Local woman gets hooked on God’s Child Project

Abe Winter
Star Staff Writer

A Miles City woman traveled to Guatemala earlier this year and she wants to return — again and again and again. 

Lori Berry, an audit senior at Stockman Bank, is hooked on God’s Child Project, an organization founded in 1991 by a man who grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota — Patrick Atkinson — and 26 years later the Guatemalan charity continues to benefit orphaned and impoverished children, abandoned mothers, the homeless, the hungry and the injured who are waiting for shelter, food and medical care. People of all skills are needed to care for and educate the people.

“(Atkinson) manages the whole operation,” Berry said in praise of the organization, which raises money and sends volunteers to Guatemala, and is now in six countries. “It just keeps expanding. He is just good and very respectful of people. He’s so amazing.”

Berry spent two weeks in the South American country this year in the city of Antigua.

“I’d been hearing about it for the last 10 years, and about the fundraisers they’d been having,” she said. “It was life-changing. Until you see these little ones who are starving. It’s definitely real.”

In a released statement, with God’s Child Project support, an estimated 4,000 orphaned and impoverished children and 7,000 widowed, abandoned and single mothers and their dependent across the country have been helped.

Berry’s duties on her trip? It’s not 4-H; rather 3-H.

“I’m a hugger, holder and homebuilder — all in one fell swoop,” she said. “That’s where my heart lies, hugging a child and building a home for a family.”

One of the children she held and worked with was a 22-month-old girl named Jennifer, who weighed only 14 pounds.

“It just grabs you. It’s so dear to your heart and it’s so interesting.”

Atkinson oversaw the purchasing of what Berry described as “a dump.”

“He bought this dump and then built it,” she said.

That would include an 88-bed hospital, which replaced a 13-bed hospital/home with a waiting list of 60.

Berry’s first trip, accompanied by three nurses from North Dakota, saw her stay with host families. As part of a team of eight on a build team, a home for a family of six was built in three days.

Now she’s anxious to go again, perhaps in November after the rain season that starts in April.

“I would like to go once or twice a year and build a house every year,” she said, adding that she’d like to see more people from Miles City in particular and Montana in general take part in the program.

“People have gone from around here, but not regularly,” Berry said. “I’d like to see more, especially college-age and church youth groups.”

The cost for each trip would range from $1,500 to $2,000. That would include lodging and three meals daily except Sundays.

Berry will have a booth at the Music on Wings Bluegrass Festival scheduled the third weekend in September at the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds in Miles City. She’ll be selling several items, among them purses, scarves, table runners — made by Guatemalans — and books, one of which was written by Bismarck television news anchor Monica Hannan.

All proceeds go to the God’s Child Project.

“They make good presents too,” said Berry, who’s eager to get back to her three 3-H endeavers — hugger, holder and homebuilder.

“I told God as long as I am able and and as long as I’m healthy, I will keep going.”

(Contact Abe Winter at starcity@midrivers.com or 406-234-0450.)


(EDITOR'S NOTE: Please see the the photo gallery Guatemala Project for more photos)