09 Mar Orphanage Fire in Guatemala – Our Response
By Bradley Burck
You may have heard the horrible news coming out of Guatemala about a state run orphanage that caught on fire. We are trying to get all the details we can about what happened and how many perished in this tragedy. The details about the incident are coming out slowly and seem to change daily.
The name of the orphanage was Virgen de Asuncion. This is the same orphanage that all our mission teams visit when they come to Guatemala. For those of you who have visited this home, you know that if feels more like a prison than the kind of home we run for orphaned children.
Our sources tell us that 34 are now confirmed dead. That number is expected to rise in the next few days.
Virgen de Asuncion was built to hold 400 people. We know that 640 children were living there at the time of the fire. The ages of those children ranged from 5 to 18 and included children who were abandoned early in childhood, troubled teens whose parents released them into the custody of the state for care and rehabilitation, special needs children, teenage mothers, and teens convicted of crime.
As you can imagine, reports of sexual abuse and overcrowing have been coming from Virgen de Asuncion for the last few years.
The night before the fire, there was rioting in the orphanage. More than 60 boys escaped the facility.
The escape of the boys caused the institution to go into lockdown. Our sources tell us that in response to the lockdown a few teenage girls set a mattress on fire thinking the fire would cause the officials to open the doors and let them out. That fire quickly got out of control and consumed that section of the building.
The office of Human Rights is now demanding the orphanage be closed and all the children living there be moved to other orphanages, returned to their parents, or put in a foster care situation.
Our immediate response to this tragedy is to work with the leadership of the orphanage to provide the supplies, blankets, food, and clothing they need to help their children until they are all moved to new locations.
We also contacted the government and let them know we have the ability to take in 8 new children between the ages of 5 and 8. This will put us well over our financial and space capacity. We currently have 38 of 40 beds occupied. Adding an additional 8 children is going to make life very interesting for the next several months.
You can give to provide immediate resources to help all the orphans coming out of Virgen de Asuncion or to help Dorie’s Promise cover the costs of taking in an additional 8 children.
Please be praying for all the children of Virgen de Asuncion!