The kids were awesome. The moment our plane hit the ground they were jumping up and down with excitement. They couldn’t wait to get to Apartotel Cristina (where we lived together for nearly six weeks). But first, we had to wait for the driver with a van to take us there because we had 5 huge suitcases filled with donations to bring to the orphanage for our volunteer weekend. Evelin and Jose were so excited when we got to the hotel. They put us in the very same suite where we had lived in and memories came flooding back to all of us. Evelin and Jose started chattering away about how we lived, what we did, “…. remember this, Mama and remember that? “ Very sweet.
The next morning, we had the driver return and bring us (and the 5 huge bags) to the Hogar Cristiano, where a meeting was already underway with the volunteer coordinator and the initial team of volunteers. What a wonderful weekend we had. What began as a fulfillment of a promise to raise money for the orphanage, turned into a weekend of magic and joy. Everyone – from the hermanas (nuns), the tías, the workers, the volunteers to the children -- was touched, moved and inspired. The $10,000 that was raised purchased an industrial oven and equipment for the bakery, uniforms for the women and older girls, 40 hens and feed, and materials and supplies to paint and repair 4 of the casitas where the children lived. On top of that, people sent gifts, clothes and other donations while nearly twenty-five others volunteered at the Hogar giving their time, love and expertise.
The children and teens spent the weekend with the volunteers singing and dancing, creating murals, making hula hoops, playing soccer and Frisbee, getting haircuts, their faces painted, and even pediatric massages. On our final day together, the girls’ put on a show for all of the volunteers, hermanas and tías. (Evelin performed in the dance portion of the show; she had practiced all weekend.) For the grand finale, the children saw a slide show presentation of our weekend together. Our volunteer photojournalist was incredible and gave each child at the Hogar something that many of us take for granted -- photos of themselves from their childhood.
Check out the photo album of our weekend activities. (To protect the identities of the 74 children currently living at the Hogar, there are no photos that clearly identify the children. You will, however, see photos of our kids, their primas and some of the other volunteers’ children.)