Finding Identity

In the best of circumstances, the arrival of a child is met with great celebration. Birth is the first milestone in life, the starting point of a journey that will hopefully be marked by many successes and joyous celebrations. Siblings and grandparents are the first in line to visit the newly minted member of the family. Aunts and uncles parade in the cousins to hold the new baby, and marvel at the tiny fingers and toes. Their first question, if the parents were tight-lipped prior to the birth, is “What’s her name?” An identity is established in those first moments of life, an identity that takes a lifetime to unfold.  The birth certificate is prepared, a quick formality that is all but forgotten amidst the exhausting, yet joyous first days caring for the new little one.

Sweet, vibrant Vanessa will captivate you with her electrifying smile. She is a friendly, lovable 7-year-old who has been at Casa de Esperanza  in Guatemala for roughly three years. She has faced tremendous adversity in her life and has come through it with grace and joy. From a rural area of Guatemala, she was sent to a nutritional center due to severe malnutrition before arriving at Casa de Esperanza. There is no record of her father, and her mother suffers from mental illness and so was unable to properly care for her. The hardships she faced at her tender age didn’t stop there. She has always suffered from a heart condition that required open-heart surgery in 2019. She came through that frightening experience with tremendous resilience, and her indomitable spirit continues to shine through her irrepressible grin.

Identity is a Human Right

The UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child guides the orphan care community around the globe, enshrining the rights of all children. It proclaims a right that most of us take for granted, a mere formality – the right to an identity. Vanessa was never properly registered at birth, and the previous administration of the community was unable to register her birth officially with RENAP, the Guatemalan agency that registers citizens. Thanks to Horizon’s team at Casa de Esperanza here in Zacapa, we recently were able to register Vanessa with the identity she deserves. Without this certificate, there was no chance for her to be registered in school. The lack of an official identity limits a child’s access to many other rights as well, rights that guarantee that child can fully realize her potential.
Vanessa is enrolled in first grade now and is an active participant in all the activities. Her housemom Marlene emphasized many wonderful things about that growing identity: “Vanessa is helpful around the house and likes to keep her things organized. She loves to jump rope, to color, and go to English class. She is truly a very kind and caring girl.” This past Sunday, in the devotional time as a community, we spoke about our identity and God’s love for each of his individual children. That afternoon, we celebrated this belated milestone in Vanessa’s life and her unique identity.

Written and Provided by Latin American Program Coordinator, Jeff Luehm