Work, Play, Love 5

Every Little Girl Deserves to Feel Like a Princess

A smiling group of young girls in princess dresses and tiaras pose in front of a pink and purple castle adorned with turrets and a pumpkin carriage. Their fairytale life is a blessing made possible from the hard work and contributions put forth by Kim Melia of Work, Play, Love and her Hogar Heroes.

The castle is Maria Auxiliadora Hogar, an orphanage that houses up to 35 girls. Situated in the mountains of Guatemala in the city of Mixco, this home creates a safe place for the girls to learn and grow. Their closest neighbor is the boys’ orphanage, Hogar Miguel Magone.

However, their lives were not always a fairytale. Virtually all of the children at these orphanages come from abusive situations, alcoholic parents, or families that cannot support them.

Kim shares the account of two boys, ages 7 and 9, who found themselves at the orphanage after being picked up by the police. They had escaped their abusive family in Honduras and made the trek to Guatemala in their rubber boots. The courts ultimately sent them back to their country, only for them to reappear in Guatemala, again on foot, and with a third child in tow. Gabby was taken as a baby from parents with AIDS, and fed only baby food until the age of five before she arrived at Maria Auxiliadora Hogar.  

Work, Play, Love, a 501c3 non-profit started by LegalShield business partners Mike, Steve, and Kim Melia, is a vital organization creating these fairytales. They began their efforts in Guatemala by fundraising for the existing boys’ orphanage Hogar Miguel Magone, helping to purchase a van to transport the children safely.

That was only the beginning.

Having a discussion with the orphanage’s directors Karen Rodas and Estuardo Reynoso, Kim recalls asking “What would make you happy? What would make the kids happy?” Karen came up with the idea of building a girls’ orphanage. But not just any orphanage. One that looked like a castle. Four years later, Maria Auxiliadora Hogar became a real-life fairytale.

Every little girl deserves to feel like a princess.

While the focus of Work, Play, Love is to fundraise to continue operations for the girls’ orphanage, they also help with the boys’ orphanage. The Hogar Heroes developed out of this need for continuous funding. There are currently more than 100 Hogar Heroes that contribute $15 a month on average. These donations fund the entire operation including food, utilities, teachers, programs, psychologists, administration, etc. They are not supporting just one child; their monthly donations fund the entire home.

At any one time there might be 100-150 kids. They often feed and help the children in the local village go to school as well, so they are really making a positive impact in the community as a whole.

In Guatemala, international adoption is not currently a possibility. The courts prefer that children are placed in families through reunification with a biological family member, foster care or domestic adoption. Over 50 percent of Guatemalans live in poverty, suggesting that many families cannot afford another child. So children are sent to a large orphanage where they are given a number. Siblings are frequently separated. The idea of the neighboring orphanages of Miguel Magone and Maria Auxiladora makes it likely that siblings can be housed near one another.

“Our purpose is to Work a little, Play a lot, and Love even more,” says Kim. “Sometimes just hanging out with these kids is what they need and what they don’t get. It makes a difference and makes them feel like they are part of a family.”

Next on the horizon is a girls’ school which is targeted to open in 2017.

As a Platinum Executive Director with LegalShield, Kim Melia has had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala 15+ times in the last few years. Her business gives her the freedom and lifestyle to run the non-profit. She does not take an income through her efforts with Work, Play, Love.

To become a Hogar Hero or learn more about Work, Play, Love and the children, visit WorkPlayLove.org.