Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Check Out the Hotel for Service Trip

Check out the awesome hotel we will be staying at in Bogota! Cosmos 100 is conveniently located in a safe area close enough to walk to Unicentro and Park 93. This hotel includes the amenities you want including free WiFi and a large buffet style restaurant, but it goes way beyond that! They also have a gym, a sauna and an amazing indoor pool with an incredible view of Bogota. I already know you are going to LOVE your stay at this hotel. In fact, they were awarded a Certificate of Excellence in 2013 by TripAdvisor. If THAT does not get you excited about this service trip, I don't know what will! I hope you are looking forward to joining us for this year's service trip, I know we are just counting down the days. If you want to learn more about the trip, please click here. 

Remember, the quickly approaching deadline is MAY 01, 2015. You can click here to access the application. 

If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to contact our trip leader, Beth Whitacre at 

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

From Personal Experience

     This coming summer will mark half a decade of my attendance on Gladney summer service trips. They have become an integral part of who I am, and the leaders on the trips are the kinds of people I want to become. I plan my summers around the one week in July I get to travel to Bogotá, usually with one or two plane catastrophes, and teach, play, and love on the orphans at San Mauricio.
     Over the years, I have grown particularly close to a boy named Kevin. I met him on Gladney’s first trip to Colombia in 2012. Back then, he was six years old and fit in perfectly with Mafe’s, the kindergarten teacher’s, class. Over the years, however, he realized that even as he grows
older and moves classrooms, I stay put teaching kindergarten. So, to my pleasant surprise, on the first day at the institution in 2014 when I walked into Mafe’s classroom, I was greeted by two tables of precious four and five year olds, and an eight-year-old Kevin sitting nonchalantly amongst them, over a head taller than the rest of the kids.
     This kid really is something else. I wish I could give him the world, but the best I can do is give him my love for the week we share each year. Beth Whitacre, Pattye Hicks, and little Kevin are my main inspirations for becoming a social worker. I can’t imagine trying to do what I do without them.
     I’m already counting down the days to Bogotá 2015. In a short ninety-five days I will be en route to Colombia (barring any pilots locking themselves out of the cockpit) and on my way to San Mauricio. I’m saddened by the fact this may be our last summer at the institution, but that only means we must make this year the best one yet.

I hope this note of personal experience gets you even more excited about the upcoming service trip! It is going to be an incredible experience that you do NOT want to miss out on. 
To learn more about the trip, please click here. 

Remember, the quickly approaching deadline is MAY 01, 2015. 
Click here to access the application. 

If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to contact our trip leader, Beth Whitacre at 

Looking forward to the Trip! 

Friday, April 03, 2015

Jumping for Joy

Hello Everyone!
 We have some fabulous news to share with you.

In light of last week's post, I am thrilled to tell you about this week. Drum roll please....We have had TWO of our amazing waiting children from Colombia get matched with families!! Although nothing is finalized, two families have begun their adoption process to take home these two sweet kids and give them the forever home they deserve. This kind of news is why I LOVE being a part of this team at the Gladney Center. Our hearts are jumping for joy! 

As exciting as this news is, there are still so many other children waiting to find their homes, so make sure you are staying updated on our Latin America Waiting Children blog to meet our wonderful kids. We are currently still waiting to get more permissions for these other fantastic kiddos so we can post about them but as soon as we do, I hope you will check them out and share the joy with other families. I hope this bit of news got everyone pumped up for the service trip this summer to Colombia. It is not only going to make a difference in these kids lives but we are going to have a blast doing it! Remember the deadline to apply is May 01, 2015 and you can access that application and find out more information right here. 

If you have any questions about this trip please email Beth Whitacre at

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Heartbreaking News

Hello again everyone, I hope you are getting as excited about our service trip as I am! 

In my previous post I raved about our precious Colombian Waiting Children who had gotten approved to be advocated for through social media, and while those sentiments have not changed a bit, one thing has.

I posted about two brothers on our Latin American Waiting Children blog , but our Colombia team recently learned that we have run out of time. Next week the brothers are being moved from their orphanage to an all boys institution outside of Bogota for older children. Children who are sent here are the ones who have no hope of being adopted and are now just waiting to age out of the system. Many run away, get kicked out or find themselves in dangerous situations before they even age out. While this devastating news broke our hearts, I was also able to find a new sense of determination to advocate for the rest of our precious kiddos. This news opened my eyes to just how fragile these kids' futures are and it now pushes me to step up and work that much harder to find our other kids their forever homes. I know we were moved by this news and I hope it motivates you to take steps to make a difference as well! 

The rest of our Colombian kids are still waiting and hoping for families. While you may not be able to provide them a home, you can still sign up for the service trip and shower these kids with love. Keep checking out our Waiting Children blog for more updates and if you ever have any questions at all, feel free to email us at 

Remember, if you are interested in going on the Colombia Service trip this summer, the deadline to register is May 1, 2015. To access the application, click here. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Fall In Love with our Waiting Children

In the spirit of Valentine's day, let me express my love for our Waiting Children. 

I hope everyone has given some thought about the Colombia trip this summer! I have gotten to "meet" these precious kiddos as I get their information sent to me and let me be the first to tell you-- they are absolutely incredible. I have stared at their adorable pictures and thoroughly read through each of their files. I am so smitten by these kiddos I have even found myself misty-eyed and grinning ear to ear at my desk. Sometimes I get a little nervous someone is going to walk by think I am crazy, but I just can't help myself. The good news is, you are going to get a chance to meet them too! 

Gladney has been working with Colombian Government to see if we can get special permission to advocate for these waiting children on social media. Previously, it was not allowed to post pictures or any information about these kids on the internet. Colombia wanted to protect their children in the best way they know how, but with some creative planning and lots of collaboration we found a way to protect their dignity, respect their privacy, and still advocate for them to have a chance of finding a forever homes with the use the wonderful tool of social media.  After a long process Gladney is finally approved to advocate for these awesome kids!

 One by one we are getting permission for each kiddo so that we can get them a forever family. I am thrilled for you to have the opportunity to meet these precious kids and fall in love with them like I have! An easy way to stay updated and see each child as we get permission for them would be to check out our Latin American Waiting Children blog.  We currently have officially gotten permission for 4 amazing children, two brothers and two girls, who are all already posted on the blog. So go ahead and check it out and prepare to fall in love! 

Remember, if you are interested in going on the Colombia Service trip this summer, the deadline to register is May 1, 2015. To access the application, click here. 

If you have any questions at all, feel free to email us at . 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Getting Ready!

It is that time again! We are so excited for the next service trip to Colombia. 

My name is Kelly and I am the International Intern for Latin America at Gladney Center. I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of this and I have loved working with our Colombia kiddos- which is why I am so happy to start getting ready for this upcoming service trip!

To kickoff the start of the preparation involved, we spent hours upon hours placing address labels on postcards. My cut-and-pasting skills have drastically deteriorated since my Kindergarten days, so please forgive the uneven scissor-work and crooked addresses. I also got to make a trip to the post-office and ask if I could purchase 2,480 stamps. You can just imagine the look I got, but sure enough she counted them out and now hopefully these postcards have made their way into your hands.

If you did NOT receive a post-card or have lost yours, don't fear! You can click HERE for a link to the online application. This trip is a very unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these amazing kids while also learning about the culture of Colombia. Do not miss out on this incredible experience! 
Remember the deadline to register is May 1st, 2015.

Labeling over 2,000 Post Cards!

If you have any questions about this trip please email Beth Whitacre at

I will keep you posted as we prepare for this great trip to Colombia! 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cali, Colombia- nicest people in the world

Last week ended with meetings, meetings, and more meetings.  For those that don't know the recent history of adoptions in Colombia I will tell you 2013 and 2014 have been difficult.  So many changes occurred it was nearly impossible to keep up with all of it: the laws changing regarding the process of declaring an abandoned child an orphan, a 4 part documentary aired on national TV criticizing all facets of the adoption process, adoption entities were prohibited from receiving any sort of donations/humanitarian aid from adoptive families, and the Colombian Central Authority only allowing non-Colombian families to adopt children with "special characteristics."  Of course there were other changes, but I think those are the highlights. 

The end of last week I was able to meet the people at the National and Regional government offices who have been in the trenches working every day for the children in Colombia.  They have done their best to accommodate the process for each change and continue to advocate for children who do not have a family.  Their tireless work I think is finally about to see fruition.

Sunday I traveled to Cali to meet with the new staff at Hogar Bambi Chiquitines, but first we had a tour of Cali which is known for great dancing (salsa), beautiful women, and it's tropical weather.  I can tell you it definitely lived up to the reputation!  To say the Calenos are nice people is an understatement!  They almost put the Texas hospitality to shame.  An attorney that works with Chiquitines picked us up and took us to lunch in a little town called Ginebra.  Next we had a tour of the city and walked along the Cali River to a little restaurant right on the water.  It was very similar to the San Antonio River Walk except the restaurant was inside a hotel across a busy street.  The waiters carried all the food and drinks from the hotel, across the street, to the tables.  If you know anything about traffic in major cities in Colombia you know that every time the waiter stepped in to the street he was risking his life!  Then we went to the discoteca (dancing club).  If you are ever in Cali and you want to watch salsa dancing be warned that there is no option to sick back and watch salsa dancing.  You MUST participate!  I was having a wardrobe malfunction with my jeans and did not want to expose myself to the Calenos.  However, at one point a father and daughter who were complete strangers literally picked me up, lifted me over our table, and had me dance with them as I tried to keep my pants from falling to the ground.  Lucy Martinez just laughed and the attorney who was accompanying us told me, "Better to lose your pants dancing than to not dance at all."  Everyone I met in Cali from the attorney to the strangers in the club to the taxi drivers and waiters were so kind, friendly, so warm and welcoming, so full of life that I can not wait to go back again!  Next time I'll be ready to salsa!

Monday we headed to Hogar Bambi Chiquitines.  Gladney has worked with Fundacion Chiquitines for many years, but due to the lack of donations received after the prohibition of humanitarian aid they almost went bankrupt.  They were able to merge with another child welfare entity, Bambi, and have once again received their license for adoptions from the government.  The majority of the 102 babies, toddlers, and young children at HBC will hopefully be reunited with biological family members, but many will be declared abandoned and matched to an adoptive family.  The downside to the merger is Chiquitines was not able to maintain their birth mother program.  Roughly 20 women each year would seek shelter at Chiquitines as they made their adoption plan.  These women now have nowhere to go and are abandoning their newborn children in dumpsters and alleys.  The adoption coordinator told us they are receiving more and more infants with severe malnutrition and neglect from the hospitals.  Much like in the United States fire stations, hospitals, and police stations are "safe places" where you can take a child without being questioned, but it is not publicized and there are no signs at these safe places.  They hope to improve public knowledge about these areas so the newborn babies have a better chance of receiving medical care as soon as possible.

The meeting went very well and I am excited to continue our with the amazing staff at Chiquitines to find loving families for these amazing children.  The first step is to find families for the children that have already been declared abandoned and are ready to be adopted.  They are young children with medical special needs, older children with a history of trauma, and large siblings groups.  If you would be interested in finding out more about children available for adoption in Colombia you can request one of Gladney's free, comprehensive Adoption Information Packets. Make your request on-line or by calling 1-800-INT-ADOP.