeks to address malnutrition, sexual abuse, and disease to help one less child become an orphan.
This program exists to try and break this cycle and deliver HOPE to some of these women and children.”
-Taken from the Pure Hope brochure
Amy, Todd’s wife, came to meet us with a baby in her hand who had been discarded by the mom. She has hydrocephalus, a condition where there is water on the brain and causes great enlargement of the head. This couple is so precious. They were both hospitable, warm, and so kind.
Addisyn, Todd and Amy’s 19-year old daughter, has taken over the sole care of the baby, Lizzie, getting up with her all throughout the night. This young woman has a beautiful, bold spirit. At her young age she is doing such amazing things in the world already. You can join her one day lunch project every year on Feb.3. This is a great way to raise hunger awareness for kids and adults alike. We will be doing this as a family.
These people and this place – it reflects God’s heart so beautifully that one can only take it in and stand in awe. Todd and Amy are quick to point to God as the sole reason the Village is thriving and growing.
It is as well run as any organization I’ve seen. They pay close attention to how to best set up each child for success to create life-long change. They orchestrate the schedules of the house parents to prevent burnout. And they seem to have found a balance for themselves, hiring intelligently to free them up to do the work they need to do, both with the Village and with their own family.
Mission teams frequent the site all throughout the year. Most of the work that has been done is a result of these teams.
Here is the mission team bunkhouse:
and the dining room:
We drove away from that place with inspiration filling our hearts. God is using all of the gifts of the Block family to create something that is effective and very, very special. I have a feeling their unique model will serve as inspiration for others all over the world.
When we consider giving to people or a ministry, we are sometimes unsure about how the money will be used and if the ministry is being effective. I’m here to tell you that I’ve seen this place and met these people in person and they are doing it right. God is doing His work in this place.
We are so grateful for the work you are doing for the kingdom Village of Hope!