Sitting here in the airport in Miami on my way home, it’s hard to believe that just one day ago I was in Moquegua at the Hogar Belen orphanage with my friends from Wellspring International Outreach. It was truly an exceptional day, punctuated by laughter, omnipresent joy and displays of unique talents. Whether it was the display of soccer skills from the older boys, the harmonica playing of one of the Wellspring International Outreach volunteers, or several of us serenading the group with a rendition of Hotel California, bonds were forged throughout the day.
The children and their care takers live in less than ideal conditions with no running water and ramshackled dormitories, resulting from an earthquake in 2001 from which they have not yet recovered. But despite these conditions, our contingent was met with open arms, wide smiles and copious amounts of food and drink.
Hogar Belen’s Maria and Joey
I was especially taken by Maria, an 18-year-old who has been at the orphanage for 6 years. We bonded over potato peeling and onion chopping. She has a son, Joey, who was celebrating his third birthday the day we visited. Having an 18-year-old daughter myself, Maria especially touched my heart. Like my daughter, Maria enjoys math and hopes to continue her education and become a civil engineer. While we communicated in Spanglish, I kept thinking about how best I could help her achieve her goals. How can I, more than 3,000 miles away, have a positive effect on this girl’s life?
Ties that Bind
And then it hit me – this was the ultimate purpose of our trip: to inextricably link each of us to one or even a few of the orphans at Hogar Belen and make that bond permanent. I haven’t quite figured out my plan to support Maria and her son, Joey, but I do know that I will stay involved with Wellspring International Outreach to stay in touch and lend a helping hand whenever I can.
While the Peruvian dirt from the potatoes and the smell of the onions on my hands will eventually fade, my memories of the day will last forever.