YOUR support makes a transforming difference in the lives of ICC children. Yes, you help provide nutritious meals, warm beds, clean clothes, quality education, and medical attention. Yet, as critical as these things are, there is no more important thing you help to provide than mothers and fathers who give the nurturing care that is essential for the children to thrive. Dedicated and effective Mothers and Fathers are an extension of your love and care for the children!
As a tribute to the dozens of house mothers and fathers who sacrifice and toil and spend their physical and emotional energy caring for the children, we wanted to share a behind the scenes view of the life and experiences of Julio and Lillian from the ICC children’s village in El Salvador. They have served as house parents for orphaned and vulnerable children for over 20 years. Before the worldwide pandemic struck, ICC president, Rick Fleck, sat down with Julio and Lilian and asked them a few questions. Here is an edited excerpt from that interview.
Q: How many children have been in your family?
Julio: At the beginning, when we were working here with Maranatha, we had 44 children. It was a mixed group of boys and girls. (Editor’s Note: When ICC took over the management of this project from Maranatha Volunteers International, there were several large homes that housed dozens of children each. Over time, we worked to reduce the size of each family to create a more natural family feel for the children.)
Lilian: How we did that, I don’t know. Two times we were ready to leave because there was too much stress. At the time, we had so many children, and we had a lot of little ones. So, the director said that if he would take away some of the little children that we had and put them in a different home, maybe we would have less stress.
Julio: To get everybody ready to go to church or to get them ready to go to school, that was a real challenge!
Q: What has been the most rewarding thing for you serving as house parents?
Lilian: We were able to help many children spiritually, also we were able to help them with their feelings and social issues. A lot of these kids think of us as their parents, as their mom and dad. They still write to us on Facebook and WhatsApp and keep in contact. Some of the kids that were the most rebellious ones are now some of the best.
One girl who had been rebellious and who was a difficult child came to me and was crying and asking for forgiveness. She said, ‘I was so bad. And you had so much patience with me. I appreciate it, and I’m so sorry.’ I told her, ‘It’s okay, you were just a child. I understand that.’
Another thing that’s rewarding is that the children come and visit us with their children now – their families. They come, and they joyfully tell their children, ‘Look, these are my parents. They’re your grandparents. This is where I lived as a child.’
Julio and Lilian then shared how they taught the children to be responsible.
Julio: We developed a point system to work with the kids. For example, if they didn’t clean their room, they would have three points added to their name. If they didn’t wash their clothes, they would get one point added for every piece of clothing they didn’t wash. Once they got five points, they couldn’t ride a bicycle or go out on the playground. And if the group would go swimming, they couldn’t go.
We also gave the children the opportunity to be able to erase some of those points. That would be by cleaning the living room or working in the yard a little bit. Then they could go to the list and erase one of their points. Then they would have their privileges back. We always did it in pencil, because that way they could erase the points.
Lilian: A lot of the children didn’t want to have points added to their name and then have it erased. You could still see that it had been erased. It was stained. So, if they misbehaved, we would say, ‘Okay, you need to go put a point up there on the list.’
The child would say, ‘No, no, no, don’t put it up there yet. Right now, I’m going to go out and do a job, and I’ll get it back and then you won’t have to put a point on the list.’ Then at the end of the week, the child would say, ‘I came out white. Mine doesn’t have any stains on it.’
In our house, we were calm. We didn’t have to yell at the children. We didn’t have to nag. If the kids didn’t care about the privileges, we said, ‘Fine, you don’t have to go.’ It was very easy because we didn’t get upset about it.
It was the children’s own thing that they were managing themselves. The good thing was that they would do their work singing and being happy. They weren’t upset.
Q: Could you share a story of a child that was helped a lot by this program?
Julio: There are many stories, but one that comes to my mind is Hector (not his real name). When he came, he had no family. He was totally an orphan. We were his only family and still are. Even when we would go on vacation or if we would have a day off, we would frequently take him with us because he would tell us, ‘You are my mom and dad. I have nobody.’ He really bonded with me.
I’ve been the maintenance person here and work in everything that has to do with electricity, plumbing, and any kind of maintenance work. So, Hector ended up being with me a lot and learned all of those things. He told me one day, ‘I like electricity.’ So, I told him, ‘Maybe you should go and study it and learn how to work with electricity.’
Lilian: You helped him with his homework and assignments.
Julio: Yes, I helped him with his assignments and everything that he did. When he left and became independent, he got a job at Walmart. He is the maintenance person for electrical issues with all the Walmart stores in the area. He learned plumbing here, and he is doing a lot of that at Walmart as well. Everything he learned here he’s doing with them now, even carpentry things. They like him because he’s a jack-of-all-trades.
He knows how to do everything. Anytime he has a problem he’s not sure how to handle, he’ll call me and ask, ‘What do I do about this issue?’ He comes to visit whenever he has a day off. He called me one day and said, ‘Thank you for everything that you taught me because now it’s coming in really useful.’
Lilian: He doesn’t have any Sabbath problems at work. He is a leader in the Pathfinder club and is always in church.
Q: Is there anything you would like to say to the ICC family of supporters?
Lilian: I’m grateful to the donors for all of the help that they have given and are giving. We see so many lives that have been changed. Many of the kids are professionals, they are independent, they are doing well. It’s all because of the donations and the support that they have gotten over the years.
Julio: Many lives have been changed.
Lilian: We have three boys of our own, and even their lives were impacted in a very positive way by living here. Our older boys are both engineers now, one was seven, and one was three when they came here. We are eternally grateful for you and for all the donors for the education that our children were able to receive.
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For over 20 years, Julio and Lilian have invested their lives in the children of ICC, thanks to the support they have received from donors like you. The results can be seen in grown children, like Hector and others who are successful, contributing members of society, and who continue to maintain the spiritual values that they were taught.
This month, please consider giving a special gift in recognition and support of the mothers and fathers who patiently and lovingly care for the children. Your gift is very much needed as we enter the lean summer months, and it will directly benefit the children by helping to provide the care that they need. Use the response coupon or donate online at www.forhiskids.org. Be sure to designate your gift as ‘In Honor of Parents.’ On behalf of the children and house parents, thank you for the blessing you are to them!