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Coming Full Circle: One Small Story from El Salvador

In 1980, a good-hearted and hard-working school teacher adopted two young children from El Salvador. Already a year into a 12-year brutal civil war, El Salvador was putting its orphanages to hard use. Helen Henson aware of the brutality and horror occurring in this Central American country contacted Patricia Burns, the El Salvador Program Coordinator for Concern for Children located in Ohio. Helen adopted 5-year-old Glen Miguel and 4-year-old Mary Ellen.

Thirty one years later, Helen took her adopted children back to the small orphanage where they had lived. Only 2,500 miles by air from Las Vegas to San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, but millions of miles away when you consider the destinies changed.

The Adalberto Guirola Children’s Home was founded in 1906 by the Guirola Family. According to the family story, Adalberto Guirola died very young during the war and his part of the family fortune was used to construct and operate the Hogar. For more than 50 years, the Hogar Adalberto Guirola was directed by a foundation comprised of members of the family. The Mothers of Bethany operated the Hogar and provided care and shaped the lives of the children who resided there.

In 1975 the Home passed to the jurisdiction of the government of El Salvador, specifically to the Salvadoran Council for Minors, the Foundation was dissolved and the Mothers of Bethany withdrew.

Management and operation of the Hogar was given to the Sisters of Charity in 1985, but unfortunately because of the passage of time and the lack of funds, the building deteriorated. It became difficult to provide good services to the children housed there because the population was growing as well as the need for more space, personnel and funds.

Finally in 1986, an earthquake seriously damaged the building and it was declared uninhabitable.

The Central government requested help for the new construction in which the children now live, but with the idea that when the war ended the influx of children would end.

Then in 1992 until the present the Congregation of the Sisters of Bethany has been in charge of the administration of the Hogar and the care of its children.

Throughout its history the Hogar has provided shelter for children whose parents have been unable to care for them, who have been abandoned and neglected, or who have been orphaned. Children are placed in the home through the Salvadoran Institute for Children and Adolescents. Until January of 2012 infants and toddlers and some older girls were cared for in the Hogar.

Then in January of 2012 the Hogar was designated as a home for handicapped children. All of the infants and toddlers were moved to other government orphanages and the Guirola began the intake of special needs children. They now provide care to 80 handicapped children from infant to age 18.

Alzheimer’s Services of the East Bay in San Francisco, CA has donated a full-size Ford bus that will be refurbished and made mechanically sound to withstand the tough El Salvadoran terrain by Nor-Cal Vansowner Ken Karasinski. He is also the uncle of Glen Miguel and Mary Ellen. Ken is acting as the coordinator for delivery of the bus to El Salvador and is currently looking for donation of a full-size commercial wheelchair lift and much-needed supplies. He is hoping to fill the bus with supplies to make use of all available space and to ensure the well-being and success of this orphanage that has come to mean so much to him.