Sunday, October 26, 2008

One good thing after another

We've now been back in the country for 6 weeks and there is news to share!

When we left South America, we knew that we would pursue the adoption of a sibling group of children. Although our hearts are sad to be away from the orphanage and these little ones - we knew we had to get into action to prepare for their arrival.

Joel and I have had the pleasure of getting to visit almost all of our family and many of our good friends - from Burlington, Colorado to Kansas City to Iowa to Sioux Falls - since we've returned. During this time, we also visited our home church in Gypsum, Colorado. While planning on telling our church of our plans to relocate to Denver - we experienced a change of heart.

Our community's response to our return was overwhelming. Their love and support of the new adventures that lie ahead of us made us realize, again, the importance and value of community. After all, what do we hope for the people of Peru? For them to have the basic necessities of life, hope and a future - which often starts with building community - people that come together to share, pray and take care of one another's needs. The small mountain town of Gypsum is our community... our home.

Despite difficult times in the economy, our jobs fell into place. I have taken a new position with the orphanage as the U.S. Administrator. Hogar de Esperanza / Saving Street Children has become my passion and I work from home to build a monthly giving program, raise support, speak at churches and social groups, coordinate future volunteers and help with the operational details of the orphanage. And, although Joel applied in Denver and looked for jobs elsewhere, he was hired within a few hours of applying to UPS in Glenwood Springs - the next town over from Gypsum. UPS is a great fit for Joel and for our future family.

For 6 weeks, we've been wanderers. We've skipped from house to house and friends have been generous to feed us and give us a place to sleep. But, with adoption in mind - it was time to look for a house of our own. After 5 days of beginning our search, we found the perfect home - just right for our growing family - and at a low price for our valley. It just happens to be in our old neighborhood - very family orientated with a great mix of English speaking and Spanish speaking families. We close on November 21 - the Friday before Thanksgiving. We are thankful. good thing after another

Friday, September 12, 2008

Coming home... or at least back to the U.S.

Joel's parents greeted us at the airport and after hugs and tears drove us directly to a Mexican restaurant to appease our year long craving. We then spent a few days with Joel's brother, sister-in-law and nephews. They have been amazing to us this past year and have supported us in incredible ways. They kept our vehicles, managed our finances, and loved our dog (even though he dug holes in their yard and escaped a few hundred times.) And Laurie served amazing meals - all of our favorites.

Now we've taken a few days to rest, reflect and be alone at the Hanson family mountain home, the J's Nest. We've been back a little over a week - and I have to say we're still adjusting. It's tough. Tougher than I thought it'd be. What's the hardest part? I'm not sure I could pin point it to one thing. Maybe it's facing the harsh reality of our culture - the stuff, the constant want for more, and the focus on self; maybe it's the way we look at things now - what we used to think was poverty, now looks rich; maybe it's the solitude of our society - we're side by side, but in our own worlds - so far from community or personal interaction;

or maybe it's what we're missing - mornings hearing Tia and Tio, receiving hugs and tight squeezes from 40 children each day, laughing with the workers as they give us grace with our spanish speaking skills, hearing Buenos Dias from every person we pass by in the city, driving the kids to school in the bus each day, watching the amazement as kids pull carrots from their garden, buying cake that Yuli and Rocio made in their baking class, crying with kids who want to be adopted and are still waiting for the right family, watching the children learn new skills, being human jungle gyms for the boys, and knowing that every day we woke up - it would be one of the best days of our lives.

...maybe it's what we're missing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Leaving Peru

There is so much more to tell about our year here - so many more pictures to show and blogs that never were written.

Packing, last minute training and good-byes. Whirlwind of emotions - happy and sad. I'd add a picture - but it would show the mascara running down my cheeks.

Our bus leaves Trujillo Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. It's hard to believe a year has come and gone - an amazing journey.

We have so much more to share - the blog's not over, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New Brochure

Creating a brochure for our albergue in Spanish and in English is a project I was able to begin and finish in the past few months. The brochure came to completion with a ton of help from Liz, Clara & friends at Peru Mission and Grafica Real. We hope this tool will help spread the word of this wonderful ministry and bring more volunteers, prayer partners and supporters.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Thanks to Darrel, most of our bikes were fixed up and ready to be used, again. Joel supervises bike time - teaching some kids how to ride, fixing chains, helping reduce crashes and watching all of the kids smile!
Just a note: the orphanage is in need of new bike pedals, bike seats and tire tubes - all kid sizes.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Vocational Program

This program was a vision of mine before I came to the orphanage last September. I had talked with the Vickie Miller many times about the need to have a program for our older children - especially those who would not be going to University. We planned for several months and initiated our program last January with 3 students. I helped write the program and the first part was mainly socialization. The 3 students, Yulianna, Rocio and Kevin, spent three months learning how to use public transportation, city awarness and important locations. It's a tough system to learn and get the hang of - micros zoom buy calling out their destinations and barely stopping for you to board. After this part of the program, we felt they needed a little more preparation and entered them into a speech class. They spent two months interacting with a variety of students ranging from 14 to 55, where they learned self-confidence. I helped them go into town for each class, but eventually were able to go to class on the micro system by themselves and I only helped them return.

This past week, Yulianna and Rocio started the next phase of the program - vocational training. Two days a week, they attend a baking class instead of our on-campus school. Now they are able to go into town and return all by themselves. I had tears in my eyes when they came home from their first day of class successfully and showed me their very first cake! They were so proud of themselves and I have to say... it was one of my proudest moments, as well.

Rocio and Yuli

Thursday, August 7, 2008


In July we had a church group of 33 from First Baptist Church in Platte City, Missouri come visit the orphanage for a week. They did a number of things - painted, helped with our green areas, and did outreach in the Plaza and a popular mall. The group was led by youth pastor, Brady Testorff and his wife Trish.
Brady and Trish were at the orphanage when I was here in 2006, but they weren't with their church group. They were here on their own, finalizing an adoption of two children - Yessenia (13) and Paul (10), growing their family to seven. Here, two years later, they return. Yessenia was turning 15 and her desire was to have her Quinceanero at the orphanage with all of the children, workers and her new family. Quinceanero or 15th birthday party, is the most important birthday for a girl in the Peruvian culture. It was a first for the orphanage and was a wonderful celebration. The cafeteria was decorated with balloons, empanadas were shared and a beautiful cake was cut and served. We invited the officials from the family court system and those that knew Yessenia when she was at the orphanage. Brady spoke about the grace of God in Yessenia's life and he and Trish symbolically changed Yessenia's shoes to represent her beginning a new stage in her journey. It was an moving celebration and a wonderful testimony to the beauty of adoption.

Liz, orphanage director, gives Yessenia her bouquet

Brady shares a message with the help of a translator.

Joel and I shared a song

Robyn and Yessenia

They also decided to visit their biological mother while they were here. I went along to be a support and help translate. It was a nervous and quiet ride to the house. Tears were shed as they embraced their biological mother and other older siblings. Their mother thanked Brady and Trish for providing Yessenia and Paul with a home and a family that loved them and took care of them. One of their siblings had already died in a gang battle and another is very ill from drug use. The mother is now a christian and, with her fiance, is trying to stop drinking to end that cycle. It was an emotional visit and a shocking reality for Yessenia and Paul to see. They hadn't been in their mother's home for more than 6 years.

Yessenia and Paul's return was challenging. They were face to face with their past - seeing the orphanage and their past through new eyes. Their memories of how things were didn't always match up to the reality. Two years in the United States had changed them. It was interesting to see them on the other side - they were helping and serving the orphanage instead of being on the receiving end. The children and workers at the orphanage loved seeing them and when it was time to say goodbye - their role had changed. We stood on opposite sides - the children/staff sang and the group stood across the grass and listened. We thanked them for coming and they thanked us for hosting them. However, in the end, we all shed tears and hugged - knowing we will all miss each other and be a part of each other's lives forever.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Independence Day

July is the month to celebrate independence - for the United States and for Peru. Here, the streets, stores and taxis are covered in red and white and flags are hanging everywhere.
The volunteers intitiated the month of celebration by hosting a party in honor of both countries and Amy's (volunteer) birthday on July 4th. Another volunteer and I searched all of Trujillo to find any type of fireworks or sparklers. Apparently the only time they are sold here in Peru is during Christmas and New Year's. However, Elias (our Peruvian McGyver) was able to find six firework/explosives, which we set off at the end of our party. The orphanage staff and volunteers gathered on the second floor and we all sang our national anthems - even Joy, from England, sang God Save the Queen. We shared a few stories of why we love our countries and the different traditions we use to celebrate independence. We ate chocolate cake (for Amy's birthday,) popcorn and 2 volunteers made my mother-in-law's apple crisp, which the Peruvians fell in love with. It was a great time of sharing the beauty of independence.Now, we're here at the end of the month where most of Peru takes two days off from work and some schools are off for 1-2 weeks to really celebrate. The streets are filled with parades and children showing off their love for the country by participating in traditional dances, dramas about the history of Peru and marching with their flags and songs.

The orphanage kids and staff ready for the parade

City officials and the Peruvian flag

Living history of Peru

Future military

Our kids from the orphanage - marching with their classmates

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Octopus - I meant Squid!

A local fisherman made an agreement with God. If he had a good catch out at sea, he would bring his best to the orphanage as an offering. His last gift gave us lunch and dinner for two days! Here's some pictures of our SQUID with Joy (volunteer from England) and Elias, our Peruvian McGyver.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Training on Preventing Sexual Abuse

After attending a national conference for orphanage directors last fall, our own director, Elizabeth Bernuy, was selected to implement training on Sexual Abuse throughout Trujillo. She first brought the training to us this past month and it was a important day learning how to deal with this serious issue and the precautions we can use to protect our children.

Many of the children in Peru have suffered from sexual abuse in their past. It is a horrible violence that they deal with in silence. This training was first given to our entire staff providing them critical information on how to identify the signs of sexual abuse, preventions and ways to communicate with children about this topic. The next day we spent with the children at the orphanage talking about the importance of speaking out against this abuse, how they can protective themselves and building trust with the adults currently working with them.

The most difficult training was given the last day to the biological families of the children who are in the orphanage. Many of the biological parents and siblings, themselves, have suffered sexual abuse. It is a common problem, especially in the poorer areas. People are ignorant of it's destroying power, how to stop it or take precautions against it. Many of the parents were teary eyed as they shared their own experiences. The timidly listened to the training and thanked us for approaching such a difficult subject.

There is hope and a beginning step of healing. The training is still being talked about and there are windows of hope with some of our most difficult cases. Our director will now help instruct and train other orphanages throughout Trujillo. It is an honor for our orphanage, privately run, to be selected to implement this training.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Today, I opened my email and read about Laura Genelin's passing - after a year long battle with cancer. I had Laura's daughter, Morgan, in my 3rd/4th grade class 2 years in a row and Laura was one of those amazing parent helpers and eventually - friend. Morgan, 11 years old, has been faithful at keeping in touch with me over this past year. She sends emails, silly stories, memories of my class and also her struggles with her mom's sickness. Laura sent me an personal email about a month ago, asking me to continue being a support to Morgan and asked if I would promise to see Morgan when I return to the states. It has been an area of immense sadness for me... and point of reflection of our year here in Peru. After only being here a week, Joel's long time, close friend, Justin, passed away in a car accident. Then, a few, short months later, Vickie Miller, passed away to her second bout of cancer. Now, we are dealing with our third loss - Laura. There are never easy answers or ways to console. Our comfort is in God, the hope of eternal life and His never-ending love for us in the midst of our sorrows. It's hard to deal with the losses being so far away from home. We pray for the Genelin family and all those who knew and loved Laura.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Our nephews and their 42 new friends...

In writing a letter to his cousin, Jonah remarked, "I have 42 new friends..." in Peru. Here are just a few of them.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Darrel came to us from Texas and was here while Joel's brother's family was here. He came as a stranger and left as one of our dear friends! Even though he didn't speak much spanish, he had a way of communicating and making everyone feel appreciated and special. He told great stories, was always at work and ready to fix anything! Darrel became great friends with our own maintenance guru, Elias and made all the kids smile by fixing all of our bicycles! Darrel has a passion to serve and left fired-up and ready to tell everyone about Hogar de Esperanza and the work going on down here. Some of his last words blessed us - "I want to come back next year and bring my grand-daughter with me." We look forward to it!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The 'other' Hansons & friends...

Joel's brother's family came to volunteer and visit us at the end of May and brought along two awesome guys from their church, Ben and Bryson. We were also blessed to have two of our closest friends, Travis and Bonnie, come and volunteer as well. Bonnie was the friend who traveled with me the first time I came to Peru in 2006. Having everyone here was a HUGE blessing and a blast!! Joel and I are overwhelmed by the people who traveled all the way to Peru to see us and share this experience first hand with us.

A few volunteer highlights: painting the casitas, setting up horseshoes, teaching in the school, playing soccer, reading books with the kids, helping in kinder program, fixing soccer goals, playing soccer, entering data into our library database, giving out new clothes to the kids, playing soccer, new crocs for all the kids, covering books, cutting down trees, making spinners with the kids and playing soccer

Fun times: Huanchaco beach (our nephew's and Bryson's first time to see the ocean,) Huaca de la Luna ruins, eating chorihuevos, visiting our church, dancing with Lurdes and her uncles - the Los Caimanes, crabs at Delicias beach, surviving the hike at Machu Picchu, singing during morning devotions, long talks and playing games before bed

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Art Class

I still get to teach art in Escuela de Miller. One week we designed picture frames and drew a picture of someone important to us. The kids drew great pictures of their moms, favorite volunteers, madre tutoras and tias. They were so proud of their work and excited to take the pictures into their casitas and put them up.