Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bahamas Children's Emergency Hostel


Spring break! That blessed time of year when we Midwesterners attempt to escape a long winter in hopes of finding warmer weather. We decided our winter had been so terrible in Chicago; we had to flee the country and head to Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

Although it is breathtakingly beautiful, which is why most of us travel so far to get there; the Bahamas have many issues to grapple with including a desperate need for foster families. There are far more children in need of safe homes than there are foster families to provide them. So, children have to live in group homes such as the Bahamas Children's Emergency Hostel.

So, along with swimsuits and sunscreen, I also packed along dozens of new sheets, towels and undergarments. (Many of which had been sent to me through the generosity of wonderful Mrs. International ladies who I cannot wait to see this summer in Jacksonville!)


Thank you for these wonderful donations. The Children’s Emergency Hostel was overwhelmed with gratitude.

There was so much to bring along, it would've cost $400 to ship ahead of us to the hotel. My plan was foiled as that extra money could be better used by the home. So, I decided to take the boxes along as extra checked baggage. What’s an extra bag or two? Or three?

The Children’s Emergency Hostel is filled beyond capacity with more than 32 children living there. These kids range in age from newborn through 11 years old.

Before being given a tour and meeting some of the children who live in the emergency hostel, I was able to sit with the director of the home. They operate on a budget of about $300,000 a year. Most of it is funded through private donations and fundraising events they hold during the year such as a, “Steak-out.”

Beyond the bottom-line budgets are the children she and a half-dozen other women care for each day. And she was very candid when she told me that after three years it's sometimes too much for her heart. I can only try to understand what she takes home with her at night.

Many of the children call the hostel their home because of abuse and neglect; typically stemming from substance abuse issues. Unfortunately there are also some parents who for financial and other reasons cannot care for these young ones.

I don't have any pictures of the children, as they need to be shielded from prying eyes for safety reasons. Still, I wanted you to see where these sweet boys and girls live.

Seven infants under the age of one year live and sleep in this room.

Several young boys live in this bedroom.

I was nearly knocked over by the one of the biggest hugs I've gotten from one of the littlest two year olds I've yet to meet. After sitting on my lap, this itty-bitty girl asked my name and told me she was “Brittany.” And then, for the rest of my visit she was on my hip. She and her older brother live at the home...for now.

She's that funny little kid you have to keep your eye on. Brittany started digging through my bag and eating all the old M&M’s at the bottom of it. She would hold up a found M&M, giggle, and throw it in her mouth. It nearly broke my heart when she asked me to take her home with me. Not sure they would allow her through customs, but I was tempted to try!

There was also the sweetest little one-year-old boy toddling about the hostel. He came there when his mother recently fell ill and had to be taken to the hospital. She passed away the day before I arrived. They're not sure if he has any family members who can take care of him, so the hostel may become his permanent home. I pray his mother continues to watch over and guide him in these coming years. And I hope he is able to trace his roots back to her and her final resting place. Yes, I have those dark concerns for him.

The home was very organized and tidy for my visit. Still, my home’s walls are lined with artwork from my kids, which I proudly hang for all to see. Ali and Johnny may be even prouder of their hard work! And I noticed there weren’t any personal touches or artwork proudly on display as this may or may not be a temporary holding home for these young boys and girls. Regardless, may each child who enters through the doors of this home find a safe and permanent one very soon. I will keep each one of these sweet peas in my heart every night.

With Hostel Hostel director Marita Ferguson.

God Bless those very patient ladies who look after these children in need and I thank the Mrs. International ladies who took time to shop for these kiddos in need and to ship everything to me. You were with me!

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio

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