Miami lawyer can’t ignore the ‘forgotten children’ Associate EditorMiami lawyer O. Frank Valladares thought he’d casually tag along with his future wife on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, take a little vacation from the stresses of work, maybe do a little scuba diving. But what he encountered when he stepped inside an orphanage in 1999 shocked him, changed his life, and inspired him to do everything he could to rescue what he calls “the forgotten children.” “I had never experienced such deplorable conditions in my life. The first thing that hit me as I walked into the orphanage was the stench of human excrement and urine, which permeated all of my clothing and even my skin, and made breathing an arduous task,” 45-year-old Valladares recalled. The facility itself, he said, “was in a state of ruin” – no running water, no air-conditioning, no working toilets, exposed electrical wiring, broken windows, deteriorating walls, and leaky ceilings. Here, 70 children with severe disabilities and special needs, most abandoned at birth, were warehoused. The 11 people in the mission group who volunteered to help included two doctors, two nurses, two preschool teachers, a massage therapist, a beauty salon receptionist, a youth minister, a pastor, and one lawyer. “I could envision the roles that would be played out by the doctors, the nurses, and the teachers. But what possible purpose could be served by having a lawyer on this journey?” Valladares wondered. He soon found out as he focused his attention on one 8-year-old boy they nicknamed Cappuccino. Naked, the boy was keep in a 3-foot-by-4-foot cage, with little food and water, because he was hyperactive, the orphanage staff explained. “This sight just broke my heart, and I have not been the same since then,” Valladares said. “Many of the children were kept in cages and literally treated like animals, and all of them were malnourished. My day-to-day life problems now seem to be high-class problems, and I’m grateful for having them.” Together with his wife, Lourdes Valladares, a third-grade teacher, they have created a nonprofit Christian organization called Project ChildHelp, whose purpose is to provide humanitarian aid in the form of food and medical care to the orphans in Santo Domingo and Nagua. The Spanish translation is Proyecto Ayuda al Ninos, whose acronym is PAN, or “bread.” “Frank has gone on every single trip,” said his wife, who helps organize the missions. “We don’t take vacations. Our honeymoon was a mission trip in February 2000. His whole heart is in it. We come home and have family time. And after we put our two girls to sleep, that’s what we do: Make calls for Project ChildHelp.” The Valladares are planning their fourth mission trip for January, 2, 2002 – busily organizing garage sales; sorting, washing, and repairing donated clothes; picking up donated formula from pediatricians; acquiring frequent-flyer miles from donors for travel; distributing 900 plastic bottles to businesses, homes, and churches for collecting loose change. “We literally count our pennies every month in our efforts to meet payroll,” Frank Valladares explains. Their volunteer medical teams are local pediatricians and nurses, mostly from Miami’s Children’s Hospital. They have hired five workers whom they pay directly to care for the children in the orphanages. “We have to be very careful because the corruption is rampant,” Frank Valladares said. “We don’t want to give money to the administration of the orphanages. We have selected people we trust.” The top priority now is to make sure the children are fed and bathed every day, something that was not happening before. “One of the first things we did on the first trip was bring a stereo and speakers,” Frank Valladares said. “The moment we turned it on, their faces lit up. These children don’t have human contact. In our trips, we always take a medical group and a youth group from churches. They ask: ‘What should we do?’ And we say: ‘Just lay your hands on the children.’” What keeps them going, said Lourdes Valladares, is envisioning their ultimate goal of buying land and building a true home for the children. “It will be a place where the children live in a home environment, where they are loved, where there is plenty of laughter, and lots of room for them to play outside,” Lourdes Valladares said, emotion filling her voice. “Now, they are stuck on the third floor and never see the light of day. This place will have a few acres, with a big green space, and horses and flowers and a beautiful atrium where they will all congregate every day after meals. They will play and laugh together in their own world.” As Frank Valladares explains: “God grabbed our hearts. That’s where he called us. We really believe in that. Some of my friends tell me I’m crazy because my vacations I spend at the orphanage. Unless you actually go through it and actually touch these children up close, you can’t see how you can make a difference. But we can make a difference. No money in the world can satisfy that. “I’ve had colleagues say: ‘Why go way down there? Kids are needy here.’ And I’ve come across the attitude in the Dominican Republic: ‘Why bother with these kids? These kids are too damaged.’ But who are we to say that? These are God’s children. They are here for a reason. A lot may never walk or speak, but they are still God’s children.” For more information about Project ChildHelp, call Frank and Lourdes Valladares at (305) 271-0467, write to them at 66 W. Flagler St., Miami, FL 33130, or e-mail them at [email protected] October 1, 2001 Jan Pudlow Associate Editor Regular News Miami lawyer can’t ignore the ‘forgotten children’
The 17-time Grand Slam champion will play Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last four after the 20-year-old Greek beat Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.“It is emotional to be back in the semi-finals,” said Nadal, who retired injured in his quarter-final against Marin Cilic last year.“I had some troubles in this event so, after a while of not playing, to be back in the semi-final means a lot to me. I feel very lucky to be where I am after all the troubles I’ve been through.”Nadal, who did have to stave off two break points at 2-1 in the second set, has not dropped a set as he aims to become the first man to win each of the four Grand Slams twice in the Open era.Despite reaching at least the quarter-finals in 11 of his past 12 appearances, including four finals, he has only converted one of these runs into victory – his sole triumph at Melbourne Park in 2009.And, despite not playing competitively since September’s US Open because of multiple injuries, he has cruised through his opening five matches.Tiafoe, who celebrated his 21st birthday by reaching his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final on Sunday, could not cope with Nadal’s quality and intensity.He had spent almost 12 hours on court coming into the match – more than three hours longer than Nadal – including his four-set wins over Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson and former world number three Grigor Dimitrov.Nadal broke again for a 5-2 lead in the third, going on to serve out victory in one hour and 47 minutes.The Spaniard used his trademark forehand to great effect, particularly down the line, hitting 13 winners on that side.“The serve and winner with the first forehand is something very important for me, very important today, but also very important if I want to keep playing for a few years,” he said.“It has given me a lot of free points and that is so important at this stage of my career.”Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram Second seed Rafael Nadal yesterday eased past unseeded American Frances Tiafoe to reach the Australian Open semi-finals and continue his bid to win all four Grand Slams for a second time.The 32-year-old Spaniard cracked 29 winners in a 6-3 6-4 6-2 victory.Nadal broke 21-year-old Tiafoe in each of his first service games of the set.