Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Their Joy easily became my Joy

Wednesday morning the first thing we decided to do was provide for the children at Ramar.  Our group piled into the tight van and drove to the location where we’d find a stove.  At a discount, because we paid in cash, we got a 5 propane burner, cast iron, 15 year warranted stove.  Bryan and another one of our guides/interpreters stayed behind to pay for and go with the stove and a driver back to Ramar while the rest of the group went on ahead to the mall. 
Yes, the mall.  Here we bought out the store’s $2 pillows, $1 pillowcases, and 35 bottles of lice shampoo.  All that we needed was five dollars to provide each child with one of each plus a bottle of shampoo per two children. 
Bryan had said that when him and our interpreter arrived with the new stove, Beatrice was so happy and grateful.  When she saw the new hose for the stove she said to the other volunteer, “Now we don’t have to worry about blowing up.”  Beatrice and the other workers were wrapping a wet washcloth around the cracked and broken old hose every time they needed to use the stove.
The rest of our group arrived with the new pillows, cases and shampoo and before the children came out to receive their brand new pillow we went ahead and put the cases on for them, leaving the plastic wrap on the pillows themselves to help deter the lice.  When they girls came out to receive the pillows, they were so grateful, hugging and clutching onto their new treasure.  The boys, of course, started pillow fighting.  All in all, they were so happy.  The children even learned and told us thank you in English.
After the pillows, the men brought in and hooked up the new stove.  The workers were delighted when they turned a burner on and it worked.  The looks on their faces were pure joy. 
Later that day we stopped at another orphanage to revisit from the last trip.  When they previous group came down before they saw the need for more space so the lady who ran the place could keep it open.  We saw a before picture of the empty unused space and the results of their work- a new covered porch for the children to play inside. 
We didn’t stay long because this orphanage was on the list to visit and provide for the next time the Dandor Amor group came to Ecuador. However, we left the children with coloring books, crayons, and fun colored and shaped sunglasses.

Thursday we walked and visited two Catholic orphanages.  One orphanage was for only boys and another for both genders as well as a nursing home type place for older people.
In the first orphanage for boys, we met two feisty nuns whom you wouldn’t want to get on their bad side.  Dogs are like vermin in Ecuador, and so one of the nuns was saying that she would walk with the children outside the orphanage, and when encountered by barking and vicious dogs would turn to them saying, “I am on a mission from God.  You will stop your barking and leave these children.”  And with that they dogs would turn tail and run.  She would also do this to the snakes in the jungle when she was doing work out there. 
This was also the home of boy who has since been adopted and now living with a family here in America.  They keep his photo as a testimony that God does work for good in the lives of these children.  And while not all are adopted out, a lot are, but they are all taken care of and given a chance at survival when it’s time to leave the home. 
The second Catholic orphanage was the one for boys and girls as well as the older people who could no longer live on their own.  While most of our group went on to take a tour of this location, a couple people went with the main people who run the place to discuss things for the orphanage. 
When all was said and done, the rest of us learned that a girl who was about to leave the orphanage was going to have schooling, books, and whatever else she needed provided for to become a doctor.  We saw her tear stained face show so much gratitude, so overcome by the love that she had just been shown, and grateful for the wonderful path that has been placed before her. 
Before we left, a young woman had run up to the locked gates to see Rex.  We learned that she was once an orphan, caused by her father killing her mother and almost killing her.  Rex was the father she never had, so when she heard about him being in town, she left work and ran to where we were just to see him.  She now has a good job, a wonderful husband, and beautiful new baby.
From here we flew out on Thursday night and back into our first city for a night of rest and two more orphanage the next day.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The beginnings of what touched my heart in Ecuador

On Monday morning, half of our group went to pay a second visit to one of the orphanages. Having visited them the day before they saw some needs and decided to fulfill them.
As they walked in with new flip-flops for each child and one thousand pounds of rice, the nuns began to exclaim. “See! I told you God would provide,” the first nun said to the second.
Just that morning the orphanage ran out of rice. With no funds to get more all they could do was pray and ask God to provide. The nuns never mentioned the rice to the group, and the group didn’t know the orphanage needed it. God’s hand was truly at work.
The other half of our group, including Bryan and myself, went to take a shift at another orphanage. These children were just the first of the beautiful faces we’d grow to love in such a short amount of time. This was a Catholic orphanage, which meant it was well funded so every child was well cared for, played with and loved.
Something we noticed right away, however, was that the children were not to be held by the volunteers. This was to deter favoritism. This also meant that the babies were not held. Although well cared for, they were not getting the physical contact that they desperately needed.
Later that evening we visited a location that helps to provide for some of the nearby orphanages. They would take in the well-behaved girls to make homemade, recycled cards out of recycled paper and flower petals. This location also had fields of vegetables to be sold, guinea pigs (or “Qui” as they call them) to be sold to markets as a specialty, and hogs. They even had their own room to dry the tealeaves they grew and sell it for profit.
That night we experienced some of the culture at nighttime. We ate at a popular restaurant for supper that was located on the top of one of the highest hills. On our way back down we kept hitting detours and dead-ends. For a moment a few of us Americans panicked but we had one of the city’s best drivers.

Tuesday morning, we had a flight out of our first city to the second where we would visit most of the orphanages on our trip. The first place we visited was an orphanage called Ramar.
This group was renting a building that used to be a strip club. Since prostitution is very legal there, they had a building for the girls to dance and a building for the men to take the girl of the choice to. The boys of Ramar slept in the old building the men would take the dancing girls to have their way with. Each child had a fairly new bed from another time the Dando Amor group visited, so the boys were in good shape comparatively.
The girls of Ramar slept in the once dance club where the stage is still set, the roof leaks, the walls are cracked, and the mold hits you like a brick wall the moment you step into the room.
We asked the main volunteer who runs the place, Beatrice, about the moldy roof and the cracked walls when it rains. The roof is just a simple tin roof with no insulation, since it’s not needed with their weather, and a simple fabric covering on the inside. The fabric is molded, coming down, saggy from the water and reeks to high heaven.
The building was set into the side of a hill, so the crack at the top of the hill would get all the water that would run down the hill when it rained. And since there’s no word for “leaks,” Beatrice said that when it rains it doesn’t drip, it floods.
However, all the children had new mattresses and sheets from the last time the Dando Amor group visited. With the mattresses still in very good condition, the thing they needed now was a new pillow for each child. All the children had to use were cut up sheets sewn into pillowcases and stuffed with shredded old clothes.
After we saw where the children slept, we heard about their stove. The stove only had two of the four burners working. Beatrice had said that to feed the 70 children and the volunteers she would wake at five in the morning to start breakfast. After breakfast they would clean up and start lunch, then after lunch they would start supper, clean up, and start again the next day. Without question our group of fourteen knew exactly what we needed to do to provide for these children.
After Beatrice’s Ramar, we went to visit an orphanage that is run by one of our guides/interpreters, Rex. Rex’s orphanage cares for the mentally and physically handicapped as well as a few children who are healthy and capable. He doesn’t turn away a child he can care for but his main focus is those handicapped children.
He began by saying that sometimes he’s almost embarrassed for others to see his orphanage simply because it is so nice. But he quickly went on to say that his embarrassment quickly subsides knowing that it’s an example of how the orphanages in Ecuador can and should be run.
His facility is in existence because of a family here in the states. They saw what Rex was trying to do and knew it needed to be done so they donated 1.5 million dollars to construct a building that can fully facilitate the needs of the children. The rooms are large and roomy to accommodate the children in wheelchairs. The bedrooms are fully equipped with a large “crib” for each child to sleep three or four children per room.
The handicapped children we met we all very happy in spite of their condition. Some of the children were with a genetic deterioration, others who are crippled both mentally and physically, others with cerebral palsy, and some simply with autism. There were a few who had a minor handicap but were otherwise very healthy. A little girl with downs syndrome and a boy who was practically blind.
There were other children who were healthy in every way. There was a baby boy who was abandoned by the river under a bush only to be discovered by a fisherman. Another little girl was simply stuck in the orphanage because her mom has decided she wants the girl back while her two older brothers enjoy a new life in America.
We left this orphanage feeling hopeful with all that we saw.  Of how an orphanage should be ran, the children should be cared for, and that it can be done.