Vail Valley family's mission to help orphaned teens in Peru | VailDaily.com | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley family’s mission to help orphaned teens in Peru

This girl was abandoned after her son was born, leaving her with no education, no home and no way to support herself. She is one of many women who are learning skills through a transitional home for Peruvian teens who have aged out of orphanages.

How to help

You can be part of Corazon de Esperanza’s 2019 Peru Crew Trip.

You can also sponsor a kid for $150. That covers housing and education, counseling and case management.

Go to www.corazondeesperanza.org

Corazón de Esperanza, Inc. is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to providing hope to orphaned children, at-risk teens and impoverished women of Northern Peru.

They’re at 80 Springfield Street, PO Box 4354, Gypsum, CO, 81637

Or call 303-801-8958

When a teenager in Peru becomes too old to stay in an orphanage — 16 or 18 years old — they’re often sent away with the clothes they’re wearing and no life skills. It takes them about two days to fall victim to human trafficking, the sex industry or drug gangs, says Robyn Hanson.

Vail Valley residents Robyn and Joel Hanson launched Corazon de Esperanza to give these kids what they so desperately need — time and life skills.

Corazon de Esperanza’s focus is a transitional home for at-risk teens who have aged out of orphan care, the first of its kind in northern Peru.

But before we can tell you that story, we have to tell you this story.

Life quest

Robyn Hanson’s quest started as a one-month trip to an orphanage in Peru. She originally had her heart set on Cambodia, but Cambodia didn’t work out.

When a friend suggested Peru, Peru it was.

“It’s amazing how things often work out they way they’re supposed to,” Robyn said.

She returned to the Vail Valley and convinced Joel that they should sell their house and move to Peru.

So they did.

While they were there they fell in love with five siblings who needed a home. Robyn and Joel gave them a home … theirs, and adopted them and brought them home to Gypsum.

“We wondered what would happen with the other kids who were not adopted,” Robyn said.

Nothing good, they soon learned.

Kids are booted out of orphanages between ages 16 and 18, Robyn said.

“You’re given what you have on your back and sent out the door,” Robyn said.

That makes them easy prey, and within 48 hours, many end up forced into the sex industry, drug cartels and human trafficking, Robyn said.

That’s why Robyn and Joel launched Corazon de Esperanza.

“We have such a heart for those kids. I’ve never run a nonprofit, but we dove in,” Robyn said.

Abandoned more than orphaned

In Peru, death is not the No. 1 reason children land in orphanages.

“Abuse is extremely high — both physical and sexual — and ending that begins with education,” Robyn said.

The kids’ education, it turns out.

Sofia was 8 years old when she was abandoned and abused, and entered an orphanage. She shied away from physical touch and hid food under her bed.

Sometimes the orphanage is a better place than home, so the family leaves them there, Robyn said. But that’s not permanent either.

When they hit their late teens, out they go.

“These kids are no longer orphans. They’re homeless again,” Robyn said. “As they age out, crime rates, homelessness and sex trafficking are all increasing.”

At the transitional home, they’re taught to live on their own, providing everything from basic life skills to job training. They even have some university graduates.

“Westerners love little kids. Kids are great, but teenagers are too. Our goal is to help them all,” Robyn said.

Maribel is one. Before living at the transitional home, Maribel was in a local orphanage. Her father abandoned the family and Maribel’s mother could not care for her. When she was 12, Maribel was sent away to work as a housekeeper. Her employer abused her and authorities took Maribel to an orphanage when she was 14 years old.

When Maribel turned 18, she was turned out of the orphanage. Unlike so many unlucky others, she landed in the Hansons’ transitional home, learned some life skills — cooking, budgeting — and graduated with vocational training. She’s working in the hospitality industry.

“We believe that these young people deserve to have a safe place to live and have the opportunity to finish school, attend college or vocational training,” Robyn said.

Live locally, work globally

The Hansons are based in the Vail Valley, but their wide variety of working programs are in Peru where the kids are.

Robyn and Joel travel to Peru five times a year. Three are service trips. That means they take 12 to 14 local people to work in places they cannot imagine.

“We’re trying to establish a local/global mindset,” Robyn said. “We’ve had people as young as 5 and as old as 84,” Robyn said.

The work is more about building relationships, not just labor.

The kid who has a black belt in a couple martial arts, taught self-defense to women in Peru.

“Everyone gets to use their gifts,” Robyn said. “It’s a lasting relationship; it’s not something like painting a wall just to paint a wall.”

Corazon de Esperanza can feed, house and educate a teenager for about $150.

“Our desire is to educate and provide resources so that Peruvian youth have the opportunity to get an education and live independently. We dedicate ourselves to give them every chance to succeed in life,” Robyn said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.