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.