Ephrata non-profit doing good things in Guatemala

By on January 26, 2017
Rod and Sarah Martin’s adopted daughter, Linda, holding a baby.

Rod and Sarah Martin’s adopted daughter, Linda, holding a baby.


There are two things that you may have trouble finding. One is on a map, the other is in your back yard in Ephrata.

The first is the country of Guatemala. (Hint: It’s right below Mexico) The second is the office of Orphan Resources International, located at 550 West Trout Run Road. (Once you’re there, it’s still a quarter of a mile up a winding driveway to an office and workshop shared with Martin Excavating)

In November of 2016, The Review reported the fundraising efforts of Ephrata’s non-profit organizations during the annual Extraordinary Give. Orphan Resources International (ORI) was second on the local list with 72 gifts totaling $19,183.

Those funds (and many more) are earmarked for 51 orphan homes in Guatemala, which includes 2,200 orphans, 29,000 pounds of food and milk per month, in a country with an estimated 370,000 orphans of 16.3 million people on land the size of Tennessee.

The couple behind this effort is Sarah and Rod Martin, who also live on the property, and founded the charity organization 15 years ago.

Sarah Martin is certainly all-in on what she describes as their “calling.”

“We actually get the money at the end of January,” explained Martin of the Extra-Give contributions. “The plan is to use it for food products that we deliver every month.”

The Extra-Give total is the second or third largest fundraiser during the year for the Ephrata non-profit.

“The biggest one we do for the year is the banquet we hold on April 6 at Shady Maple,” she said. “Then we do a softball tournament in July.”

The Martins have also adopted five Guatemalan children to add to their three biological children. Sarah Martin describes their first adopted child and the only infant. “She was living in an orphanage and we could see the needs that were there. That trip is kind of when this all started coming together. She was six months old. She came here when she was ten months.”

The initial trips consisted of suitcases filled with donated clothing and other supplies.

“For us, it was to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” Martin said. “That’s why we wanted to be part of this. We talked about adoption and reaching out even before we were married.”

The Martin’s adoptees are Shyanne, who is now 15 and will be spending two months of her summer vacation this year working in Guatemala. Sayda (16) was adopted at age five. Linda (21) and her brother Luis (25) were ten and 14 when they joined the Martin clan. Finally, Armando (now 30) was 15 at adoption.

There have been two dramatic changes in recent years, forced by the Guatemala government. First, citizens of the United States can no longer adopt Guatemalan orphans. And second, the tax and tariff for each shipping container has gone through the roof.

“The last container actually cost us $20,000 to get through,” said Martin. “If they have citizenship (and live in Guatemala) they can adopt. It does happen, but it’s minimal compared to need.”

Despite the rule changes, the growth of the organization has been spectacular.

“The first year, we started with four homes,” noted Martin. “We only delivered food and milk quarterly. We didn’t have staff down there. We now have a wonderful missionary staff. My oldest biological daughter, Brookelyn, (age 22) and her husband (Shane Burkholder) pretty much manage everything. Their main role is food distribution and delivery.”

The needs for the 2,200 orphans have also changed over the years.

“I think the most overwhelming thing is just the broken lives,” explained Martin. “We’re trying to do counseling ministry. Helping the kids find a way to become whole while leaving the traumas behind and heal. We’re trying to do job training and some Vo-tech training with the older kids. Now we need to help them become productive adults.”

The organization averages 10-12 work trips from January through October during the school year.

“The teams we have going this year are from Iowa, Ohio and different locations throughout the United States,” said Sarah Martin. “Often times it’s a church, youth group or adoptive families group. We can also put people together. You don’t have to have a church group to go on a work team.”

Hammer Creek Mennonite Church (the Martin’s home church) and Petra Church in New Holland are two that send teams every year. The teams are a combination of craftsmen and unskilled help.

“Skilled (carpenters) are awesome,” Sarah Martin said. “But we’ll work with anyone who’s willing to work. We have staff with a lot of construction knowledge.”

Sarah Martin just returned from Guatemala on Jan. 1. It was a nine day trip that combined a family reunion and some ORI business.

“We stayed with my daughter (Brookelyn) and Shane for the holidays. We also had a big staff meeting to set the course for the year. We also had a Christmas party on Tuesday at one of the homes.”

Brookelyn has a strong connection with that home, serving as a house parent. She even prepared a meal that she made for them in the past.

“We gave them Christmas presents,” added Sarah Martin. “We spent a day there just playing with the kids. That trip went really fast.”

The final program listed on the ORI website is child sponsorship, where $35 per month allows a personal connection.

“That’s an opportunity to make a difference,” Sarah Martin said. “It will help pay for food, education or childcare. The child’s profile is there. You can even drop off a birthday or Christmas gift that goes directly to the child.”

Some of the sponsors even get to meet the child in person.

“If they choose to go on a work team with us, they would have that opportunity,” Sarah Martin said. “We’ve had some choose to do that.”

And although not all of the 2,200 children are currently sponsored, Sarah Martin holds out hope. “That would be awesome!”

The conditions in Guatemala have created the need for ORI.

“The city area has become very modernized,” Sarah Martin said. “But it’s very much a country of the rich and the poor. Not much middle class. The minute you get out into more rural areas, you are talking about dirt floor huts, corn stalk walls, just living in extreme poverty.

“They plant their corn on the side of a mountain with a hoe and a rake,” continued Sarah Martin. “Coffee bean picking is done by hand. Literally, you will see young children helping their family pick to try to survive. They have not been taught about birth control, and will end up having a baby every year. One of five babies in that area dies of malnutrition.”

One of the tragedies of this lifestyle is the inability of the family to keep them together.

“Sometimes, if they can’t feed or take care of the child, they will be put out in the streets,” Sarah Martin said. “My own adopted son lived on the streets for a length of time. There are some statistics that would say it’s the second most malnourished country in the Western hemisphere behind Haiti.”

To help with this effort, visit the ORI website at orphanresources.org. After 15 years, the Martin’s may be getting more help with their calling, but the need is still there for more.



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