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Originally published October 13, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 26, 2007 at 12:33 PM

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Sherry Grindeland

Couple sets out to create safe haven for Guatemalan orphans

Will Boegel figured he couldn't be shocked anymore. He and his wife, Diane, volunteered on medical missions to Vietnam, Egypt and Mexico...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Opal House

To donate: 8428 N.E. 144th Place, Bothell, WA 98011, 425-286-6052 or go to www.opalhouse.org for more information.

Wine-Tasting Party, Nov. 3, at a private home in Redmond, $75 per person. For information or reservations call 425-286-6052.

Will Boegel figured he couldn't be shocked anymore.

He and his wife, Diane, volunteered on medical missions to Vietnam, Egypt and Mexico, performing surgeries under primitive conditions. They'd seen poverty and hunger. Then, for his 50th birthday in January, the Bothell couple went to Guatemala City, where 40,000 people live in the city dump.

"Little kids 6 years and up spend all night on the streets huffing paint thinner," said the Kirkland podiatrist. "They're homeless. The paint thinner keeps them warm and cuts their appetite. It fries their brains, and they end up dead or in prison."

The Boegels aren't alone in their effort to help people around the globe. Other Eastsiders have big hearts and open wallets. Two high-school students in Issaquah run karate camps to fund playgrounds, a Kirkland father-and-daughter are buying beds for an orphanage, and a soccer team collects sports equipment for needy children.

The Boegels picked Guatemala because of local volunteer work. The couple — she's a nurse — work at New Horizons, a shelter for homeless youth in Seattle. During a training session there, he met Joel Van Dyke, observing the work at New Horizons. Van Dyke runs a clinic on the edge of the Guatemala dump.

"I could have gone to Hawaii to lie on the beach, but I wanted to see Joel's work," Boegel said. "I'll never be the same again."

Neither will the couple's bank account. They're founding Opal House, an orphanage.

After days of working with the poor, they went to the Guatemalan countryside to rest and discuss opening an orphanage. There they found a 59-acre farm for sale. It's like the farm was designed for their dream. The bunkhouse will hold dozens of children. The main house has room for more kids and staff.

The Boegels, members of St. Jude in Redmond, considered themselves strong Catholics before Guatemala. But founding Opal House, Will said, has strengthened their faith because doors that should have been shut have opened wide.

The farm owner gave them until Christmas to come up with the $400,000 — in cash.

While the process for setting up an orphanage there can be lengthy, the Boegels met a Guatemalan couple, both lawyers, who handled the paperwork in a few days. Here in Washington, their nonprofit status was approved just as rapidly.

They wondered who would run the orphanage. Friends from Pennsylvania, looking for a career change, volunteered.

Raising the $400,000 needed to buy the farm and start getting children off the streets has been the hardest part.

"We're up to $205,000," Boegel said. "I take care of feet; I don't do professional fundraising. This is a long-term mission we've been called to. We just know it will happen."

A volunteer board has been helping with fundraisers. There will be a wine-tasting party Nov. 3.

Karate kids

Casey and Callie Holeman raise money for playground equipment for orphanages in impoverished countries.

The teenage sisters were inspired by Sherwin and Jerri Shinn of Sammamish, founders of the charity International Smile Power. The Shinns provide dental services in places such as Nepal and Bolivia. When speaking at area schools, the Shinns suggested that youths get involved.

The Holeman girls saw photographs and asked where the playgrounds were. There were none, so they started collecting coins in their neighborhood. Their parents own Karate West and the girls, now in high school, run Kid's Camps to raise money.

They've already funded playgrounds in Uganda and Bolivia.

The next camp will be held in Sammamish Oct. 19. Go to www.karatewest.com or call 425-391-4444.

Beds for orphans

Dave Holmes challenged his daughter to get better grades at Juanita High School. Her reward: Travel with Dad to the republic of Georgia.

Holmes, who owns a security-systems company, visits the former Soviet Union country where he has helped with various projects, including setting up a hospital.

"It started with a fire engine in 1997," Holmes said. "I helped Northwest Medical Teams refurbish a fire engine that was then sent to Georgia. But they were having trouble operating it, so I went over to help."

Lauren improved her GPA. Father and daughter spent four weeks in Georgia this summer. The high-school senior was stunned.

"Kids shouldn't have to live like this," Lauren said after touring an orphanage.

Before they left Georgia, they had commitments to refurbish the orphanage with new plumbing, flooring, windows and curtains. They're raising $10,000 for new beds.

Holmes is working through his Rotary Club. Money from the group's annual auction will cover part of the cost. Lauren, who hopes to turn this into her senior project at school, wants to organize car washes.

"The people in Georgia are wonderful," Holmes said. "But they're still a Third World country."

Rotary Club of Northshore Auction, 5 p.m. Nov. 3, Inglewood Golf Club, 6505 Inglewood Road N.E., Kenmore, tickets $85 per person. For information call 425-821-9047.

Musical moment

Gerry McGuigan of Redmond recently organized a benefit concert for The Nest, a children's home in Kenya. He and his wife are from Dublin. The Africa connection comes from Dublin friends who are working with a Kenyan organization that shelters children of imprisoned mothers.

"A mother with four little kids will go to jail for six months because she sells fruits and vegetables without a permit," McGuigan said. "Without The Nest, these kids wouldn't survive."

McGuigan's concert was at Daman's Tavern, a popular Redmond pub. At first he was disappointed to raise only $1,500.

"But that will pay for a staff member for almost a year, so I feel better," he said. "I'm probably going to do another fundraiser for them."

Water and computers

Jan Kline, a member of St. John Vianney Parish in Kirkland, helped raise more than $30,000 for water wells in Ghana.

Several Eastside Rotary groups have been shipping computers, books and glasses to places such as Belize and Turkey.

Eighth-grade students from Tyee Middle School in Bellevue set up a computer lab this past summer in a Jamaican school. The 12 students built the computers, shipped them to Jamaica, flew there and set them up and then trained teachers how to use them. The project had the backing of folks such as Bellevue Youth Link, Boeing, Microsoft and Washington Mutual.

Having a ball

The Arsenal, Issaquah Soccer Club's girls under-16 team, collected 156 balls, 27 pairs of cleats, 80 uniforms and enough cash to buy another 50 soccer balls for World Vision this summer. It's the second time the team has collected new and gently used equipment to share.

"It is awesome," said Sara Brumley, one of the players. "What we collected will be sent to places in South America and Africa. Kids there tie rags together to be their soccer balls.

"We do it because we can make a difference in kids' lives."

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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