KAREN SCHEERINGA-PARRA, HEARTS IN MOTION, AND 15 EXTRAORDINARY WAYS VOLUNTEERS ARE PUTTING FORTH POSITIVITY by Ella Miller
Karen Scheeringa-Parra is a selfless soul with a passion for the disadvantaged and seemingly unlimited energy. Mother of twelve children, eleven of whom were adopted from the Philippines, Korea, Mexico, Guatemala, and the United States. Karen is the founder of Hearts In Motion (H.I.M), an organization based here in the U.S. with the mission to empower volunteers to change the lives of people in poverty. H.I.M. is ever-changing and growing based on what people and communities are in need of now. Below I've listed 15 core programs already in place, with new programs initiated as needs arise.
I met Karen two summers ago and was immediately drawn to her vibrant energy. I would describe her as remarkably selfless, inspirational, empathetic, dedicated and wildly determined. Karen exudes an overwhelming compassion for partnering with people and communities. I am struck by how she listens and learns about an individual's, family’s or community’s needs from their perspective, and then determines the best way to resolve the issue in a way that feels inclusive, empowering and long-lasting. Karen builds a partnering and trusting approach, resulting in positive outcomes and more sustainable solutions that encourage self-sufficiency and promote collaboration.
A bit about what Hearts In Motion does: • Assists in the development of social programs to improve health, education and welfare of the people they serve in the United States, Central and South America
• Complements resources already in place while respecting the culture of those whose lives it touches
• Brings together compassionate volunteers who choose to make a difference by extending loving support to those they serve
• Creates opportunities for individuals to participate in short term mission experiences in the U.S., Central and South America, enhancing the lives of people in poverty.
Since first getting involved with Hearts In Motion, I've been humbled by the life-changing volunteer opportunities that I've experienced. Instances that allowed me to help humanity as part of a collective team include a volunteer trip to Guatemala where I traveled with medical teams to bring much-needed healthcare and humanitarian aid to men, women and children in remote villages (I met some of the most dedicated, compassionate people who left a last impression on me!). A local effort to feed the homeless and hungry in a nearby town. As well as helping to pack a moving truck with everything a local family needed to fill their empty home and make it livable... and the joy of working with others to set it up so they could start their "new life" immediately. If you're interested in learning more about how you can get involved, I've listed contact information down at the bottom.
15 WAYS HEARTS IN MOTION IS CREATING SOLUTIONS AND MAKING AN IMPACT IN THE U.S. AND ACROSS GUATEMALA
1. GUALAN NUTRITION FEEDING CENTER Life-saving meals provided to thousands of severely malnourished children each week. Restoring physical and emotional health through through medical and dental care, shoes and clothing plus participation in recreational activities.
2. GUALAN REESE HOUSE Helping orphaned or abandoned children in Gualan since 2010 — a foster care group home approved as an “orphanage” by the Guatemalan government. A place of love, care, schooling, physical activities, and life-skills until permanent placement is appproved.
3. GUALAN SENIOR CENTER Here, the elderly, often without family and forgotten, enjoy a nutritious meal, heartwarming relationships, various group activities such as gardening and sewing — all in a loving and supporting atmosphere. Hundreds of Seniors have participated since it opened in 2016.
4. EMERGENCY RESPONDER TRAINING & EQUIPMENT A unique venture of international brotherhood! U.S. volunteer firefighters travel to Guatemala to provide training and lifesaving equipment to Bomberos (firefighters), boosting their ability to serve their communities. Firefighters from Guatemala travel to the U.S. for short-term training opportunities, forming strong relations between U.S. and Guatemala.
5.SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM FOR SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN Instead of children working in fields alongside their parents by the age of eight, H.I.M. provides school-age children with education, shoes, uniforms, and school supplies. Preschool kids get access to medical/dental care and nutritious meals. 1,000+ children have been sponsored by US families since 2001.
6.DOCTOR AND NURSE RECRUITMENT FOR SURGICAL CARE U.S. Surgical teams travel to perform life-changing surgeries — cleft palate reconstruction, orthopedic and general surgery, plus surgery for women’s health issues such as cervical cancer. Over 1,000 surgeries performed since 1996 and that number keeps growing yearly.
7.MOBILE MEDICAL/DENTAL/VISION SCREENING CLINICS U.S. health care professionals travel to needy villages in Zacapa. Each trip provides medical and dental screening exams plus medications to Guatemalans who rarely see a doctor or dentist. Issues identified: anemia, malnutrition, arthritis, skin disorders, infections, tooth decay, and imperfect vision. Many thousands of Guatemalans have benefited.
8. IDENTIFYING AND COMPLETING CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS Building and renovating homes, schools, bookshelves, beds, chicken coops, firehouses, playgrounds, medical facilities, and nutrition, community, and day care centers. Plus the installation of water filters, laundry stations, rainwater collection systems, and solar-powered lights. Hundreds of completed projects over the years.
9. PHYSICAL, OCCUPATIONAL, AND SPEECH THERAPY In 2005, the O’Halloran Rehabilitation Center (built by H.I.M. under Karen’s direction), opened to provide therapy services so residents with disabilities in Zacapa and nearby communities could become self-sufficient. A second rehabilitation center opened in Gualan in 2012, and a third in Teculutan in 2015. Therapy efforts help with the gifts of mobility and independence, assisting more than 8,000 patients a year.
10. HELPING BABIES & MOTHERS SURVIVE Created by the American Academy of Pediatrics along with Laerdal Global Health, Helping Babies Survive is designed to teach neonatal resuscitation. Created by Johns Hopkins Global Health and Laerdal Global Health, Helping Mothers Survive teaches maternal survival. Both classes have been adopted by H.I.M., and their certified trainers teach these courses to the Nurses, Comadromas (Midwives) and Firefighters in areas of Guatemala where resources are limited. Classes also cover breast-feeding, hand hygiene, umbilical cord care and bathing. Since these programs began, close to 1,000 people have received this invaluable training.
11. HEARTS IN MOTION RESALE SHOPPE People not only come to shop, but to also relax and enjoy a variety of pastries and a cup of Guatemalan coffee in the Café. It is beautifully decorated, clean, and spacious, and includes an area for children to play while parents shop. Tens of thousands of customers have purchased significantly marked down goods and merchandise since the store's opening.
12. SUPPORT FOR DOMESTIC ABUSE SURVIVORS H.I.M. provides furniture, clothing, personal care products and support to domestic abuse survivors. Achieved through a voucher program where women and families living in local shelters can purchase needed supplies to live independently. Hundreds of women have received needed services since the program started over five years ago.
13. CARING FOR SENIORS IN THE COMMUNITY Providing social interaction and services to seniors. H.I.M. collaborates with local senior services to provide both material assistance, such as crafts, blankets, and gifts, and social support. This program has united the efforts of senior services in five nearby towns and helped hundreds of elderly individuals since its inception.
14. GIFTS COLLECTION FOR CHILDREN IN NEED Created to assist children in families without the resources to spend on non-essential services. This initiative provides gifts to children throughout winter holidays, helps children prepare for the school year ahead, and offers support in overcoming family tragedies. Thousands of children have benefitted from this program.
15. NEW DIRECTION: OUTFITTING HOMES & BRINGING HOPE Created to provide entire home set-ups to families in need. This effort delivers all of the essential items needed to help them get back on their feet and thrive such as furniture, housewares, bedding and towels. New Direction is helping individuals in all types of difficult situations, from house fires that have left families homeless, to those who have left their significant other in a domestic abuse situation and want a fresh start.
TO LEARN HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED AND GIVE BACK, VISIT HEARTSINMOTION.ORG