The ball falls at knee-height, just right for five-year old Ángel René to catch. "Poff", it is returned to daddy who laughs with joy. It is early morning in the mountain village Ixlacuitz in Guatemala and the sun casts its rays across the atrium.
"I enjoy being at home and I play with my father every day," says Ángel, as he takes a break, drinks some water and runs over to get the balls, making sure a cuddly toy gets to tag along.
Ángel is adopted. He arrived in 2011, thin and exhausted to the family of Antonio Martínez, who had collected him from an orphanage where he had moved after his first year of misery. Tiny Ángel had been abandoned by his mother and a foster mother had taken over. She beat him and refused to feed him. When representatives from the municipality paid them a visit, they found him left to eat with the dogs.
Sometimes a veil of sadness cloaks the child. Most of the time, however, it is impossible to see how that first year affected him. Well cared for by the family Martínez, he is healthy and happy, surrounded by love.
"When we came home with Ángel, it was quiet for a few days. But then one morning we started to play. As a man, I could not cry, but my heart cried with joy. God had blessed us," says the father, Domingo.
For ten years, they had longed for a child and their daughter Claudia, now nineteen, wanted a sibling. One night, the mother, Fabiana, dreamt of a little boy who asked her to take care of him.
"A week later, my uncle told us that we could adopt a child for free through the national adoption agency. And so we decided to find our child. It was like a sign," she recalls.
Up until the new Adoption Act 2008, 5,000 children disappeared annually in Guatemala to illegal adoptions. Families from other countries were paying outrageous sums to criminals. There were also doctors, midwifes, lawyers and other "normal" people involved in this seedy business, who made hundreds of millions from these operations. However, after many years of pressure and revealing investigations, local organisations, Unicef and Sweden finally pushed through the Congressional law. Trafficking of children and the illegal trade has since been significantly reduced.
"Today we are delighted with the Adoption Act. Now the authorities know the plight of the children, like with Ángel, since adoption is conducted through the national agency. They know that he is happy, clean and healthy," says the father. "We really want to inspire others in Guatemala to adopt legally."
Ángel is an angel to everyone in the family, even if they sometimes wonder about his first year.
"Sometimes when Ángelito doesn't want to sleep, I wonder about the things that might have happened to him. It causes me pain. We say of course that he is adopted, but the most important thing is to show how much we love him," says Fabiana.
Thanks to the father's income as a butcher, support from relatives and the daughter's work, the family can provide the boy with a safe upbringing. The hope is for him to study, and what does Ángel have to say about that?
"I want to become a doctor," he says, determinedly. "But now I'm going to show you how I clean the floor with my mummy."
They quickly mop the atrium floor and even the windows get a good clean. All the while, Fabiana talks with her son about his imminent school days, to try to be helpful and never fight. To believe in yourself.
Afterwards, Ángel scoops up his ball again and continues to play with his father.