01 Aug Finding the Balance between Helping and Hurting
Visitors to Dorie’s Promise are often shocked by the widespread poverty they encounter. The vast differences between the familiar sights of modern Guatemala City with its American restaurants, gated communities, and shopping malls are a stark contrast to the families they meet working in the dump community or rural villages.
Understandably, visitors want to solve problems and help as many families as possible. The needs of Guatemalan families are great. With so much need, we must be very careful and intentional about how we work in communities.
Building on a firm foundation
When our short-term missions program started welcoming hundreds of visitors each summer several years ago, we knew that how we chose to help communities would be just as important as our work. We want to invite people to serve in Guatemala, and avoid falling prey to voluntourism (the exploitation of impoverished people in the name of volunteering and adventure seeking).
For our staff, serving well means investing deeply in the work we do and the people we serve.
At our heart, Dorie’s Promise is a home for orphaned and abandoned children. Our short-term missions program is an outreach based on our desire to reach children outside our home. Without resources supporting families on the verge of a crisis situation, more children will be in need of homes like Dorie’s Promise.
Our missions program is an extension of our belief in family preservation.
Our Community Project Director Bertha carefully evaluates every potential project to determine if it falls within our community project vision and our family preservation model. Every project can potentially change a family’s life and bless a community, but if we aren’t careful we could just as easily create an environment of dependency as opposed to independence.
Our goal is to empower local leaders and create change and opportunity within communities.
Finding the right way to help
Until you visit a home and listen as parents tell stories of choosing between sending their children to school or sending them to work in hopes of earning money for food, you can’t understand the choices these families make. We’ve met families torn apart by parents who must leave to find better work and those who can’t imagine a way to make their lives more stable.
Although our projects provide relief for immediate needs, we are not the primary resource in these communities. Instead, we partner with local leaders and organizations to pool our resources, affirm their commitment to their communities, and support long-term growth in communities. We make the greatest impact by serving our partners well.
Our ministry is a boost for the daily lives of families we serve, helping people better themselves and their situation while remaining independent.
Additionally, we choose projects that are cost-prohibitive for working families in Guatemala but will make a huge impact. A new metal home with concrete floors or properly ventilated kitchen would take a lifetime of saving for some families. In just 1 week, our teams can construct a simple home and create a healthier and safer home for a family.
By working with families and local laborers, our projects bring together willing volunteers, resources, and the local community. Giving families an opportunity to improve their homes grows their confidence and independence. Although we could show up with buses full of items, we choose to complete meaningful projects and support families as they continue working towards their dreams with community leaders. We give them the opportunity to better themselves.
Finding the balance between helping and hurting
Too many times the Guatemalan people are subjected to well-intentioned organizations who show up one day, do some projects, take some pictures, and then disappear. We do not want to be an organization who hands out items and walks away. We are committed to working with families and community leaders, supporting those working in communities full-time, offering relief and encouragement, and championing meaningful change in Guatemala.