Volunteers Make a Difference at Guatemalan Orphanage - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

07/12/07

Volunteers Make a Difference at Guatemalan Orphanage

A nun sits with a child as Dr. Mort Hourihane looks on. A nun sits with a child as Dr. Mort Hourihane looks on.

Volunteers with "Faith In Practice" are committed to making life better for the underprivileged in Guatemala. In February WTOC video journalist Bob Wells and I went with them on one of their medical missions.

We quickly learned the volunteers make this mission very special. Many of them have made a commitment far beyond the missions, like Dr. Mort Hourihane of Savannah. He saw a need and jumped into action. Now almost 8 years later, his mission is giving children who many have given up on a fighting chance at life.

In Guatemala, these children are the ones who no one wants. Because of their physical and mental disabilities, people typically shun them. In 1999, two Spanish sisters who are also nuns came to their rescue. In their early 20's the sisters moved to Guatemala to help the poor. While their hearts were in the right place, they did not have any resources. Just by coincidence, one of the sisters took a child to the hospital in Antigua when the Faith In Practice volunteers were there.

Dr. Mort Hourihane remembers the first time he saw them. He explains, "The initial thing was curiosity. I see the sister look virtually anorexic and she has a child with her who is 3 to 5-years-old much better fed than she is."

That's when he learned about their attempt at running an orphanage. "When we met her they had 16 infants. They were living in a partially covered carport. They had no income stream and were totally dependent on a poor neighborhood. We made a trip out to their site and it was so pathetic that if you had anything you would give it," recalled Mort.

The nuns had just enough food for the children...they ate whatever scraps the children left behind and slept on the floor so that the children could sleep on the cots. Mort met a doctor from California and they started raising money and eventually built this state of the art facility they call "Casa de Angeles" in the mountains about 30 minutes outside of Antigua. It is home to 40 children of all ages and disabilities.

Mort said, "We make them into a family and they become their brothers and sisters."

Sister Elbisa is one of the founders. She said, "My hope is that they are good in their hearts and that they will do well in school and eventually go back into the world and have a profession and that God is in their lives. "

Her faith and the support of others has these children thriving. Many are also going to school which was only a dream years ago. Sister Elbisa takes no credit for their progress. She said, "It isn't her. It is God. Without God she couldn't have done it."

All of us were forever changed by the experience and by the time the children said goodbye, there wasn't a dry eye in our group. Even as the bus pulled away, the children ran behind wishing us farewell. "Adios! Bye, bye!"

We will never forget these children. Mort and other board members are hoping that they can raise enough money to send them to college and hopefully these kids will remember their kindness and help the orphanage when they become adults so that there will always be a place for the children in need of a loving home.

For more information about the orphanage and how you can help, email Dr. Mort Hourihane at jmpjack@bellsouth.net

Remember 100 percent of the donations go to help the children.

Reported by: Dawn Baker, dbaker@wtoc.com

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