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Wilmington couple building orphanage in Guatemala

READ MORE: Wilmington couple building orphanage in Guatemala

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A Wilmington couple is building hope by building an orphanage in Guatemala. It all started with a little bracelet. Steve Melia's brother sat next to a man on an airplane wearing one to support an orphanage in Guatemala. Now the Melias are trying to raise money to build a girl's facility next door they say is very much needed.

Many of the Guatemalan orphans come from abused, abandoned parents. Some have seen their parents kill each other. Others' parents are alcoholics, drug addicts, or in jail.

"Guatemala's a very poor country," Kim Melia said. "On average you make a dollar or two a day."

One of the first kids Steve and Kim met on their trip to Guatemala in May was a boy named Carlos.

"From age four to eight, his parents every day would send him on a bus instead of to school to sell things and earn money, and they were alcoholics, so they would just take his money and buy alcohol or drugs or whatnot, every day for four years," Steve said.

The Hogar Miguel Magone Orphanage located on the outskirts of Guatemala City started 13 years ago with a couple taking an abandoned child into their home. It's now home to 50 orphans; all boys. Because there wasn't enough space or supervision, the girls had to go to other orphanages or go back to their dysfunctional families.

"It was just so sad to see brothers or sisters split up, and that's one of the reasons we got behind it," Steve said. "And what's great is they had the property next door, so they can use a lot of the same facilities, but they'll have their own place to sleep, their own cafeteria, their own school building and supervision more than anything."

The orphanage does not receive any government money, so the Melias have set out to raise the $72,400 on their own. Furnishing the girls' facility will cost several thousand more.

"Any donations can help just make their life a little bit better, just a little bit easier," Kim said. "Have running shoes, have clean shirts and clothes to wear and food to eat and all that kind of stuff."

The Melias have already raised close to $50,000 in three months, and they say every dollar donated is well worth it. If you'd like to make a donation to help pay for the girls' orphanage, visit or

The Melias are returning to Guatemala in August, and volunteers are welcome to go. You can also buy one of the bracelets for $10 the Guatemalan orphans helped make.

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