Beauty is …

We were checking out at the grocery store the other day, and my son Micah said, “Hey dad, there’s a picture of Guatemala.”

I turned around and noticed he was pointing at this magazine. I had to hide my tears because his observation struck a chord in my soul. He was talking about the country of his birth. This is one of the reasons we invest so much or ourselves into Athentikos.


Once we got to the car, I explained that the picture was not of Guatemala, but of a different country called Syria. That didn’t really matter to him. Micah was certain of the photo’s location. He described in detail the things which made the photo “Guatemalan”.

He said, “The buildings are old, gray, and broken. The streets are broken and dirty …”

I almost chimed in to correct him and reinforce the reality that this photo was NOT Guatemala. But, I caught myself in time and just listened to him explain.

“It is kind of scary …”, he continued.

Wow! Was this how my son really saw his birth country – old, broken, and scary? What a contrast! I see a beautiful country with flowers, volcanoes, lakes, historical architecture, intoxicating color, and some of the warmest, most charming people I have ever met. However, when I stopped to look at the photo through the eyes of a six year old, suddenly Guatemala I could see the similarities. They are both war torn, yearning for hope and a better future.

I told Micah I could see the similarities he mentioned, but this photo was not taken in Guatemala. I explained the fact that war had damaged both these countries, but they were still beautiful; and both had incredible people are working hard to make their countries better. I reminded him of all the beautiful things in Guatemala and promised to take him there someday to explore its wonder with him.

He is very excited about climbing a volcano together someday.

Admittedly, so am I.

International Day For Street Children

Imagine yourself for a moment as a kid again. But this time, your parents are gone, you do not know the next time you will eat, you have no roof over your head when you sleep, and you don’t know where to hide from the abuse of strangers, gang members or even the police. You have no home and no family, except for the other band of kids who have nothing and no one just like you. This is a reality for millions of children living on the streets around the world.

Estimating numbers of ‘street children’ is fraught with difficulties. The exact number of street children is impossible to quantify, but the figure almost certainly runs into tens of millions across the world. It is likely that the numbers are increasing.

The International Day for Street Children: Louder Together was launched by the Consortium for Street Children on 12th April 2011.  It is a new campaign to give a louder voice to the millions of street children all around the world so their rights cannot be ignored. Governments need to listen. We want to help make this happen. We must give street children a voice. Together we are louder and have more impact so we are asking everyone to Raise your Voices for Street Children.

In honor of International Street Children Awareness Day, Athentikos is offering 50% off Reparando digital downloads. Reparando tells the story of several Guatemalans working to bring hope to a beautiful country that has been ravaged after years of civil war and violence. Response to this documentary was overwhelming both in Guatemala, the USA and around the world. Athentikos is producing a new documentary titled Becoming Fools. Becoming Fools focuses on the street youth of Guatemala City and the grassroots efforts working to improve their living situations and give them hope.

Download your copy of Reparando.

Proceeds from Reparando sales go directly toward the Becoming Fools project.
Please support Athentikos as we raise awareness and provide hope to change the lives of street children around the world.

Questioning Reality

I knew this day would eventually come. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it. But I could never wrap my brain around why. Perhaps I was just scared. But today was the day.

Micah came home from school today and explained that kids at school said he was adopted and had another mother. He asked us if that was true.

We have always told our sons they were born in Guatemala and celebrated their heritage. But for the past couple years, they thought everyone was born there. We repeatedly explained that we weren’t born in Guatemala, but it never sunk in. According to Micah, “even Jesus and Santa Claus were born in Guatemala”. That was his perceived reality … at least until today when he was told by his peers that he was different.

My first reaction was anger and sorrow. I was angry that these kids might have told Micah this information to be mean to him. I was sad that that they might have hurt his feelings because they didn’t know the truth about adoption and his story. And of course, there was the fear that perhaps somehow my son would view us as people other than his parents who loved him. We planned to have this conversation with our sons eventually, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. At least we had read a lot of books that prepared us for the question. I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself as we ate dinner.

After dinner Amelia and I explained to Micah and Elliot in further detail how they came to be our sons. In short, we told them that their birth mother (tummy mamma) loved them very much, but that she could not take care of them. She loved them enough to give them to us so that we could take care of them and become their “forever parents”. We explained how Amelia and I tried to have babies from Amelia’s tummy but couldn’t and that we were very sad. But God had different plans. He gave us the gift of children through Micah and Elliot. And even more, we believe it was God’s plan all along. We told them that adoption is not second best or less special than being with a tummy mamma. God chose to give them to us and we are so very thankful that they are our sons. We were proud of their heritage and story and loved them both so, so, so very much.

We talked for a long time and explained our story in several ways. We even used Kung Fu Panda 2 as an example of adoption. I could see the wheels turning in Micah’s head. His eyes told me that he was contemplating this information. Then, he asked us the name of his tummy Mamma … And suddenly, after years of wondering to myself when it would happen … It was happening …

… and then just as quickly as he asked about his tummy mamma, he began talking about a video game …

Maybe it sunk in. Maybe it didn’t. We gave Micah and Elliot hugs and encouraged them to ask us questions about their story whenever they had them in the future. I am sure there will be more questions. Maybe it will be tomorrow. Maybe it will be next week or next year. But the questions will come, and we will answer them when they do.

For now, I know this: our sons KNOW that we love them and we are one more step further into our story together. It wasn’t a bad day after all.

Questioning Reality

I knew this day would eventually come. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it. But I could never wrap my brain around why. Perhaps I was just scared. But today was the day.

Micah came home from school today and explained that kids at school said he was adopted and had another mother. He asked us if that was true.

We have always told our sons they were born in Guatemala and celebrated their heritage. But for the past couple years, they thought everyone was born there. We repeatedly explained that we weren’t born in Guatemala, but it never sunk in. According to Micah, “even Jesus and Santa Claus were born in Guatemala”. That was his perceived reality … at least until today when he was told by his peers that he was different.

My first reaction was anger and sorrow. I was angry that these kids might have told Micah this information to be mean to him. I was sad that that they might have hurt his feelings because they didn’t know the truth about adoption and his story. And of course, there was the fear that perhaps somehow my son would view us as people other than his parents who loved him. We planned to have this conversation with our sons eventually, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. At least we had read a lot of books that prepared us for the question. I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself as we ate dinner.

After dinner Amelia and I explained to Micah and Elliot in further detail how they came to be our sons. In short, we told them that their birth mother (tummy mamma) loved them very much, but that she could not take care of them. She loved them enough to give them to us so that we could take care of them and become their “forever parents”. We explained how Amelia and I tried to have babies from Amelia’s tummy but couldn’t and that we were very sad. But God had different plans. He gave us the gift of children through Micah and Elliot. And even more, we believe it was God’s plan all along. We told them that adoption is not second best or less special than being with a tummy mamma. God chose to give them to us and we are so very thankful that they are our sons. We were proud of their heritage and story and loved them both so, so, so very much.

We talked for a long time and explained our story in several ways. We even used Kung Fu Panda 2 as an example of adoption. I could see the wheels turning in Micah’s head. His eyes told me that he was contemplating this information. Then, he asked us the name of his tummy Mamma … And suddenly, after years of wondering to myself when it would happen … It was happening …

… and then just as quickly as he asked about his tummy mamma, he began talking about a video game …

Maybe it sunk in. Maybe it didn’t. We gave Micah and Elliot hugs and encouraged them to ask us questions about their story whenever they had them in the future. I am sure there will be more questions. Maybe it will be tomorrow. Maybe it will be next week or next year. But the questions will come, and we will answer them when they do.

For now, I know this: our sons KNOW that we love them and we are one more step further into our story together. It wasn’t a bad day after all.

It’s a Team Effort

The kids involved in Fergie’s classes are not the only ones learning.

Throughout my time here in Guatemala and throughout production, I have been learning a lot about filming, photography, technology, scheduling shoots, coordinating crew members, organizing transportation, and even a bit little of clowning.

Our Guatemala production team is learning too, as they are authentically responding and volunteering their talents.  We have been blessed with such a great crew of volunteers willing to help us along this process!!

“I feel so happy and privileged to be volunteering with Athentikos. It has been a great experience getting to know the crew and all the people involved in the documentary. I’ve met people from different backgrounds and situations that are passionate and have a heart to see a better Guatemala. I have so much to learn from them, they have inspired me and challenged me to give my best in this project and to stop being indifferent to the need around me.”  – Alex Ortiz

 

The Athentikos team has had a filming shoot just about every week since I arrived here in January.   We have had informal shoots and formal shoots, shoots with the kids and shoots of random scenes around the city.  We have shot a clown show, a memorial service, conducted several interviews, and now every Tuesday and Thursday we are documenting the kids process through learning the art of clowning with Fergie.

With all the cameras around, Mefi has even started dreaming about what it would be like to one day be in a movie.  Mefi asked me once… “Gary have you been in a film before? Because I like a girl and I think she likes me, it will be funny if I take her to the movies to see myself.”

Along the way we have experienced ups and downs.  We struggled through technical issues at first as we worked to learn about the equipment.  But most issues have been resolved.  We know have a procedure we follow to ensure all footage in dumped and filed correctly, memory cards are formatted, batteries are charged and then all equipment is ready to go the night before the next shoot.

“One of the things that happen when you’re working in audio is that you have to be super careful with not getting any outside noise in the recording. Therefore, you have to be silent and try to find places that won’t have a lot of people laughing or talking.  When we recorded Panchorizo’s show, I didn’t know what to expect.  I heard the show was very entertaining, but I had my goal of being there to record audio.  The funny thing starts, when I realize I’m recording audio and that the ZOOM is super sensitive to noise, but I just can’t stop laughing at Panchorizo.  He was so funny and creative; the show was so welcoming that I literally had to cover my mouth and nose so I wouldn’t make noise that would go into the recording. That’s probably been one of the hardest settings I’ve been recording in and still is probably the funniest…” – Hubert Bendfeldt.

With the kids well on their way to become clowns, we are now well on our way to becoming a professional film crews.  And through this process relationships are forming.

“For me the best was when byron came behind me and hugged me. I cant describe how good that felt….” – Josue Porta.

‘Becoming Fools’ together has been such a blast!