Published: July 21st 2008July 20th 2008
So I know yesterday's entry was pretty heavy, and today's might be even a little more so. Because it is Sunday, we got to sleep in until 9:30!! It was so nice and well-needed. We departed around 10 for the beach!! Some of our group members had never seen the Pacific Ocean, and while we couldn't go in the water, we could walk along the beach and get our feet wet. The undercurrents here are so strong it is too dangerous to go in any deeper.
El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, and is divided into departments, or states, as we know them. The capital, San Salvador, is the department in which we are staying. For our beach visit, we went to La Libertad (the liberty). Our first stop was at El Muelle, where they had some little stands for shopping, but mainly a long pier/wharf with a fish market. We walked around there for a little while, but moved on to a different location for lunch, as the overwhelming smell of fish was not very appetizing. While at the wharf though, the volunteers watched some of the workers with their fish, and one man, not realizing
that some of us speak Spanish, said "Yeah, maybe one of these days you Americans will realize what it is like to work for a living." I was not there to hear his comment, but it was relayed to me later. Unfortunately just another example of the ignorance that exists in our world. We are not all rich Americans who sit on our asses and do nothing. Did he think this was a leisure trip? Maybe if he knew we were all giving up our vacations to do service work for HIS country, he might have been a little less likely to make such a comment.
We spent about an hour on the beach, taking picures, the girls ran races along the sand, and we ate our lunch overlooking the beautiful blue Pacific. This was a necessary break, as our afternoon would be spent at an orphanage in Sonsonate called Hogar Inmaculada Corazon de Maria, or Home of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The orphanage is home to approximately 100 children, ranging in age from infant to 12 years old. Children who have not been adopted by age 12 are moved to another orphanage. The home is run by
nuns, with Sister Ursula in charge. 9 other nuns and some additonal staff oversee these 100 children, who have been turned over to the home by their families, or found living on the streets. Many of us were having a hard time grasping the concept that a parent could hand over his/her child to live in a group home. We were somewhat relieved to learn that in certain circumstances, the parents are in no position financially to care for their children, and know they will have a better life at the orphanage. To me, one of the most selfless acts any human being can perform. In some cases, of course not enough, when the parent feels he or she is able to care for the child, maybe has gotten a good job or received some help, he/she will regain custody of the child. Again, this is not the commom occurence, but it is so nice to know that situations like this do exist.
I had a hard time at the orphanage, just seeing these beautiful children and knowing that this is how the live their lives. But the joy in their eyes and the smiles on their faces and
the hugs we received when we walked in the door warmed my heart and showed me that like so many others I have met here, these chidlren thrive on what they do have in their lives. They so look forward to Sundays, when the group of volunteers comes to spend a few hours with them, playing games and coloring, making necklaces and giving them the love and the attention they desire.
Although I was scheduled to be at the watercolors table, I spent a good amount of time upstairs in the baby room. As I approached the top of the steps, I could see the gorgeous dark eyes peering out at me through an opening in the door of the nursery. I entered slowly, to see four children playing on the floor, two girls and two boys. I was drawn to the little girl in the pink dress who was staring at me through the door, and spent most of my time with her. We sat together on the floor, sang, danced, and shared the love we both have to give. Since there were four volunteers at the time, there was a nice ratio and we all had a
child to play with. I noticed Sofia holding Rosia, a little girl about two years old, who did not talk or laugh, or even smile. She just had this sad look on her face, like the children you see in commercials on TV. We did everything we could, played peek-a-boo, tickled her, sang to her, but nothing we did could remove the scowl from her face. It was very frustrating, and made me sad to think that she had no reason to smile, or be happy. Mike came up after a little while, and held her in his arms while she laid her head on his shoulder. The scowl had softened a bit, and just remained a sad, tired look. I thought that at one or two points while I was playing peek-a-boo, Rosia almost smiled. The right side of her mouth twitched a bit, but that was the closest I could get. I did leave feeling a little discouraged, but I know that it's not me.
I went back down to the courtyard for the remainder of our stay there, and worked with some kids who were making beaded necklaces. In all honesty, when it came time to
leave the orphanage for the day I was somewhat relieved. As we were filing out, the children followed alongside of us, asking if we were coming back next Sunday. I explained that our group was returning to the US on Wed, but that a new group of volunteers would be visiting them. It was nice to see that just the anticipation of our group's visits gives the kids something to look forward to. Small as it seems, it is everything to them, who have so little to hold on to as it is. We boarded the vans, and as we pulled away, about 15 children stood outside the entrance to the home waving... an image I will never forget.
I guess I chose a good van to ride in today, because one of the three vans got pulled over on the way home by the police!! Our caravan apparently looked a little suspicious, and when Mike started videotaping the traffic stop, the officer was less than thrilled. Our van did not stop to see what the problem was, since the police have been doing random tire inspections and our drivier didn't want to chance getting a ticket...
was awesome tonight!! Baked ziti with meat sauce and of course my favorite, rice and beans. I am so gonna miss eating that at every meal. Cake for dessert too!!
After dinner I spent some time typing up a contact list for our group. I had gathered everyone's information over the past few days so we can keep in touch when we return to the States. Hopefully share some pictures as well.
Reflection was very emotional tonight, as everyone in the group shared some of their thoughts on the day's events. As much as we all enjoyed the trip to the beach, we were all very moved by what we had experienced at the orphanage. And since my plan for tomorrow was a visit to the Clinic for Malnourished Children, I was very anxious about the upcoming day. So I spent some downtime in the lounge watching Lion King and making bracelets with the teens... cause I still am one at heart!!
There are more photos below