I recently returned from a Vision Trip to Guatemala with staff and prospective donors. Part of our activities for the week included a “Protocol” Ceremony with officials of the Guatemalan Government including Justices of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the Executive Director of the National Council for Adoption, and the Secretary of Social Well Being (Human Welfare) in Guatemala City. Roberto Tejada, Interim Executive Director, Buckner Guatemala and I represented Buckner and Martin Hayes represented USAID (United States Aid and International Development).
The Protocol Ceremony was the official culmination of a two-year Buckner project in Guatemala funded by a $1 million grant from USAID to build capacity of the Child Welfare System in Guatemala; to develop child permanency (transferring children from institutional care/orphanages into healthy biological, foster, kinship, and adoptive families); and to enhance the infrastructure for Child Welfare services. Margaret Elizabeth McKissack, Director of Corporate and Institutional Relations for Buckner was the original grant writer and project leader. She assembled a cross-functional team at Buckner to develop the grant and launch the project. The Project was named Fostering Hope Guatemala in Texas and Semillas de Esperanza (Seeds of Hope) in Guatemala. Phil Brinkmeyer, Carlos Colon, Chris Cato, Sully de Uclés, and Roberto Tejada were key leaders in this strategic effort.
The goal of this project was to transfer 103 children in Guatemala from institutional care to healthy familes. As of last week we surpassed the goals with 151 children in families, ahead of schedule and under budget, thanks to the generosity of Tyler Technologies and the excellent stewardship and management of the Semillas Team.
Roberto Tejada, Martin Hayes and I had the privilege of a private audience with 11 of the 13 Justices of the Guatemalan Supreme Court to thank them for their effort to de-institutionalize vulnerable children and orphans. I also had honor of addressing a group of dignitaries, government officials, Buckner Guatemala staff and media representatives in the Supreme Court Chamber to transfer equipment, a database developed by Tyler Technologies, and training manuals to the President of the Supreme Court.
You will notice the picture of the four flags at the Supreme Court Protocol Ceremony. The flag of the Guatemalan Supreme Court; the flag of Guatemala; the flag of the United States of America; and the flag of Buckner International. So we are now “Buckner Nation.” Maybe we are not a nation but we certainly are a place. We are a place where hope shines bright; a place where children are placed in healthy family environments; and a place where lives are redeemed.