PANAMA: Archivo Pendiente Film Project

Using the power of storytelling through film to impact culture and change lives.

The Cause

Across Latin American orphaned & vulnerable children (OVC's) are growing up in institutions, despite countless studies that prove institutionalization is harmful.  Family-based care and social programs to support poor families are rare, many families feel orphanages are their only option.  Children in institutions are four times more likely to be sexually abused and six times more likely to experience violence than children in Foster Care.  For every year in an institution a child will lose four months of development.  At 18 these children "age out", 60% of girls turn to prostitution and 70% of boys become hardened criminals.  Annually it is estimated 14.5 million children "age out" of institutions worldwide.  They are high-risk and vulnerable to exploitation of every kind. 


The Film; Archivo Pendiente (Pending File)

A young boy who finds love in an unlikely place, Miguel Sanchez is taken from his abusive home in Latin America to a local orphanage. There he must choose between survival or protecting those he has grown to love. PENDING FILE is a dramatic feature film inspired by the children who lived it.

Archivo Pendiente is full-length fictional narrative inspired by actual accounts; it is not a documentary.  Our film will bring awareness to the realities of the hardships children living in institutions face and the immediate need to implement and support family-based care solutions.

L.A.-based Director Helmut Schleppi is uniquely experienced to direct this project with background in making both documentary and feature films.  His film A Foreign Affair was selected for Sundance Film Festival and received "two thumbs up" from Ebert & Roeper.  Helmut is a talented storyteller who knows how to produce quality, independent films.

Modus Operandi is a Emmy-Award winning marketing agency, working for some of the biggest entertainment studios in the world Disney, Warner Bros. and ABC Family.  They have committed to work pro-bono for Archivo Pendiente to develop promotional marketing materials and a website.


Archivo Pendiente is currently in pre-production, we need your donations to get to the next step.  We are looking to hire professional cast & crew to make this the best production possible.  We have been given the opportunity to air the film (once made) on a major TV network and are working to distribute regionally.

Advocate for the rights of children living in institutions and bring awareness to the general public.  Join UNICEF & RELAF's social media campaign Facebook updates 

Help us be a voice for children who have none!  Make your donation today! 

Tax-deductible receipts are available for U.S. & Canadian donors.

Project Updates


    On Mother’s Day we spotlighted the recent changes to the Panamanian foster care and adoption system and the work of HOPE partners, Brittany and Dave DeVries. The old law restricted the ability of potential parents to foster and/or adopt children due to an unrealistically extensive screening process and other administrative challenges. These challenges practically made it impossible for institutionalized children in Panama to be adopted.  


    Through the use of new and social media, Brittany helped educate people with regards to the legal restrictions and lobbied for change. Due to the hard work and support of SENNIAF (The National Office for Children, Youth, and Family), Heart’s Cry Ministries, social workers, and all those that vote for legislative change, a new law was introduced on July 17th, 2013, that improved the foster/adoption process and began helping children in the area to find new families.


    On March 20th, 2014, Brittany, Dave, and their two children, Grace (8) and Ethan (4) became Panama’s first foster family under the new pilot program welcoming siblings Maria (8) and Carlos  (4) into their lives.


    We had the chance to speak with Brittany about her becoming a foster parent and how it’s changed her life: “We have two biological children the same age as our two foster children so in many ways life is the same,” says Brittany. “I often feel like my life is the same but multiplied by 4! More homework, more doctor’s appointments, more grocery shopping. We go through A LOT of bananas in a week. And it’s amazing how little you really need to be happy - time spent, relationships, being creative together these things are of lasting importance with no cost.”


    Adding new family members hasn’t just affected Brittany and Dave. How have Grace and Ethan taken to the newly expanded family life? “Grace and Ethan are incredibly flexible,” said Brittany about the family dynamic of her kids, “we’ve tried to raise them to be open to change and welcoming new people into their life. Grace wanted us to foster ALL the children from a local orphanage. That's 130 children!  Ethan is 4 and loves having new playmates. I feel like being a foster family is expanding Grace and Ethan’s view of the world and I hope that it will make them more empathetic and loving toward others.”


    Brittany’s work in Panama isn’t over yet, there’s still a lot of work to do to ensure that children in the country are properly cared for. In addition to organizing a support network for foster and adoptive parents, Brittany is also working on pre-production for a feature film and developing a TV project to pitch to local networks.


    “Part of my work is getting the word out to every sector and exploring what’s possible in our local community,” says Brittany, “The resources are out there, people want to help they just don’t always know how. It’s a huge learning experience and the day-to-day can be very challenging but I wouldn’t change a thing! ‘Live life, love, and be happy’ is our family motto. Life is good!”


    Read more about Brittanys work here


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  • This Mother's Day has new significance for our partner in Panama, Brittany DeVries. After years spent generating awareness of issues surrounding the institutionalization of Panama's children, and drawbacks to the foster and adoption care system, Brittany has brought change to the Panamanian legislature. This year Brittany and Dave are celebrating Mother's Day with two new additions to their family.


    "The more kids you have, the more you expand as a person,” says Brittany on being a mother. "You go beyond what you believe you can do. Love does that."


    Since 2008, Brittany, her husband Dave, and two young children have resided in Panama. While volunteering at a local orphanage she experienced first-hand the challenges of children's rights and the bureaucracy surrounding the family investigations of the children. With a minimum wait of three years these children were not being reunited with family nor, when appropriate, were they being declared adoptable. They were in a state of limbo, some for as long as 10 years.


    In May 2012 Brittany produced a short documentary titled Dear Panama, with YWAM’s Voice for the Voiceless.  She lobbied to introduce the new legislation by hosting screenings and running a social media campaign. In January 2013, Project Law #551 was presented to Panama's legislature, the National Assembly, and on July 17th, 2013 the law was passed (Law 46).


    Law 46 shortened the length of time to investigate families, established a Foster Care Department to oversee Panama's first nationwide Foster Care Program, allowed foster families to adopt their foster child (if declared adoptable), and streamlined the process of national and international adoptions.


    Under the new law, Brittany and Dave began the process to become qualified foster parents and on March 20th, 2014 they became Panama's first foster family under the new pilot program and welcomed siblings Maria (8) & Carlos (4).


    Even with a growing family, Brittany continues to advocate for structural reform in children's rights throughout Latin America using social media and film.


    “I think there are moments in your life when you recognize you are a part of a much bigger story, that what is happening is by divine design,” commented Brittany. “Becoming the first foster family in Panama's pilot program was one of those moments.”



    Dear Panama -

    Hope for the Nations Project Page, Panama: Archivo Pendiente Film Project -

    Follow Brittany on Twitter -

  • Rick Willoughby was born in Toronto, Canada. Initially studying furniture design he soon opened his own studio. Rick began his career in film as sculptor and set builder for CBC's Kids in the Hall.  He moved to Vancouver, B.C. continuing his passion for filmmaking and design working on acclaimed TV series such as X files and Highlander in addition to several feature movies. 
    Rick's appreciation of world culture has drawn him to travel and it's these experiences he brings to his work in film.  Projects such as Human Cargo, a film about world refugees shot in Vancouver and South Africa, and Murder Unveiled shot in Vancouver and India respectively winning Leo and Gemini Awards for Production Design.  Rick has taught Set Design courses at Vancouver's Emily Carr University of Art & Design.

    Establishing himself in Panama Rick has in addition to his design work, begun Airframe Productions Panama, a aerial filming & photography business, and is excited to be part of Panama's growing international community.

  • This Los angeles actress was born in Cleveland and was on stage by the age of six.  She spent her teen years working in community and professional theater.  Her move to Chicago at 21 gave her the opportunity to be on stage with Second City Chicago, choreograph and compete for Arthur Murray Dance Studio and work in theaters such as the Apollo Theater Chicago.  

    She was able to continue her career in Los Angeles, California and work in many commercials, TV shows and movies. Melanie's varied work experience includes Casting Assistant for commercial, TV and film casting.  She worked for Danny Goldman casting for commercials, Shaner/Testa Casting in Cold Case and Kimberly Foster McCollum Casting for the John Cusack feature film The Factory as well as with The Wayne Brady Show in Clearance.

    Now in Panama she continues to work on stage at the Theatre Guild of Ancon and provide workshops and coaching to the talent of the place she now calls home.  

  • Guillermo was born in Montreal, Canada to Venezuelan parents. He has lived in many parts of the Americas, including Canada, the United States, Mexico and Venezuela. His knowledge of both Spanish and regional vernacular/customs together with Guillermo's screenwriting acumen bring a rich level of authenticity and story-telling competence to Archivo Pendiente.

    Since 2000 Guillermo has written 12 feature-length screenplays and 4 television pilots. He studied under both Phil Guidry and Dov Simens. Skidboot, a feature film co-written by Guillermo, is currently in development with a novelization of the screenplay by acclaimed author Cathy Luchetti to be released in 2013. In addition to writing screenplays, Guillermo is a children's book author and is currently working on a series illustrated by Christina Leal.  To date Guillermo has written three feature screenplays involving orphans and disenfranchised children in various parts of the world. Archivo Pendiente marks his fourth and most personal undertaking. 

  • Director Helmut Schleppi has made documentaries on subjects like Romania's Revolution, Israel and Palestine, and the First Gulf War.  His documentary on the former Yugoslavia won the UNICEF award in Amsterdam.  He has worked networks like BBC, ABC, MTV, CNN, REUTERS, AP and The Discovery Channel.

    In 1999, Helmut produced and directed A Foreign Affair which was selected for the Sundance Film Festival, and was distributed in 89 countries around the world.  Ebert and Roeper gave it "two thumbs up".

    After producing the web series The Interior, Helmut filmed an on-line documentary series featuring projects for Food for the Hungry in Africa.  These documentaries feature projects and needs in the East African region. 

  • Advocate/Filmmaker/Mom

    In 2008 Brittany relocated to Panama with her husband and daughter.  Soon after she began volunteering at local orphanages and began to learn about the process of family investigations and the challenges children faced in an institutional setting. 

    In April/May 2012 Brittany produced a short documentary with Voice for the Voiceless and Grassroots News, directed by Samuel Joseph Rich.  On May 31st Querido Panama (Dear Panama)premiered in Panama City, Panama and Kona, Hawaii on the same night.   Their log line, "defend children's rights to a family".  At the  Panamanian premiere attendees included  Director Gloria Diaz of SENNIAF, the Minister of International Affairs and  Sister Lourdes (Director of Malambo Orphanage),   Following the premiere Brittany began a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter to promote legislative reform.  The documentary has been viewed on YouTube by over 10,000 around the world.  Querido Panama recently won an award for "Film Content" at the International Premio Diva Latin American Film Festival.  In July 2013, Law 46 was passed.  This law shortens the process of family investigations, establishes a national foster care program and streamlines adoption for those in a state of adoptability.

    Archivo Pendiente is a labor of love for Brittany.  On a weekly-basis she interacts with several very special "pending files".  To Brittany these children are more than a piece of paper and it is her desire and drive to see these children in a loving family that has made her the advocate she is today.  Passionate about deinstitutionalization and every child's right to family-based care, Brittany has worked tirelessly to communicate to all who will listen.

    Her goal is to see legislative reform not only in Panama but across Latin America & the Caribbean.  She believes in the need to find family-based solutions that work in Third World countries and are in compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Currently Brittany works as a Producer at Seedling Media Productions.  

  • A year ago in May 2012 I had the privilege of producing a short documentary, Querido Panama/Dear Panama, with Grassroots News and a group of young film students from Voice for the Voiceless.  The documentary lobbied for legislation to be presented to Panama's National Assembly that would streamline family investigations, simplify the adoption process and create Foster Care at the national level allowing Foster Parents to adopt their Foster Children.  

    Thus began my journey into filmmaking with the purpose of using this artistic medium to be an advocate.  The response from viewers of Querido Panama continues to amaze me.  Nearly every person says the same thing, "I didn't know this was happening!  What can I do?" As the producer that is exactly what I want to hear.  These people honestly didn't know about children stuck in Panamanian institutions and the law that could change their current reality.  And now viewers in Panama and around the world are motivated to do something about it. 

    Today Orphan Justice Author Johnny Carr mentioned Querido Panama in his blog series "30 Ways to Care for Orphans in 30 Days: Educate Yourself On the Complexity of International Orphan Care." If you consider yourself a person of faith and don’t know the difference between institutional and family-based care for orphaned & vulnerable children I highly recommend you purchase Orphan Justice.

    Next month Querido Panama will be broadcast on local television in Panama with the feature film The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock.  On July 1st Panama's National Assembly will resume the debate of Law #551, what an opportunity to educate the general public and legislators about this issue.  This is a great example of a narrative feature film being used to influence society and legislation! 

    While Querido Panama as a student project is not reflective of the filmmaking quality that will be used in the making of Archivo Pendiente/Pending File the goals of the two productions are similar.  We want to tell people about something they don’t know - what institutionalization of children looks like, how it feels to be labeled a “orphan” and grow up in a orphanage.  Then we want our audience to ask that critical question of themselves, “What can I do?” 

    We believe that this film can be used as a powerful tool to influence societies and Thought Leaders as nations develop and reform their policies surrounding their most vulnerable citizens - children.

    What can you do?  Please consider making a donation toward the filming and distribution of Archivo Pendiente.  


  • Tomorrow we are casting the nets wide to see what "local talent" Casting Director Melanie Lee can find here in Panama.  This is our first of several casting calls.  We have advertised in the local newspaper, on the radio and in social media.  Hoping for a good turn-out!  

    "On the bonus DVD for City of God it is revealed that the only professional actor with years of filming experience was Matheus Nachtergaele, who played the supporting role of Carrot. Most of the remaining cast were from real-life favelas, and in some cases, even the real-life City of God favela itself. According to Meirelles, amateur actors were used for two reasons: the lack of available professional black actors, and the desire for authenticity." (City of God 2002 Film, Wikipedia)

    Our hope is to find "diamonds in the rough" in Panama who can play convincing performances.  And maybe we'll even strike gold!  With Melanie's experience I am confident we will quickly and efficiently find those with potential to be in Archivo Pendiente.

    As always we need your support whether it be financial or volunteer to help us make the feature film Archivo Pendiente a reality.  Your support will bring awareness to the plight of children stuck in Latin American orphanages.  Together we can see change for children and give hope to the hopeless.



    Producer Brittany DeVries

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