Casa Angelina's high standard of excellence in every area has been maintained by the generous giving of our partners. Their continued generosity plus our goal of increased self-sustainability will ensure the future of Casa Angelina for generations to come. We have many ideas to achieve this goal. Providing our children with quality, nutritious food and water is our first goal toward increased self-sustainability.
Farms surround us, yet the crops are coated in chemicals used to kill insects and unnaturally fertilize crops for larger produce. The farmers clothe themselves in plastic from head to toe and use gas masks as they spread the chemicals on the plants over and over as they mature. Our neighboring farmer often grows carrots that are 16 inches long and 6 inches around. These are impressive to look at but often lack flavor and nutrition. The local farmers also water their fields with shallow wells dug on their small plots of land. This water is very contaminated, not only with the chemical runoff, but it is also tainted due to the lack of septic systems from the neighboring homes. With no septic systems, the locals rely on outhouses where the waste is absorbed into the ground and dispersed by the rains.read more
Water is always an important element of nutrition and health, but clean, reliable water is a rare commodity in Guatemala. Not only do the locals rely on shallow outhouses for their human waste, but the farmers saturate their crops with chemicals several times each year. At Casa Angelina, we have dug wells that are deep enough to reach the underground aquifer. The ever-changing levels of the aquifer have made total reliance on these wells impossible, especially during the dry season, which is from January to August every year. We often have to truck in water that we purchase from a local supplier in order to fill up our huge tank that supplies each of our homes with water.read more
A reliable source of meat is another necessity for self-sustainability. The large producers of beef and chicken use hormones, and the animals are treated with extreme cruelty. Fish is often imported and expensive. The local ranchers produce only enough for their needs and the needs of their immediate neighbors, but Casa Angelina has many mouths to consistently feed.read more
Fruit is a nutritious and needed part of the children's daily diet at Casa Angelina, but it is often very expensive. Growing healthy trees is difficult because of the overworked and undernourished soil that the trees need in order to grow. Because coffee is the number one export of Guatemala and uses much of the land, many fruits are imported from neighboring countries, and the costs increase tremendously. Blueberries are just one type of fruit that is extremely expensive to buy in Guatemala.read more
Defined: A self-sustaining food production system that combines traditional aquaculture (raising fish) with hydroponics (growing plants in water). At Casa Angelina, we have built a 40-ft. by 60-ft. completely enclosed vegetable house that also contains two huge fish tanks. Simply put, the waste from the fish provide the fertilization for the plants that are grown in huge beds of flowing water, and the filtration from the roots of the plants provide clean water for the fish in the tanks. Around and around it circulates in a natural system of chemical-free fertilization and growth until the fish are big enough to eat, and the plants are large enough to harvest.read more
The vegetables are put into long, fiberglass beds of circulating water just after they sprout from seedlings. They remain there growing and filtering the water until they are mature at about six weeks. New sprouts are added every week, so there is a constant supply of fresh vegetables to harvest every six weeks. The tilapia fish are added to the tanks at different stages of maturity, which can be harvested on a regular basis as well. This system provides a part of the nutritious vegetables and meat needed at Casa Angelina. More aquaponic greenhouses are needed in order to achieve complete self-sustainability, but the process has begun!read more
Hundreds of differing fruit trees have been planted on the many acres of Casa Angelina. Two huge avocado trees are already producing large amounts of fresh, organic avocados for the children. Many of our other trees have begun to produce modest amounts of fruit as well, which allows the children to occasionally enjoy figs and limes. However, we have not seen the growth in these trees that we expected. After researching the cause of such poor growth, we realized that nutrition was lacking in the soil. With this new information, we have begun our Compost Development Project. Along with the natural, constant breakdown of our kitchen scraps, such as fruit and vegetable peelings, we add grass and natural landscape clippings in a well-built storage area. We can provide natural, organic nutrition to our trees and thereby see greater fruit production in the future.read more
The lack of clean water is a problem all over Guatemala. However, during an exceptionally rainy day, the answer to this ever-growing need came to us like a bolt of lightning! A rain catch system! By adding gutters and storage tanks to each of our houses and buildings, we can collect the rain that would normally flow away. In a completely enclosed tank sealed from any sunlight, water gets naturally purified. Our goal is to run all of these individual collection tanks into one main underground tank where the water will be purified, filtered, stored, and then pumped to a water tower. Through the natural flow of gravity, this underground tank will provide free, clean, and reliable water and better water pressure to each house at Casa Angelina, which will greatly contribute to the self-sustainability needed for future children at Casa Angelina.read more
Turning Orphans into Royalty
Trading Ashes for Beauty
The Best in Mind
It has never been our goal to just rescue children from the streets, although we do. It is our goal to provide an environment in which our children can heal, flourish, and transform. Having visited many orphanages and having helped build several prior to Casa Angelina, Ivan and Kimberly had a clear vision for the one they would run. They had a clear list of "must nots": It must not be a dormitory, children must not have the opportunity to become predators themselves, they must not go hungry ever again, and they must not be left to work out the abuse by themselves. There was also a clear list of "musts": Their orphanage must be spacious and captivating, it must be a place of safety and healing, the children must know what it means to belong to a family, they must be educated, they must receive professional help, and they must live in a quality that contradicts all they have known. Ivan and Kimberly wanted Casa Angelina to be a place where hope and love transform, where isolated children make relationships that help them become vulnerable again, where food and water are abundant, where choices for their future and health for their present are available, where there is space to exercise and explore, where the homes are something to be proud of, and where the dreams and hopes of our children can be reinstated and fostered. Accomplishing this is a process, and for us, it starts in the home. Each of our children belongs in a family unit, and these families live in their own individual homes. As well as holding a maximum of 15 children, we build our homes large enough to also house the children's caretakers. Since it is our goal to have the family focused on each other and experiencing life together, we therefore have extra employees to cook and clean. This structure enables our children to belong in a way in which they receive the attention they need for personal development and also to prevent undesirable behaviors. Having rescued many children from sexually abusive backgrounds and trafficking, it is important to prevent the outworking of curiosity, power struggles, and pain. Casa Angelina is unique in that it is not an all-girls or all-boys orphanage. We have been committed to rescuing whole families and enabling them to remain together. This demands a greater awareness of our children and an age separation once the boys and girls reach a certain age. Our homes have boys under the age of 13 and girls of all ages. When a boy reaches 13 years old, we move him into a home for our older boys. It is our goal for Casa Angelina to always be a safe haven where the children no longer have need to fear predatory activity.
Quality of Experience
When our children are brought to Casa Angelina, they are rescued into a new life. The abuse, lack, and poverty will never be a part of their lives again. However, we do not just want to remove them from the dangers and sustain their basic needs; we are committed to giving them great, enriching life experiences. Most of these experiences come in the form of field trips outside of Casa Angelina. We take them on excursions—whole-orphanage excursions! We want their lives to be fun and exciting and for them to have a life that increases their expectations and hopes for all that they can have ahead of them. We expect them to study and commit themselves to schooling, so we commit ourselves to giving them refreshing, awe-inspiring outings. Prior to coming to Casa Angelina, most of our children had never swum, been to the movies, shopped in the mall, been to a beach, or had games and activities that stretched their imaginations. Now they have had a chance to experience these things!
The Best Materials
Guatemala is a very unstable country in many ways. One major way is in its seismic activity.
Guatemala lies in a major fault zone known as the Motaqua and Chixoy-Polochic fault complex. The most destructive earthquake in recent Guatemalan history was in 1976 and had a magnitude of 7.5 and a shallow hypocenter of just 5 km. This shallow earthquake caused tens of thousands of deaths. Shallow earthquakes are frequent and cause incredible damage annually throughout Guatemala. This is one of the most important reasons we build each structure at Casa Angelina with the very best design, planning, and materials.
Every building at Casa Angelina is built to withstand a severe earthquake, and this has already been tested. Casa Angelina endured an earthquake measuring more than 6.0 with no injuries or damage. From the ground up we use the best quality materials in our buildings. Before we begin building, we have a survey done at the exact location, even if it is right next to another building. The foundations are deep, and the cement floors are mixed with superior mixes. The cinder block that we use in building walls is the highest quality available. Even the mortar between our cinder blocks is a mix of quality substances, which ensures longevity and protection. The roofs on our buildings are of the highest quality in order to give us decades of beauty and to finish our homes with the same standard of excellence. With aggressive rainy seasons, the roofs also need to be soundproof. For this, we use a thermoacoustic tin material called Cindu, which has seven layers that minimize noise and insulate for temperature regulation. The entire property of Casa Angelina is a testament of excellence and is designed to provide a safe, beautiful, and quality orphanage for hundreds of children both today and for decades to come.
The grounds of Casa Angelina are designed with sustainability and all of our children in mind. The grounds of Casa Angelina are designed with sustainability and all of our children in mind. We have planted hundreds of trees that will provide fruit and shade and some that are known to draw water from deep underground. This is important to help our well continue to function. We are built on a hillside in the country, and the view from every location on the property is spectacular. There are acres of open land to run and explore and a forest where we have hung tire swings and built a tree house. There are also various playgrounds with swings and play equipment throughout the property. Thanks to an incredibly generous gift, we also have a professional-grade artificial turf soccer field, which is equipped with stadium lighting for night practices and games! In Guatemala "futbol," or "soccer" as we know it, is the national sport. Every child grows up kicking something into homemade goals with the dream of becoming the next soccer star. It truly is the number one dream shared by most children, girls and boys alike. When we told the children at Casa Angelina that they would actually have a beautiful field to play on, they were ecstatic. Although their homes, beds, daily food, and school have changed their lives, there is no extra-special gift that has meant more to them and given them more value than this soccer field. The quality of the field far exceeds anything near us, and it has become a local gathering place. In fact, the local police chief brings his officers to play, as does the judge with his staff from the nearby city. Our closest neighboring city, Chimaltenango, has more than 500,000 people, yet it does not have a soccer field that compares to the one at Casa Angelina. Our children are getting to meet leaders in their community, and they enjoy watching teams of adults interact as they share their football field with their neighbors.
There are two reasons why Tulio, our chef, is so important to the overall quality of Casa Angelina:
The nutrition of the malnourished children we receive at Casa Angelina is one of our first priorities. It is imperative that the person cooking and planning meals for them has the best training in a variety of areas. Tulio Garcia is a highly experienced chef who has worked and trained in both Guatemala and Spain. His previous experience includes working in several of the best hotels in Guatemala. He worked at the Grand Tikal Futura Hotel in Guatemala City, which is an exclusive hotel and restaurant and one of the finest in the country. Tulio has been on our staff since 2006 and has exceeded our expectations. read more
Having taken teams to developing nations for many years, Ivan noticed that one of the biggest drawbacks was people getting sick from the food and water. Another was that the food, in some cases, was hardly edible and never enough. Ivan knew that the future and growth of Casa Angelina greatly depended on sharing the experience of the orphanage with teams from the United States. We strive to have teams fall in love with Casa Angelina and come back each year; this is so important in order for us to help as many orphans as we can. A comfortable and positive experience is mandatory in order to achieve this goal. Not only have we hired an amazing chef, but he is one who comes with a great heart. Tulio is not only a tremendous planner and preparer of nutritious meals for our children and staff, but he is also a big reason why our teams have such an enjoyable experience and why those who come not only return but do so with their loved ones.read more