Posted on December 21, 2018
When two young and abandoned brothers walked to the Hogar Miguel Magone Orphanage just outside Guatemala City all the way from Honduras, it only evidenced that migration from the Northern Triangle was at critical mass. With gangrene on their young feet, dehydrated and hungry, the boys knew the orphanage would help. They were cared for until authorities removed them and took them back to Honduras. They returned a second time for aid but sadly were removed again. The orphanage is unsure of their condition or whereabouts.
A recent article by the United States Council on Foreign Relations bolstered the credibility of 2014 data from the Pew Research Center that the number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum on US soil continues to rise. The children are coming from Central America’s “Northern Triangle” which is defined as Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. This area was ravaged by a civil war in the 1980s and still struggles for stability.
In spite of billions in aid over the past decade, this region’s tropical beauty hides a wake of violence, drug trafficking, murder, and mayhem. Gang activity accounts for a horrifying murder and missing persons rate.
The children in residence at both the Maria Auxiliadora Hogar, a girl’s orphanage located outside of Guatemala City and the adjacent boy’s orphanage, the Hogar Miguel Magone, are victims of both the poverty in the area and especially the violence. In addition to residents, many local children visit the orphanage for food, shelter, education, and play.
Work, Play, Love, a 501c3 registered nonprofit organization, works to raise awareness and funds in an effort to assist the orphanages and school in their mission. Co-founder, Kim Melia began the nonprofit more than 10 years ago when she learned of the plight of the children. Work, Play, Love is committed to helping underserved children globally.
“The children we serve are all ages, we have toddlers to teens,” explained Melia. “All of them have stories, some absolutely heartbreaking. But the one bright spot is the love and care they receive at the hogars (Spanish for home).”
If not for the protection of the orphanage, many of the children would be or continue to be victimized. Guatemala and its Central American neighbors have the highest child murder rates in the world. The risk of gang exposure and forced recruitment is high among children. Those who refuse to participate are often killed.
Guatemala is about the size of the state of Tennessee. Comparatively, the state of Tennessee has a high crime rate among other states. The number of murders committed in the state of Tennessee with a population of roughly 6.7 Million has stayed below 400 people, annually. Guatemala has a population of nearly 17 million, however, reported murder cases there are statistically well over 4000 annually, with missing person reports adding another nearly 3000 people, potentially, to that number.
The Guatemalan National Police are overwhelmed with everything from petty crime to assault with deadly weapon crimes. Two primary gangs often utilize women and children to carry out drug trafficking; extortion is rampant. Unlike in the US, the Guatemalan Police do not classify assault that ends in eventual death, as murder. They report more than 5200 aggravated assault charges each year.
Currently, Work, Play, Love is promoting an awareness campaign and a “Dollar Drive”.
“The hope is to share the plight of these children with more people. We’ve worked within a smaller network of professionals in the prepaid legal industry to support the orphanages, but a humanitarian issue of this magnitude deserves a larger audience. Right now, we are trying to finish up construction on a school that’s adjacent to the orphanages, but with more global support, we can certainly expand our assistance to reach more children in need,” Melia explained.
To learn more about Work, Play, Love and the work they do in Guatemala visit their website at WorkPlayLove.org
Labrador, R., & Renwick, D. (2018, June 26). Central America’s Violent Northern Triangle. Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/central-americas-violent-northern-triangle
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(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.osac.gov/Pages/ContentReportDetails.aspx?cid=24030