Celebrating a Hope-filled Future at The Oasis Center
Reflections on our Recent Visit to Guatemala
by Dianne Sivulka
This month the Oasis Center in Guatemala hosted a special celebration. Six young ladies turned fifteen in 2021, and each year the Oasis Center holds one grand event to commemorate these notable birthdays. In Latin cultures turning fifteen is an celebrated pivot in a young lady's life. Moving from childhood to adulthood, this is when family and friends honor her with a traditional quinceanera.
For over 100 years, Kids Alive International has rescued vulnerable children in 12 countries worldwide. In Guatemala, they are specifically helping to break the bondage of exploitation. One-fourth of the country's population lives in extreme poverty, resulting in one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world for children under five. Physical and sexual abuse is rampant, and few perpetrators are brought to justice. As a result, many children, primarily young girls, are at risk for child labor, forced prostitution, and abuse. Kids Alive International is committed to rescuing children from heart-breaking situations and providing healing and restoration. The Oasis Center is a temporary home for girls who are walking this difficult journey. Many arrive in the middle of the night, with few possessions, accompanied by law enforcement. Afraid and uncertain, they are met by loving Tias (house moms) that welcome them into safety. Over the days that follow, a team of therapists, social workers, lawyers, house parents, and spiritual counselors help restore what was taken through a care plan unique to each girl. Hope replaces despair when Biblical principles and therapeutic tools, are lovingly used by staff.
Most girls who come to the Oasis Center will stay for 1-2 years as the pieces of her life are put back together again. Kids Alive International believes that every child deserves to live with a loving family, so efforts are made toward that goal from the very beginning.
In September, a group of American women traveled to Guatemala on a Travel on Purpose group tour. We spent one day of our trip at the Oasis Center learning about the transforming work of Kids Alive International. During our visit, we asked if there was a financial need that we could help with. That's when we learned about the quinceanera event the staff holds each year. About a decade ago, the team began holding this special event once a year to commemorate all the girls living at Oasis who would be turning fifteen that year. It was one additional way to let them know they are loved; they are not forgotten and worth celebrating. We said we'd love to help raise funds for that and went to work sharing the need with our family and friends. It was a small way we could contribute to the work being done at the Oasis Center.
We learned that each girl would meet a dressmaker and have a unique gown designed just for her. She would have her make-up and hair done. She would be given a fresh bouquet of flowers and be given a place of honor at the ceremony. She would be prayed over and presented with a unique ring. She would be reminded that she is a cherished daughter of the King of Kings.
Many times since September, I've thought about all the preparations that were underway for the quinceanera celebration. I wondered about the dresses being made and all the arrangements that were taking place. I wondered how it all went. And then, this week the video arrived! What a celebration!
I remembered back to the conversations we had with the girls over lunch. Over steaming hot bowls of Pepian de Pollo stew and tortillas, we got to ask each other questions. They asked us about our lives back home, and we asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. The answers were significant, even though I didn't realize it at the moment. I heard one say, "A lawyer." Another said, "A social worker." Still another said, "A dressmaker." Now it all makes sense. So much has been taken from these girls. But they are being built back up to the wholeness that God intends for them. They are surrounded by loving adults who only want the best for them. And as they feel that tangible affection, and know they are being cheered on by the loving adults in their lives, they are inspired to be like them.
I'm thankful for the incredible role models that these girls have at the Oasis Center. I'm thankful for Kids Alive International who is rescuing, redeeming and restoring one story at a time. I'm thankful for the opportunity to see first-hand how God is moving in the hearts of these young people.
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