“Born in our Hearts:” How Great Hill Partners’ Adrian Portillo is Giving Orphaned Children in Central America a Second Chance at Life
Great Hill Partners Office Services Manager Adrian Portillo was on vacation visiting family in Honduras when a chance encounter at a red light changed his life – and eventually the lives of hundreds of children.
Adrian, who lives outside Boston with his wife and five children, was visiting his home country of Honduras in 2010 when he and his wife Lidia encountered a group of orphaned children standing on the side of the highway – many without shoes – asking for food and clothing. Such a scene is all too common in Honduras, which is one of the poorest countries in the world due to political and economic instability. The effect on children is profound: UNICEF estimates that in 2019, about 70% of children live in poverty, and 43% do not live with their parents.
Adrian and Lidia were moved by what they had witnessed. Understanding the severity of the situation in Honduras and feeling a sense of responsibility for their home country, they decided to act. After returning home they began the painstaking process of acquiring the permits and documentation needed to start the foundation, and little by little they collected supplies, money and manpower to make their vision a reality.
It took five years to secure the necessary funding and paperwork to start the center, which finally opened its doors in 2015 – when “Ministerio en Tu Presencia” was born. The community came together in show of generosity to support the new center: one man donated a plot of land for the orphanage to be built on, and local businesses donated the beds, furniture, clothing and other supplies. The shared goal was to “get children off the street and give them a second chance at life,” Adrian said.
At first, the center only housed 30-40 children, but the center soon expanded as word spread and need remained high. Now, in 2021, the center cares for about 250 children. Ministerio en Tu Presencia later opened two more centers, one in El Salvador and the other in Colombia by partnering with local churches and community leaders, and now aids over 100 additional children in those countries. “It’s something that was born in our hearts,” Adrian said. “We never thought it would reach this magnitude.”
To allow the children to flourish, Ministerio en Tu Presencia not only provides food and housing, but also additional resources to address a variety of mental health issues or past trauma. Many, if not all, the children who arrive at the centers have experienced circumstances such as alcoholism, drug addiction, gang violence and poverty. Ministerio en Tu Presencia offers the children a sense of belonging and stability as they move forward with their lives.
Ministerio en Tu Presencia has faced many challenges since opening. On November 5th, 2020 Hurricane Eta hit Honduras, and -- less than 2 weeks later -- Hurricane Iota crossed almost the same path, magnifying the damage. While destruction was particularly severe on the coasts, there was also massive flooding throughout the central region of the country. As a result, the center was almost completely destroyed and children in the home were temporarily displaced to a nearby farm, where they are still currently residing while reconstruction nears completion. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has strained resources and, at times, the foundation faced a shortage of funding and difficulty acquiring food and other critical supplies.
Today, Ministerio en Tu Presencia is run by Adrian, who serves as President, as well as a board of directors. It depends entirely on donations from organizations and individuals, including the GHP community, to continue its daily operations. The center also relies on the altruism of local doctors, dentists, and psychologists who volunteer their time and services.
In the future, the center aims to provide not just housing and care for the children, but also vocational training to ensure they will be set up for success in adulthood. Adrian also hopes the center will soon be able to teach children skills such as how to make clothing and shoes and use the proceeds to help run the center. More importantly, however, these skills will ensure they have economic and job security later in their lives. “These children are a priority because they are the future,” he said. He hopes that the center “will help them move forward and help the country move forward.”