Monday, November 4, 2013

Where are they now?

Wow!  It has been 3 years now since we came back to the States from Chile and said good-bye to the girls at Hogar Ines Riesco Llona.  Many of the girls have had big changes in their lives, with blessings and continued challenges of returning to live with their families.  Others have been adopted into a new family.  We wanted to share with you some of their stories.  

Not every story has a perfect ending, several situations continue to be far from ideal.  These girls have led very difficult and emotionally chaotic lives.  While working on this post, I realized that if I only told the exciting 'successful' stories, it would not be true to myself or to the girls.  Each story is meaningful because each child is relevant and important.  This is the real fabric of their lives.  (To protect the girls' privacy, I have not used all their names.)

God encounters us in the messiness of our humanness, and it is here that we find testaments to the power of love.  If we are not willing to 'be' in the messiness, we miss the full beauty of the miracles that happen within. 

Millaray Returned home to live with her Grandmother.  While living at the Hogar she was failing all of her classes.  Now that she is back with her grandmother, she has blossomed, she isn't as angry and she is now getting a B average in all her classes.

About 10-15 of the girls have also all returned home with family.  As in Millaray’s case, many of the girls found more security and stability in returning home.  In several of the families, however, alcohol continues to have a significant negative impact on the parent’s ability to provide for their family and to be present and parent the children. 

One of our sister pairs who were able to return home with their parents lost their mother the next year. Their father struggles with addiction and was unable to take care of the girls.  The older sister is now living with her boyfriend.  The younger sister is living with a school teacher who opened up her heart and her home to her. 

Two of the youngest girls were adopted in 2011 by Chilean families.  Yocemberg returned to visit the Hogar after a few months. Her 4 hour temper trantrums were gone, she was calmer and more confident. By the simple act of someone saying ‘I will love you always,’ she was a transformed child. 

Ruth was adopted by a couple from Spain.  It is amazing that someone so far away could love Ruth so much that, before ever meeting her, they loved her completely and took her as their own.  What a beautiful reflection of God’s love for us, complete and unearned. 

Javiera and Tania were both adopted by their 'apoderados,' a family that provided weekend respite and mentorship for the girls. This is especially unique in Javiera’s case as she was older at 11, and adoption is rare at this age.  Her adoptive family applied to adopt her 3 times before the judge granted the adoption.  They never gave up on her.

A handful of the girls continue on at the Hogar, along with the new children who have come to the Hogar.  There are 17 girls in all and most of them are much younger.  There is only one teenager still living at the Hogar, which has been a lonely and challenging road forward.

Cynthia left the Hogar to live with her boyfriend and his grandmother.  She had a beautiful little girl in December of 2012.  With the continued support and encouragement of the Sisters, she started school again last March.  

The true miracles, interwoven into these girls lives, are miracles of love and love’s transformative power.  When we witness love’s power, it can inspire us to love more intentionally and more deeply.  

Thank you to everyone who has accompanied us on this journey, and especially to the girls of Hogar Ines Riesco Llona.  You have all taught us to love more deeply.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Tidings

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wishing you all a Christmas full of love, joyful expectation, and Christ's peace that passes understanding.  What a beautiful season this has turned out to be, and how blessed we have been, with so much love, family, and new beginnings.

Both Matt and I have been blessed with the gift of work, and believe me we both understand just how blessed we are in this economy.  I started on as a social worker at a nursing home in Federal Way (just North of Tacoma.)  I'm doing mental health and crisis management, and helping people on rehab return home safely.  I had no idea how much this job would keep me on my toes. There is definitely never a dull moment!  Matt is a supervisor at a small factory in Lakewood (just South of Tacoma) with a company called Greatwide where they repair pallets.  He's enjoying the smaller atmosphere, more leeway for making his own decisions and the bliss of having 1 boss instead of 6.  He's getting to use a lot of his Spanish, and learning the invaluable Mexican idioms and dialect differences.

It has been so nice to be home and share Christmas with our families again, and all the little things about Christmas in the US that are so North American, like snowdrifts, candy canes, Christmas carolers, and old Dean Martin favorites.  It has been so wonderful to share in the excitement of the season with our nephews for the first time, and to just cherish each special moment.  Being able to go to Aiden's Christmas program was precious.  He was so animated and had so much fun.  No one can replace our girls in Chile, but it's amazing what a dose of the kidos with all their wonder and excitement can do for a home sick girl.

Still, I can't help but wonder what the girls are up to, how they're doing, or think about their beautiful smiles... especially now - not only is it Christmas, but Summer vacation just started!  Many of you have been asking if we have heard how the girls are doing.  We have sent down cards, and a big Christmas package too, but haven't been able to call much, so we don't have many details.  The girls have been doing well though.  They have all been going to full day school with more time to complete their class work at school.  Last year the girls would only have about 4 hours at school, and would have to catch up the additional class work at home - in other words an OVERDOSE of homework.  More of the girls have been involved in after school activities too and really enjoying that time.  Paloma was able to return home with her mother a few months ago, and we are so happy for her.  It was a big step, and I know that it was a good one.  We'll keep you posted as we hear more!

Sister Rosita finally got the money for the playground toy through to the Chilean account on December 15th.  She is hoping to get everything built and in place as soon as possible.  The first step will be preparing the ground site, flattening the little hill out, getting the retaining wall in, and putting down the pea gravel.  We will keep you all posted on the progress. Every time I talk with her, or write her, she always asks me to thank EVERYONE who helped make this possible, and all the generous donors.  The girls are so excited and so thankful!!! It's hard to believe that just last Christmas the dream was just beginning to form.  Very soon it will be a reality!  It really means a lot.  So thank you all again soooo much!

We hope that this has been a beautiful Christmas for all of you as well, and that you have found the time to slow down, cherish the moments, and reflect on the beautiful miracle of His birth. May the joy and love that welcomed Him into the world all those years ago, embrace you today and always.

Blessings and much love, to you and all your loved ones.
Janelle and Matt

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A word from some VERY thankful girls!

So... we sent the check down just 2 weeks ago.  Sister Rosita received the check and the great news about the playground toy, and this weekend she just told the girls!  She says;

"I will tell you, that the girls at Hogar Ines Riesco Llona are very happy about the news that we will be able to begin construction on the toy.  I have included a letter from them.  All the girls that I saw on Saturday were very happy, especially the youngest ones, the girls from your house..."

A quick translation:
Dear Uncle and Aunty,
Well, First of all we want to tell you that we miss you very much, and that we are very grateful for everything that you have done for us.  You were very generous with us in every way.  

Here, we miss you very very much, we hope to see you soon, and hope that you are well. 
Say hello to your parents, for they are very dear to us as well.

What else can we say.  We hope you are very happy, like you were when you were here...

Much love and kisses

PS. Thank you for building the playground toy that will be very useful to us so that we can have more fun.

With love, Romy and Cecy

I hope you remember us and if you remember, remember for ever

Good luck!
Thank you again from all the amazing people and congregations that made this dream possible for these girls.  Thank you St. Pius X in Quincy, St. Rita's in Tacoma, and Othello Nazarine!!!  We couldn't have done it without you!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Big Toy goal Reached!!!

We have wonderful news everyone!  We have reached our Goal!!!  
The Big Toy will soon be a reality for the girls at Hogar Ines Riesco Llona!

Just this last Sunday, we traveled back to Othello to talk at the Nazarene Church (and get a wonderful dose of Othello Fair and Rodeo too :).  I truly believe that we were God's instrument, and that His love shined through us, as we talked from our hearts.  A special experience was being able to minister to the youth there.  I can remember when I was their age, and so eager to hear about different missions, and wonder excitedly where God may lead me some day.  God is truly at work in their joy and excitement, as they dreamed about the possibilities in their own future.  It was so beautiful and refreshing.

When we talked in Othello, we needed an additional $500 dollars to reach our goal.  We were blown away by the response!  Through their amazing generosity, we raised a total of $1,221. Praise the Lord!!!  The additional $721 will be sent down to Chile as well.  If there are any unforeseen costs on the Big Toy, Sister Rosita will let us know, and the money will be used for that.  When the project is completed, any additional funds will be used as the foundation money for our next exciting project - A Higher Education fund for the girls from the Hogar.  (More to come soon on that.)

Both Matt and I are so happy and content, beyond words.  We want to thank EVERYONE so much for your prayers, your support, and for opening up your communities to us.

There is much work still left to be done!

Stay connected with us on the journey!  We will be posting up dates on the Big Toy's progress!!!  

2nd presentation: St. Rita's in Tacoma

The weekend of September 12th, we were pleseantly surprised with an impromptu presentation at the Holy Names Society breakfast at St. Rita's in Tacoma.  It was wonderful to finally share with a community here in Tacoma, and we received such a warm and energetic response.  We raised a total of $170 and met wonderful and knowledgable people excited to work together with us on future fund raising projects.

A big Thank you to Holy Names, Fr. Saco, and to everyone that donated.  Every little bit counts, and helps make the ripple bigger, touching more and more people each time.

It's all very exciting.  Stay tuned for more updates!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

First Presentation in Quincy

So we finally bit the bullet and did our first presentation about the Girls and the Hogar at the Quincy Church.  We thought it was fitting that Quincy was our first stop, as they had sent us off to mission almost 2 years ago when we started this journey.  It was a wonderful experience.  Wonderful to share our experience in a meaningful way with a community that means so much to us.  I had forgotten how many amazing and loving people had touched our lives in Quincy. 

I also wanted to give everyone an update on our goal of raising money for the Playground Toy.  We need a total of $2,000 US dollars.  We started with $600 dollars from donation gifts for last Christmas.  In Quincy we raised another $650 dollars, and another $80 dollars from talking with various people.  From all these amazing generous people, we have raised a total of ... (du, du, du!) ... $1,330 dollars! 

So, we've only got $670 left to go!  We'll be posting more news as the project progresses.  Keep watching!

Friday, August 6, 2010

The next Chapter & Big Toy!!!

What does it hold?  Where will we live?  What jobs will we find and what direction?  So many unknowns face us as we move back to the Northwest... many more than when we decided to swap continents two years ago. 

One thing we know for sure, there is still much to do for our girls.  Before we left Santiago, we worked closely with Sister Rosita and a wonderful handyman, Maestro Hugo.  The great project? (drum roll please) A Playground toy for the back patio at the hogar.           YEAH!!!! :)

I strongly believe that one of institutions biggest struggles is providing stimulating environments for their kids.  Lack of climbing toys, photographs, and access to books are common, if not the norm.  It is no different at the Hogar.  The girls do not have a safe place to play, climb and be kids. They use what ever is in their environment, and hang upside down with only bricked patio to break their fall. 

Our first inspiration for the Big Toy, came last December.  An amazing family, with big hearts, donated enough money for Christmas that helped us dream bigger than we had ever before.  We wanted to do something fun with the money, and just for the girls... after all, it was a Christmas gift!  In January, at the peak of summer vacation Matt and I started talking with Maestro Hugo.  After a lot of research into playground safety standards, and consulting of many 5, 6, 8 and 12 year olds (as well as a few staff and directors) we had a good plan. But, best laid plans... can easily be thwarted by the 5th largest earthquake in recorded history. Playground plans were put on hold. 

Well, we're back!  And we're hoping God is smiling on our dreams.  We would love you to help us make this dream a reality for these special girls.  We have $600 and are now asking for your help to raise another $1400.
Here's the break down:

* Platform 1.2 meters tall, and 1.6 x 1.2 meters wide
* Tobagan Slide
* 2 meter long hanging bridge, ending at a Fireman's sliding pole
* Wood and chain climbing 'ladder' leading to platform
* 2 bars for swinging/pull-ups
* Play steering wheel on platform
* wooden rung ladder up to platform
* Roof and hand railings for the platform

The area for the big toy is currently a slanted slope with a small patch of grass 5.8 meters by 4.7 meters. (in picture; directly behind the girls).  Maestro Hugo will even out the land  here, put up a retaining wall on the bottom side, along with a fence to protect the girls from the drop.  The final safety feature will be 9 inches of pea gravel to soften falls. 

Quite the improvement from our previous situation wouldn't you say?

Any questions, feel free to email us at

To make a donation mail a check to:
Janelle and Matthew Costanti
860 S Crestline
Othello, Wa 99344

Don't forget to write Big Toy in the for line.