We didn’t know what to expect on our first visit to Madre Anna Vitiello. The missionary traveling in Guatemala with us to make introductions and translate told us it was an orphanage for HIV positive children, and that it was run by a Catholic order of Nuns in Sacatepéquez, Guatemala.
We were greeted by Sister Anna Marina who runs it and we sadly learned that they had just lost an 18 month old child the night before. It was the second child in a week.
We began by explaining our reason for being there. We simply wanted to build a deeper relationship with them. We wanted to get to know them, who they are, how they came to be, and most importantly how we could be a part of it. Most of these children have been abandoned because their parents’ cannot afford the medication needed for their condition. Other children live there temporarily until their parents’ learn how to care for their child and how to treat them with the proper medication.
The first children we met were infants, and we decided not to hold the babies because we thought some of us might have colds. With compromised immune systems we didn’t want to take the risks of getting a any child sick. Complications from other infections and viruses are often the biggest threats.
The orphanage is warm and inviting. The group of 15 sisters who belong to an order known as Small Congregation of Redemption Apostles, go about the business of caring for the children with a calm love that is palpable. They live on-site to care for the 63 children. Medications are a big ticket item for the orphanage and some medications are donated from samples obtained from doctors in Guatemala. As you scan the shelves you immediately notice the medications are organized and labeled by child.
World Orphan Fund Team with Sister Anna MarinaThe home was built in 2005 with many additions and improvements over the past 7 years. Their stated mission is to care for children is to provide housing, balanced diet, clothing, medicine, academic education (K-6 at the orphanage), recreation, moral and spiritual and warmth of a home. They have all areas covered in spades.
I happened to come across the video below. It’s a beautiful slide show of children at the orphanage in 2010.
The Sisters at Madre Anna Vitiello reminded me what religion ought to be — love in action.