“There is a shortage of role models,” said Felipe Castro, executive director and founder of Children’s Safe Harbor Inc., more locally known as Amparo de la Niñez Inc.
Castro’s wife, Iris Myrtha Castro, co-founded the company with him and currently helps serve 147 children with the assistance of 25 dedicated volunteers. Two neighboring row homes and 12 rooms on East Luray Street were converted into a safe haven for children between the ages of 4 to 12.
Amparo de la Niñez is a faith-based organization that guides children into living healthier, more productive lives. “We try to instill values they may not get at home or enhance the ones they do have. We want them to build good friendships and lifelong skills to use along the way,” Castro said.
Since opening in 1988, Amparo de la Niñez has sought to eliminate juvenile delinquency, poverty and other social ills of the world by providing a safe harbor for children. Currently, the program meets every Saturday and provides different activities for the children. There are several different areas of interest that are represented. The drama club puts on an annual show, the choir performs for different churches and the members make a yearly trip to Latin American countries to provide food and aid to those in need.
“It is in this safe harbor that children will learn tolerance and respect, find freedom and expression through arts and culture and ultimately develop into strong, intelligent and morally-sound individuals,” Castro said.
Amparo de la Niñez looks to be an extension of the community it serves. “The heavily Hispanic population of Hunting Park has few places that look after kids,” Myrtha Castro said.
“The organization is anchored in hope and love, where children are respected and heard and where they are encouraged to develop their inner-strength and spirituality to guide them into adulthood,” said Felipe, who hopes to ultimately pass on the life lessons and values he has built Amparo de la Niñez on, to future generations.
On a typical meeting day, one can expect up to 100 kids dispersed within the 12 rooms. All the classrooms are around the size of a typical bedroom and have different themed decorations. There is a computer room where both typing and the use of popular programs are taught.
“The idea is the get them while they are still young and impressionable,” Castro said. The children who attend Amparo de la Niñez are of all races and backgrounds. They are taught to be accepting of others and together have made Hunting Park a safer place to live, interact and play.
Amparo de la Niñez is located at 107 E. Luray St. To find out more information or to volunteer your services, visit https://www.safeharborcenterinc.org/.