A Busy End to 2023

The last 6 weeks have been busy as we wind down 2023!

In November, we hosted our second integration event with the teens at the Puericultorio Pérez Araníbar. Our volunteer mentors organized an afternoon of games and activities to do with the 24 residents. One of the activities the mentors led was cupcake decorating, so Will and I prepared 4 dozen chocolate cupcakes and buttercream frosting and sent all sorts of Christmas-themed sprinkles so they could decorate their own cupcake. Some were quite creative and patient with their designs, others were looking to maximize the amount of frosting they could get on their cupcake!

After the integration event we shared a meal with a few of the volunteer mentors and spent time getting to know them outside of planning an event or discussing how their mentor meetings were going. We thanked them for their time and dedication to the ministry.

Earlier this year we created a short video about the Caminando Juntos mentoring program. We were able to interview the director of the Puericultorio children’s home and also two of our volunteer mentors. We invite you to watch it here:

Billy led the Peru por los Niños virtual forum in November. PPLN is a network of organizations, churches and individuals, and the topic for this month’s forum was presenting the various organizations that make up the network. Each organization had a few minutes to share about their programs for working with orphans and vulnerable children while Billy moderated the discussion.

Since Thanksgiving is just a regular Thursday here in Peru, we gathered with a group of Americans from our church to celebrate together. It was a lovely afternoon meeting some new families and spending time with friends.

At the beginning of the month we hosted the president of the Paths of Hope board, Susan, here in Lima. It had been more than five years since Susan had visited Peru, so her trip was an opportunity to spend time with POH staff, meet in-person with ministry partners, visit the Puericultorio and visit with some of the former Girasoles children’s home graduates that we work with today.

Her trip also coincided with Huberth’s college graduation. Huberth has been one of Billy’s mentees for many years and received an educational scholarship from Paths of Hope to finish his degree in architecture and urban planning. He finished his final semester at the end of July and participated in the graduation ceremony at the beginning of December.

To celebrate his accomplishments we hosted a graduation party for Huberth at a Chinese restaurant. It was a lovely evening with his friends and important people in his life.

The two men in patterned shirts grew up with Huberth and we have known them for years.

Will’s school had a Storybook Character Day and he decided to dress up as Joe Hardy. We’re on a big Hardy Boys books kick right now and he was so excited to go as one of the teen detectives!

We recently had lunch with Paul & Marty Clark. Unfortunately with the pandemic it had been almost 4 years since we saw them last, but it was lovely to see them one last time before they moved to the US. We met the Clarks in 2001 when we first came as mission trip volunteers for Scripture Union, and they played a part in us being here today.

We have been fortunate to be in Michigan for the last couple Christmases, so we never ended up decorating our apartment. Since we will be in Lima this year it has been a joy to sit in the living room in the evenings with the tree lights on!

We want to thank you for your generosity that has allowed us to be here, serving in Peru.

Your support and prayers make it possible young men and women who have graduated from children’s homes to have access to mentors once they have left the home.

You are making a difference in the lives of many who greatly desire and long for community as they navigate independence. Your generosity is a testimony to your love for God and your willingness to share in the burdens and blessings of others.

As the year comes to a close, we are aiming to raise $1200 more in monthly support.

We’d be grateful if you would prayerfully consider increasing your current giving, beginning a new monthly commitment or giving a year-end gift.

If you feel led to partner with us, you can support us through United World Mission.

Your financial support is providing community and guidance to teenagers as they age out of residential care. We believe in this ministry and see its impact, and we are deeply humbled to get to serve in this way.

As always, thank you for your prayers for our family, the mentoring ministry and the people of Peru.

– Billy, Kate & Will

Retreats and Family Visits

And just like that another couple months have passed!

A few days after our last update we headed to Colombia for the bi-annual United World Mission South America retreat. Since the retreat ended up being during Will’s mid year school break we were able to spend a few days visiting a few different cities before heading to the retreat center in Armenia.

The UWM retreat was 5 days of fellowship and meetings with staff from the office in Charlotte, NC. We were able to spend time with families we met in December 2021 at the small Peru-Bolivia retreat that was here in Lima. It was a refreshing time to learn about what other UWMers are doing in South America, spend some time talking about support raising, and finally meet UWM staff in-person!

The last large UWM retreat we were able to participate in was here in Peru in 2017 and Will was just 2 months old. This time, Will loved going swimming in the pool and spending time with the other TCKs (third culture kids) who were from Bolivia, Colombia and Paraguay.

Since the retreat was held in the coffee region of Colombia, one of the days we visited the Parque del Café, a coffee-themed amusement park. Will very much loved the roller coasters and the cable cars to get around the park.

On the final night, UWM staff recognized various families for their years of service on the field, ranging from 10-35 years of service.

The third Sunday in August is Día del Niño (International Children’s Day) and is a big holiday in Peru. According to Will, it’s like a birthday for all kids on the same day! To celebrate our little boy, we took him fishing in a bay in the ocean where he caught a bunch of fish and the following day, he invited a friend from school to come to the celebration our church hosts every year.

Always curious, Will asked if the seeds inside an apple would grow into a tree and produce apples, so we planted the seeds to see what would happen…

We spent a mid-week holiday at Lomas de Lúcumo hiking into the clouds.

After a few months of our mentors meeting regularly with their mentees at the Puericultorio Pérez Araníbar, a few of our volunteer mentors hosted an event for all of the teenagers at the home. It was a great afternoon socializing with the residents, getting to know them through sports, board games and painting. Since this event, we have added a 2 more mentors to the program.

At the beginning of September Billy helped lead a forum about mentoring for youth. It was a great conversation about how it is important for residential care graduates to have a person who can guide and advise them as they navigate life after leaving the home. This was part of the monthly virtual forums hosted by Perú por los Niños where organizations, churches and individuals in Peru can share and learn from each other about how to improve the care they provide for vulnerable children.

We recently participated in a Sunday evening Bible study at Ward Church. Before he passed, this is the class that Billy’s grandpa faithfully led for many years. Since the pandemic the group has been meeting on Zoom which made it easy for us to join in from Lima. It is always a joy to see the familiar faces and share about what Paths of Hope has been doing!

At the end of September Billy traveled to the States for 10 days. He was able to meet with prospective supporting churches in the Charlotte area and participate in the annual Paths of Hope board retreat. The board was able to reflect on the year so far, to plan for 2024 and to hear from Billy in person. Board members hail from Michigan, Tennessee, South Carolina and across North Carolina so it was a special time to fellowship and meet together instead of the regular Zoom meetings.

After the board retreat, he traveled to Oklahoma City to attend the Christian Alliance for Orphans’ annual conference. It has always been a wealth of information and provides many opportunities to meet other like-minded people and organizations working with orphans and vulnerable children. Between the pre-conference intensives (where Billy learned about recent research on family strengthening programs and also transitioning from residential models of care toward family-based solutions) and 3 days of workshops and general sessions, this year’s gathering did not disappoint.

Some of the organizations that make up Perú por los Niños were also able to attend the conference.

Since Billy was going to be in the States for a couple weeks, my mom came to visit and accompany Will and I. We were able to take a tour of the Palacio del Gobierno (Peru’s equivalent of the White House), spend time together in Lima and visit all her favorite spots.

Saw a beautiful bougainvillea tree in a parking lot and had to take photos with it.

Shortly after Billy returned, we hosted some of his family for a visit. Since it overlapped with Will’s spring break we headed north to Máncora (about 2 hours from the border with Ecuador). A week of sun, sand, salt water and sunsets was splendid. Will went surfing for the first time, we saw humpback whales daily playing off the shore and it was a nice week with family. Billy’s parents stayed for a second week and were able to take Will to school and help with some projects around our apartment.

Last week we traveled with the Living Waters for the World group from Nashville who were here visiting sites where they have installed water filtration systems. In 2015 the Living Waters team installed a system at the boys home in Ica and we were part of the install trip. Thanks to a teacher in-service day we all were able to make the trip to Ica for the night and assist with translation and teaching about the importance of clean water.

As always, we appreciate your prayers for our family, the ministry and for the country and people of Peru.

– Kate, Billy & Will

Trainings and Trips

The last couple months have been extra busy with school activities, quick getaways and lots of travel and trainings for Billy!

Billy and Jocabeth (our Paths of Hope co-worker) traveled to the boys homes in Ica and Cusco to launch the Comunidad Girasoles program we are working on with Health Bridges. The Comunidad Girasoles program works with current residents and recent graduates of the two boys homes and provides orientation, a mentor and the opportunity to apply for a scholarship for transitional expenses or continued education. Since launching the program, a few young men have applied for the scholarship and we have had interviews with them about their goals with continuing to study.

For the past couple years Will has had his heart set on visiting Loreto and its capital city, Iquitos. Loreto is the largest Peruvian state and is located in the jungle region and home to the Amazon River. After finding inexpensive flights over school fall break, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend a few days in boats out on the rivers and seeing all the animals we could! Will was able to fish for piraña, play with monkeys at Isla de los Monos and scratch off another state from our map.

Once we returned from Iquitos, Billy hit the ground running on leading three different trainings on trauma competent caregiving. He led a 4-week training on Saturday mornings at a Christian Missionary Alliance church (which we wrote about in our last update) for 22 people from three churches who are interested in volunteering as mentors for our Caminando Juntos mentoring program.

He also was leading two separate trainings for staff at the Puericultorio Pérez Araníbar. The first training was for the caregivers who provide day-to-day care for the kids at the home. The group was split into two shifts for the training and met for four weeks to get an overview in trauma to better equip themselves. The second training was for 34 teachers and psychology interns who work at the Puericultorio. They met twice a week – in person on Wednesdays and virtually on Saturday mornings – using the Trauma Free World curriculum.

Huberth, who Billy meets with regularly, has been studying architecture and urban planning at a university in Lima. He finished his final semester earlier this month and found out that his final project was approved so he will be graduating in December. He came over after the final class to celebrate and brought the model he designed and built with him. We’re excited for him and proud of his accomplishments these past 5 years!

At the end of June we went on a road trip with dear friends to the mountains for a long weekend. Jimmy and Anna have family in a small town in Pasco (a new-to-us state) and we visited them for a few days. It always amazes me how quickly we can go from sea level to crossing over the mountains into a completely different ecosystem. If we weren’t in the car, we were outside enjoying the fresh air and peacefulness of the small town.

Billy returned to Ica and Cusco, this time for the Comunidad de Excelencia (Community of Excellence) program we are partnering on with Health Bridges. The Community of Excellence started with Phase 1 during the pandemic with weekly Zoom meetings with the staff at both homes. Since then, they have been working on developing Phase 2 and recently spent two days at each home meeting with the staff. Phase 2 focuses on self-care and how by providing for themselves, the staff can improve the care they give to the children and teens in the home.

July 28th is Peruvian Independence Day and schools spend much of the month learning about Peruvian history, culture and regions. As part of the school celebrations, Will was selected to dance a tondero Guarangito with some of his classmates in an assembly. Like in previous years, they rented dance outfits for the presentation.

Up next we have a trip to Colombia for the bi-annual UWM South America retreat. We’re going to be spending time with UWM missionaries from across South America in Armenia, Colombia. The last large retreat we were able to participate in was here in Peru in 2017 and Will was just 2 months old!

As always, we appreciate your prayers for us, our ministry and for the country and people of Peru.

– Kate, Billy & Will

God’s Hand in Making Connections

Recently Billy finished leading a 4-week Trauma Competent Caregiver training at a Christian Missionary Alliance Church in Breña, which is close to downtown Lima. This was our first in-person training with prospective mentors for the Caminando Juntos mentoring program since previous iterations of the training have all been online.

The story of how we connected with the CMA church in Breña starts way back in 2020, and it is yet another reminder of how God has been at work for years through various organizations and individuals, preparing the way for us to build the Caminando Juntos mentoring program. It starts in Guatemala of all places!

Back in mid-2020, Billy had the chance to participate in a virtual mentor training hosted by Somos, a Christian organization based in Guatemala. Due to the pandemic, the training moved from an in-person event to an online format, opening the opportunity for many different individuals and organizations across Central and South America to participate for the first time. As they started to receive multiple requests for information about how to become a mentor from people outside of Guatemala, Somos reached out to Paths of Hope and asked if we would be their point of contact in Peru since they do not have a presence here.

Shortly after, they put us in touch with Ana, a Peruvian psychology student who lived in Lima and was currently volunteering at a children’s home. She shared her heart for working with vulnerable children and teens, and she signed up for one of our first Trauma Competent Caregiver virtual trainings. But that was just the beginning!

A few months later Ana mentioned she would like to introduce us to her old youth group leader, Pastor Adrian, who is now the head pastor at the CMA church in Breña. She felt like he would be a great partner for Paths of Hope, as he has a long history of working with at-risk youth and is an adoptive father himself. Over the last couple of years Billy and Pastor Adrian have met a few times to talk about their shared vision to see the church take a more active role in this ministry.

Fast forward to March 2023 and we have now launched our mentoring ministry at the Puericultorio Pérez Araníbar. As we considered how to grow the program and recruit more mentors, Pastor Adrian and his church were at the front of our minds. We set up a meeting with a few specific asks in mind. First, would they be willing to start a mentor ministry as a church to serve the Puericultorio. Second, could they offer their church building as a place to hold an in-person Trauma Competent Caregiver training (which the first step in becoming a mentor). Third, did he know of other churches and pastors that Billy could reach out to since the cold calling had not been successful.

Yes, and yes were quickly given as answers to the first two questions. The third ask – for contacts Billy could reach out to – was a total God moment. Adrian told Billy that he should get in touch with two friends of his from seminary, César and Ramiro, who are now pastors at other churches close by. Years ago, they had all been involved in a ministry that worked with kids living on the streets in Lima. As Adrian shared, he had no idea that Billy already had plans to meet with those very two pastors the next day!

Before his meeting with Pastor Adrian, Billy had been cold calling pastors that were close to the Puericultorio, searching for others who were interested in becoming more involved as a church. Of the 15 or so that he reached out to, one pastor, César, responded almost immediately. He said that he was interested in meeting over coffee to learn more about the mentoring program and even asked if he could bring another pastor from a different church, Ramiro. The meeting was set up long before Adrian gave us their names, but it was clear to see how the Lord had been preparing the way. Adrian’s recommendation was confirmation that we were walking in the right direction.

It was a bit surreal to start the 4-week trauma training with the 22 participants that represented the 3 participating churches, and it was humbling to see that the plans for this unbeknownst to use started way back in 2020 when Billy participated in the mentor training hosted by the Guatemalan organization where he first met Ana.

Join us in praying for the training participants as they determine their next steps in becoming mentors.

As always, we appreciate your prayers for us, our ministry and for the country and people of Peru.

– Kate, Billy & Will

New Beginnings

Well, it has been an embarrassingly long time since our last update and quite a bit has happened since November! As I sat down to write it all out, a new beginnings theme kept popping up.

In December, Billy finished leading the Trauma Competent Caregiver training for staff at the Puericultorio Pérez Araníbar. Seventeen staff members participated in the 9-week training to become better equipped to work with the children and teens that are living in the home. This was the first part of launching our mentor program with the children’s home. (Last month, the first volunteer mentors met with their mentees at the Puericultorio and officially started the mentor program. More on this later.) Here’s a short video we made to share on Paths of Hope social media:

December also is the end of the academic year here in Peru. Will wrapped up his first year of in-person school and graduated from Kindergarten! He thoroughly loved being a part of the Fish class and his teacher Miss Magy.

The same week that Will was finishing and graduating from school, we moved to a new apartment that is closer to Will’s new school. The old apartment was the only place I lived here in Lima, it’s where we lived as newlyweds and where we brought Will home as a newborn. It was sad to drive away one last time, but after many years of searching and visiting prospective places, it is nice to finally have a place that is ours!

Everything packed into boxes for the move.

Last photo in the old apartment.

And, literally just a couple days after moving apartments, we packed our suitcases and headed to the States for a few months to visit with friends, family, current supporters and to raise some financial support. Originally our plan was to arrive in January, but since Billy is lucky in finding deals on flights, he found a great price on tickets for before Christmas. We were happy to be able to spend the holidays with family in Michigan before hitting the road. We even had a few snow days in Michigan, and Will loved going sledding, making snowmen, and building snow forts.

Will got to go to his first hockey game with family while Billy and I were traveling.

For the rest of our time in the States, we visited with current and potential supporters. We spent our weeks traveling to Tennessee, Alabama, Indiana, Oregon and North Carolina speaking at church services, Sunday school classes and small groups. We also were able to share with the congregations at our home churches in Michigan. We are thankful for the people who helped coordinate these events for us, the families who graciously hosted us in their homes and for the opportunities to share about the mentoring program and how the Lord is at work here in Peru.

In mid-February we returned to Peru to our new apartment. My mom ended up traveling back with us on the same flight – unbeknownst to her when she bought her ticket that she would be helping unpack an apartment during her visit!

During the first two weeks back we celebrated Will’s 6th birthday (!) and traveled to Arequipa for the first Perú por los Niños network conference.

Recreating a photo from a trip to Arequipa in 2018 with baby Will.

For the first time, Perú por los Niños hosted a nation-wide conference for organizations, churches and individuals who work with orphans and vulnerable children. Billy assisted with some of the conference coordinations as part of the Perú por los Niños leadership committee, while I helped promote the event and coordinated registration.

About 100 people from across the country of Peru attended the 2-day gathering to learn more about how they can improve the quality of care they provide. Leaders from different organizations presented about the work they do and the role of the church in caring for orphans and vulnerable children. Speakers shared on topics such as trauma and attachment, and the Secretary of Ministerio de la Mujer y Poblaciones Vulnerables (MIMP), Nancy Tolentino, shared her vision for how organizations can collaborate with the government to improve care for vulnerable families and children. MIMP is the federal government office that works for the well-being of women, children and vulnerable populations in Peru.

Conference attendees participated in a interactive workshop called “Life in Limbo”. The workshop gives participants the opportunity to step into the shoes of birth parents, child welfare workers and displaced children to learn what it feels like to live their lives.

Secretary Nancy Tolentino (red jacket) with the Perú por los Niños leadership committee.

The conference was received well and we’re starting to lay the groundwork for another gathering next year.

At the beginning of March, Will started the new school year. Now that he’s in first grade, he no longer goes to the same campus as last year and now spends his days at the “big school”. The big school campus is where the primary and secondary students all attend (1st through 11th grade) and is considerably larger than the preschool campus. We’re thankful that he loves going to school and excited to see what he learns this year and how he grows.

Also in March, Billy went to the Puericultorio with two of our mentors to join them as they met their mentees for the first time. Huberth and Patricia have committed to meet 2-4 times a month with their mentee for at least the next year. Both are paired with teenage boys who are going to be leaving the home soon as they transition into adulthood.

As always, we very much appreciate your prayers for us, our ministry and for the country and people of Peru.

– Kate, Billy & Will