When I lived in Guatemala I became acquainted with Mi Casa. It has developed into quite an amazing orphanage. It all began after the Viet Nam war, when veteran John Wetterer was traveling in Central America and his heart melted at the sight of so many children begging.
“Why are you begging?” he would ask in his best Spanish. My mother is sick and I
don’t have a father, or I have no family, or some other sad story. “I can’t give you money, but you may come to my house—mi casa,” he would reply. He would give them a safe place to stay and a nice meal.
It wasn’t long before he was taking formal steps to foster the children he helped, and things spiraled from there.
While I was in Guatemala, Wetterer had only been at it about five years. He arranged at that time to purchase a former hospital for himself and the boys. It was quite like a camp: there was a system for everything. He had academics during the day (six days a week), and in the backyard were horses, a swimming pool, garden, and more. The kids all had duties, with the older kids looking after the younger ones, taking turns with meal preparations, homework times, and more. They had their own printing press, thrift shop, library, and more. They even had their own Boy Scout troop!
Imagine taking your kids to a movie, and requiring the entire movie theater! Pizza Hut used to donate outdated paper tablecloths for the kids to do their homework on. Yes, even scrap paper is not insignificant when you have throngs who need it. Imagine organizing your own marching band for the independence parade, or letting 90 of your boys participate in X-games!
They has a group that played marimba (the national instrument of Guatemala, much like a giant xylophone). The marimba group would play at civic functions and other events, and 30 years ago, even had recorded an LP (not nearly as common then as it is now).
About 10 years later, “Tio Juan” also began to take on girls, and now he has expanded beyond my ability to keep up with him! The marimba band has traveled internationally on tour. The homes have 26 in-house soccer teams. They play basketball, tennis, and go boating. Most of the children end up in college, with many of them in U.S. schools in Arizona, Ohio, Connecticut, California, Florida, Illinois, Arkansas, New York, Vermont, and Texas. Most are on scholarships. Some 8,000 kids have grown up in Mi Casa and Tio Juan’s other homes.
Mi Casa is now 36 years old. And if you go to visit, don’t be surprised to see kids in Heart O’ the Hills uniforms! Yes, many of our out-of-date stock finds its way to Guatemala City for the boys and girls of Mi Casa.