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Broadview Heights native spreads message of love and hope through El Salvador orphanage

Posted: February 19, 2018

by John Benson

Broadview Heights native Rachel Sanson was 14 when she went on the trip that changed her life.

“I traveled to El Salvador with a mission organization,” said Sanson. “We worked at a large orphanage, about 80 children, and while the work they were doing was good, I felt like I could see kids falling through the cracks.”

After that trip, Sanson, a 2001 Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy graduate, continued to visit El Salvador throughout her teen years. During those trips, she said she realized she wanted to create her own orphanage, one “modeled more like a family, and less like an institution.”

“In addition to safety, shelter, and food, I wanted to provide them a home,” she said.

Sanson’s mother, Kathy, a Broadview Heights resident, remembers the moment her teenage daughter returned to Northeast Ohio and proudly announced she wanted to open an orphanage.

“I think my reaction was, ‘Oh, that’s such a nice thought,’ not really thinking that would possibly happen,” said Kathy. “But she never let go of that dream. She became fluent in Spanish and kept going down, year after year.”

Sanson’s dream came true 16 years ago when she started Love & Hope Children’s Home in Nejapa, El Salvador. Eventually, she moved locations, first to Los Planes de Renderos and then closer to the city center of San Salvador to better serve the needs of the children living there.

Today, Love & Hope provides shelter, safety, guidance and education to more than 11 children living in its main home, three in a transition home and one studying in California.

“We’re a small home by design; only 36 children have passed through our doors, but I think we’ve had a big impact,” Sanson said. “The children in our care have been rescued from abuse, abandonment and neglect. The change that makes in their life can’t be understated.”

Love & Hope invests heavily in education. Sanson said that’s the greatest tool for lifting people out of poverty. Because public schools in El Salvador are underfunded and dangerous due to gangs, Love & Hope children attend private schools, many of which are bilingual.

Over the years, Sanson said five of the children have been adopted by families in the United States, including one in Broadview Heights and one in Seven Hills.

“We also work hard to impact the families the children come from and the communities in which we work,” Sanson said. “So while the children are our primary focus, we are able to branch out to many more people in need.”

That’s where Kathy comes in, leading annual mission trips, averaging roughly half a dozen women from the Cleveland area, to Love & Hope Children’s Home. The next trip takes place in April.

“We try to just love on the kids that are at the homes, but we also do like go to communities and do a vacation Bible school kind of thing, paint hospitals and do cleanups in different community areas,” Kathy said.

“We do outreaches to very poor communities. It really opens the eyes of the missionaries to what a third-world country really looks like.”

When it comes to volunteering for a mission trip, many want to help, but may not have the time. Sanson offered this message to those looking for direction.

“Investing deeply in someone’s life can make an enormous difference,” Sanson said. “It can be hard to stick with them through all the ups and downs, but it’s worth it. I went to El Salvador to do it, but there are lots of people in need right here in Northeast Ohio.”

For more information, to become involved or to donate, visit

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