They Call Her Tia Lilly
Everyone calls her “Tia Lilly,” from the neighbors at the grocery store to the toddlers who waddle past her on their way to play with teams visiting from the United States. The teenage girls who she cares for every day say they want to be like her when they grow up.
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A Safe Place
Everyone calls her “Tia Lilly,” from the neighbors at the grocery store to the toddlers who waddle past her on their way to play with teams visiting from the United States.
The teenage girls who she cares for every day say they want to be like her when they grow up. And her children’s home, Hope & Future, is a true image of its founder’s heart and soul. The home provides a safe and loving environment for more than 25 teen moms and children rescued from abuse, neglect, and trafficking.
Change of Plans
Abandoned by her father when she was a toddler, Lilly Ferrer knows all too well the struggles of being raised by a single mother.
“There were days we had no food and days we had only beans to eat. I know how many of these children feel because I’ve been there – struggling to help provide for a family when there is little support.”
Her mother immigrated to the United States to make a better life for her children, and Lilly remained in the United States until the summer of her first year in college. She returned to Guatemala for a two-week vacation – and stayed. She knew her homeland was where she belonged.
Though she had a successful career as an educator for many years, Lilly’s heart was pulled toward orphan care, and her husband encouraged her to pursue her dream.
“I opened a baby home in San Lucas, Guatemala, caring for little ones from newborn to the age of three.”
The babies were most often rescued from trashcans, street corners, septic tanks, and buildings where they were abandoned. In 2012, Lilly was called to rescue a little boy named Diego. He had been found in a septic tank, injured and very sick because of the waste he had been breathing.
When she arrived to receive him, she was asked if she could take two more infants. One, a little girl, had been found in a hotel, wrapped in toilet paper and placed in a trashcan. The other, a little boy, was found outside in a sack covered with leaves and rocks.
A Safe Place
A Drop of Hope
As she and a volunteer drove away, she looked down at the infants.
“Diego was on my lap on a pillow to protect his fragile body. One baby was cradled in my right arm and one was snuggled in my left. I realized that all had come from the same circumstances. I realized every one of these children belonged to someone – someone who was afraid and desperate. God placed a drop of hope in me that something could be done.”
Lilly committed that day to going deeper into the issue of teen pregnancy, and to offer respite to young mothers.
Lilly also had four boys at the home, all removed from neglect.
She now calls them her ‘founding members” of Hope & Future.
“I received the youngest brother in 2011. He had been removed from his mother for abuse and neglect; he was so malnourished he wasn’t able to walk or talk. Six months later, we attended a hearing for him and learned of his three brothers – they all needed to be rescued.
Their mother had had them at 13, 14, 15, and 16. To this day, the boys live with me. We are their family. The mother is in gangs and organized crime. She has no desire to be a mother to the boys, and rarely ever visits the courts when we have appointments. The boys do not want to return to their mother, but would love to show her that they have a good home where they feel safe and secure, get a good education, and have great love.”
Hope and Future
Room to Grow
Hope & Future Children’s Home opened in 2013 with the four boys and an invitation for teen moms and their infants to find sanctuary and Gospel-centered care.
Within months, the home was full. In 2014, Lilly was granted a larger home overlooking lush fields of produce and volcano-dotted vistas.
“Guatemalan law states that buildings used by ministries may not be used for any other purpose. So when a ministry closed here, their building was made available. The ministry board believed in us, and we were able to move to a beautiful home that provides us space to live and grow.”
Education for Life
The teen moms receive specialized education at Hope & Future.
Some are homeschooled, while others attend a private Christian school just down the road. They are also learning basic business skills and life skills.
“The girls have been selling avocados from our trees – they must learn about inventory, pricing, profitability, and how to reinvest in their business. I would eventually love to have a small store at the base of the hill for the girls to be able to make and sell pastries and bread, fresh produce, and more. The joy on their faces when they are able to participate in providing for their children is wonderful.”
A Good Day to Smile
Lilly has big dreams for each of her special children at Hope & Future.
“I want to know their heart is healed, so it will be opened even more to learning and growing. I want to see each of these children grow and be successful in their vocations. I dream that Tia Lilly will be at each of their weddings as their mama. The older girls have shared with me that they want to marry a Christian man. I share with them that those men are praying the same – that they’ll marry a good-hearted Christian woman. I look forward to celebrating those days.”
Fernanda, a young mom rescued from abuse, hugs her baby boy Sammy, and smiles as she looks around at the home where she has been so warmly welcomed by Tia Lilly.
“This place - the name of this place is my favorite because it is true. Here I have hope. And here I have a future."
Orphan Outreach began a partnership with Hope & Future in 2014. Thier work there includes providing humanitarian aid, funding and labor for special projects. Short-term mission teams also provide teaching, support, and do special projects.
Images by Ronne Rock