13–14 March 2017 • Guatemala
On November 29, 2016, St. Vladimir’s Seminary received $126,580 in donations for its annual #GivingTuesday campaign, and on March 13, 2107, the Seminary gave one-tenth of it away. In keeping with its annual custom on #GivingTuesday, the Seminary presented a tithe of its received donations to a select partner with a special need, in thanksgiving to God for the bounty it had received.
This year that partner was IEIRA, an online university in Guatemala that is educating 300 students from Central and South America, including Orthodox Christian young men and women who once resided at Hogar Rafael Ayau and San Miguel del Lago orphanages. During a visit to IEIRA headquarters, Archpriest Chad Hatfield, president of St. Vladimir’s, personally presented a check for $12,658 to Dr. Igumeni Inés Ayau García (aka Mother Inés), who is both Abbess of the Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity and overseer of the Rafael and San Miguel orphanages, as well as Vice-Chancellor of the Senate governing IEIRA.
“This check for $12,658,” said Fr. Chad, during the presentation ceremony, “comes with the love and respect of your sister Orthodox institution in New York.
“I followed what you were doing with IEIRA,” continued Fr. Chad, “and I thought: ‘What’s the best way that we can assist you?’ … and so, we decided, on #GivingTuesday, to use our own large internet communications capabilities from St. Vladimir’s, which literally go around the world—currently, we have students on campus from 12 countries!”
The presentation happened just two days following a horrific tragedy at a state-run orphanage in Guatemala, the Virgen de la Asunción. A fire within that institution killed (by latest count) 40 teenage girls, and a subsequent investigation uncovered issues of abuse and neglect in the institution’s management.
During Fr. Chad’s visit, Mother Inés not only expressed her gratitude for the funds for the university, but also asked that Orthodox Christians globally begin praying for a change in the laws that govern orphanages in Guatemala, in light of the recent tragedy. Additionally, Fr. Chad, Mother Inés, and another monastic from her monastery, Mother Ivonne, were able to attend a public commemoration ceremony on March 14th for the 40 young women. At that ceremony, the two monastics presented a formal petition to the government, which included a call to their Congress to enact changes in their country’s present laws, in order to help protect the abandoned children of Guatemala.
“This loss of young life,” Mother Inés stated in an open letter accompanying her petition, “has shone a bright light on the darkness that exists regarding the situation faced by orphans and underprivileged youth in Guatemala, where the laws are completely against them and anyone who desires to help them…Pray for our country. Pray for us.”