Faithfully Serving the Children

A photo of Samalin and Mario Lora of the ICC Las Palmas Children's Village.

Samalin & Mario

For most of the past 35 years, Mario and Samilin Lora have faithfully served the children of Las Palmas in the Dominican Republic. In 1983 Samilin came to Las Palmas when her parents joined the staff. She was only 17 at the time.

With a chuckle, Samilin vividly remembers the first children who arrived on campus. Everyone was thrilled. These children came from the nearby village and looked so pitiful — with distended bellies and full of parasites. This was the start of the program, or so everyone thought at the time!

The children were cleaned up, given fresh clothes and some nourishing food. Everyone was happy — until the next day when family members of these children came to the campus all concerned about their well-being.

Yes, the children were in poor shape. They appeared to be orphans living on the streets. But they had distant relatives and neighbors who heard that the Americans had taken their children to use their organs and eyeballs.

Sheepishly, the staff watched as these children left with community members. However, these “first children” left behind a good lesson and principle that sticks with our project administrators to this day — be sure to follow ICC protocols so they are legally taken into care.

Despite this early setback, it wasn’t long after this experience that Las Palmas did start receiving children who legitimately needed the help for which ICC is known.

Eventually, Samilin met and married Mario Lora. Together they spent some time in Puerto Rico and also working at the Adventist University in the Dominican Republic.

A photo of Mario & Samalin with children of the Las Palmas Children’s Village

Mario & Samalin with children of the Las Palmas Children’s Village

Then in 1991, Samilin’s mother called her and Mario to come and join the staff of Las Palmas. Samilin became the children’s services director and Mario became the chaplain and accountant.

Samilin recalls how difficult it was for her at first to take on the challenges of overseeing the parents. Since she is somewhat small, the parents joked that they would “put this little auntie in a sack” so they would not have to obey her.

This was a trial by fire for Samilin, and one that she won through God’s help and her determination. She recalls that once the parents understood ICC’s model and implemented it consistently, things went much better.

Samilin grew in experience and capacity as the children’s services director and also obtained her master’s degree in Educational Administration. Then, in 1998 when her mother retired, ICC asked Samilin to take on the responsibilities as project administer — a position she continues to hold today.

When asked what her biggest challenge is now as the project administrator, Samilin says that it’s finding good house parents. It’s a challenge to find parents with a passion for taking care of the children and not just to have money.

According to Rick Fleck, ICC president, Samilin has turned this into a strength. They have a proven record of success in finding, training and keeping good house parents. They use an effective interviewing and screening process, and this has helped a lot.

Over the past few years a new generation of children have come to Las Palmas. Many of the older children have completed their education and have moved on to live independently. There has be in influx of younger children.

Logo representing the 40th Anniversary of International Children's CareMario and Samilin understand very well how important it is to teach the new children core values that will serve them well in this life and prepare them for eternal life.

Each of the past three years, the Las Palmas staff have focused on teaching the kids values. The staff are united in this. According to Samilin, “the most important thing is to have the children saved in Jesus. That is my passion. We’re working on the area of values with that end in mind.”

This year’s motto is “United with our Eyes on Eternal Values.” The entire staff are united in keeping their eyes on eternal values they can teach the children.

There was a time several years ago when there were not many children being referred to Las Palmas. That has changed. We have received so many requests that there is not capacity to accept them all. Sadly, some children are being turned away.

Samilin recently hired a couple to serve as house parents in a home that was re-opened. Their home is now nearly filled with children. Samilin will soon try to open another home because there are so many requests for assistance. The government is cooperating well and are bringing children at an early age. This is when ICC’s model of care can have the greatest positive impact.

One of the factors causing an increase in the number of at-risk children is the increase in the number of men killing women in the Dominican Republic the last couple of years. Government authorities are worried about this trend which may be caused by the increase in the cost of living, high unemployment and drug use.

In a country like the Dominican Republic, it is unusual for a woman to oversee an organization, especially if her husband is also working at the same place. However, Mario and Samilin have found a comfortable working relationship for each has a unique role.

Also, Mario is the head of their home while Samilin serves as the administrator of the project. They have learned to separate the roles within their work and personal lives and respect each other within those roles.

Mario and Samilin are well-aware of the critical part that ICC Donors play in the sustaining this ministry on behalf of children at Las Palmas. “Tell the donors,” says Samilin, “if it weren’t for those donors, this [program for children] would not exist. Only in heaven will you be rewarded.”

The children of ICC have been blessed by the tireless, sacrificial and dedicated service this faithful couple has given to them through the years. We value them as cherished members of the ICC family.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.