Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hogar Video!

Watch this video!  It will make you want to go volunteer at the Hogar--and we are still accepting applications for the summer and the fall!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

So long, El Salvador!

Sadly, this is our final post of this summer, and since we have had some time to process the happenings of this summer, we hope you don't mind it being a little on the lengthy side ;) 

My time in El Salvador this past summer was one that was different than most of my visits to this wonderful country. Most summers I go to spend time with my family there. But this summer I spent it with Sara, my partner for the summer who turned out to be such a good friend, in the Hogar Del Padre Vito Guarato. It proved to be one of the best and most rewarding experience of my life!

At first, I was so overwhelmed with everything at the Hogar, especially since I arrived before Sara. But as time went on, we grew closer to the residents as well as the workers that make the place a home for these wonderful children! As with anything in life that is planned, the unplanned happens instead. We had many ups and downs with our stay at the Hogar but ultimately reminded ourselves that we were there for the children first, everything else came second. So we worked our way through every imposing obstacle to give the children the love and attention they crave and thrive off of! 

 One of the best moments was hearing your name being screamed from across el rancho when the children would see you!  Along all the countless other memories that I have and will never forget, I think in our own small way Sara and I made a difference. We made these children feel loved and important, we became their friend and tried to teach them along the way. Perhaps one of the most important things I realized was while trying to make the children feel loved, they also made us feel loved; while trying to teach the kids, they taught me something vital. Love is the answer to everything. It doesn't matter if you have anything in this world besides the clothes on your back, or whatever your race, gender, color, age- every person is loved and deserves love, it's what makes the world go 'round! It's what makes all of us happy, and these beautiful children of God are the happiest human beings I know. We all can learn so much from every single one of them. I felt that as though we had administrative problems interrupting our ideas for projects or lack of communication, we had accomplished something. I had never felt any more alive or connected to God and nature and the people around me or myself as I did during my time at the Hogar. If anyone has the opportunity to ever go, do it. Do it in a heartbeat. You will not regret it, it may just change your life. It changed mine, and I didn't even see it  happening until it was upon me because all the while I was making a small difference in the life of the residents. I truly cannot wait for the day I can go back and laugh, cry, smile, sing and dance along with my beloved friends at the Hogar del Niño.


It’s been several weeks since I’ve been home, but not a day goes by that I don’t think about at least one resident, but rarely (if ever) just one. I hear One Direction, and Maritza’s beaming face pops in my head as she shouts their songs, talking about which one is cutest. I see someone drinking a Coke, and I think of Ana del Carmen wrapping her arms around my waist with a big, cheesy grin saying “Quiero Coca-Cola, mama” (we might have done a little bit of spoiling this summer ;)).Waking up is slightly less enjoyable now that I hear a normal alarm clock instead of Memo talking (grunting) outside my window, or mariachi music down at the Rancho. I turn a corner, wishing Anita was there, ready to tackle me with a huge hug. I go out to eat at a Hispanic restaurant and am genuinely disappointed when they don’t have pupusas.

And I really, really miss Xiomara and her little crew calling me "Cuchara" instead of Sara. They started calling me "Cuchara Sara" (or vice versa) because it has a nice ring to it, I guess. Cuchara means spoon. So naturally, they liked that better than my name and eventually dropped the Sara altogether. 

This summer was incredible. Truly incredible. This summer, I learned the power of love and intentionality. Letting someone know that you wholeheartedly care for them and WANT to spend a morning with them, even if it just means letting them drag you around by your arm talking to every one you come across, or sitting next to them and massaging their arm. This summer, a lot of things didn’t go as planned. We didn’t get to teach as many classes as we wanted or paint as many rooms as we intended (though we still painted all the dormitory hallways! :)). But everything still happened perfectly. What the residents are going to remember is that we took individual time with each of them to let them know how loved they were. We made bracelets with them and wrote them letters and helped them practice their handwriting. We helped Aida with her English and made little books for her to teach her English words. We sat in the bedrooms of residents who are often lonely. We helped them with their homework. We took them for walks around the orphanage. We embraced goodnight hugs from Xiomara that were known to last several minutes. We held some as they cried, or laughed with them until we were all in tears. We developed lasting relationships with both the residents and the wonderful workers. 

I am so thankful to have had this opportunity. I made the most wonderful friend, Melissa, a girl who could not have been any more perfect to spend the summer and love the residents with. This was my first time leaving the United States, and though I’ve always had my heart set on traveling the world, I have a feeling I’ll be making trips back to where a big piece of my heart was left – right at the Hogar.

Sara (Cuchara) :)

We are so thankful for all of your support and encouragement along the way. Here is a collection of some of our favorite pictures from the summer. :)

On Melissa's last day there, we handed out our gifts to several of the residents, including mix CDs and pictures. I'm pretty sure they loved it. :)

One of my friends, Sara, came to the Hogar for the last 11 days of my stay there (she came the day before Melissa left). The residents were quick to share their love with her.

This also happened to be the week the workers decided to pull out the pool, in which we joined the residents several days in our clothes. :)

 We hope that you have found joy in seeing their faces and hearing stories from this summer. We are so excited to see who gets to go down there in the future! If you are thinking about it....do it. :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

a day in the life

We started this morning by taking two of the children from Lactantes outside to try to practice using straws, in hopes of gaining more muscle control and, ultimately, the ability to consume meals through a straw to minimize choking and messiness. Tatiana was more concerned with taking her arm brace off, and Jenny seemed overwhelmed by the whole idea, so we decided to give those two little ones a break. We brought out Reina next, and she was a bundle of joy! She responded to the straw being in her mouth really well, though she didn’t suck on it yet, but with practice, we think she might be able to!

Next came one of our favorite times, feeding the children in Lactantes. One of the niñeras gave me a spoon and a bowl and asked me to feed Sonia. I quickly realized that the spoon was at least ten times too big for her little mouth, but I tried it anyway, not wanting to offend the niñera for her choice in spoon size. The poor girl was making hardly any progress. A few minutes into feeding, the same niñera walked over to me laughing, realizing the problem, and had a spoon much more fit for Sonia’s mouth.

So we continued feeding, and then I noticed something big, dark, and fast out of the corner of my eye. That is never a good sign. The following events happened something like this:

Me: “Eeeee! Melissa!” I pointed behind her.
Melissa: something along the lines of “Oh my gosh!” as she runs in the opposite direction, since it was coming right for her.
Niñera : “Que paso?!” (What happened?)
Melissa: “Una cuca!” (A cockroach)

No more words came after that. Just me, Melissa, and two niñeras dancing around as this giant cockroach weaved in and out underneath the kids’ wheelchairs. The most wonderful part was the children laughing, as they were just simply enjoying their lunch, and all of a sudden the people feeding them were dancing around with their bowls of food still in hand.

The only time a cockroach has ever been a fun experience. :)

Around 1:30, 40 of us piled into two vans to head to the local stadium. There were 19 of us in our un-air conditioned van. Thank Jesus for windows and fast drivers.

We arrived at the stadium and I was so reminded of being at the Special Olympics. The only thing missing was a crowd of 100 Camp Barnabas (a special needs summer camp I worked at and every year we cheered on the local Special Olympics) staffers going crazy in the stands. There was ball throwing for those in wheelchairs, a little jumping obstacle course for some of the others, and down at the other end was the super intense stuff for the people in wheelchairs with extremely buff arms.

I spent the afternoon with the obstacle course group, and we started off with warm-ups. I spent this time coaxing Xiomara on my left to participate as she found anything and everything to stall time until she only had to do the last 2 or 3 in a set of 10, and on my right I was preventing Anita from falling into the little concrete ditch behind us as she was having too much fun laying on her back and whipping her legs over her head.

(Bear with me. I didn't feel like hauling my big camera to the stadium, so today's pictures were taken on my phone).

Warm-up stretches

Obstacle course

Then we got to run.  I was blessed to be Anita’s running partner. Seriously. Blessed. I stinking love that girl. That was the most fun lap I have ever ran in my entire life. She refused to take her backpack off (or should I say frontpack, as she insisted on carrying it on the front), and she held my hand screaming and laughing the whole way. Any time she stopped, I threw my arms up in cheering motion saying “Puedes hacerlo!” (You can do it). She immediately picked right back up with a big grin on her face.

We left around 4, and I had the seat on the ride home that faced backward, looking over all 19 sweaty, hot, exhausted bodies that still mustered up the energy to sing out the back window (Carmencita), whistle and blow kisses to Melissa and random pedestrians (Memo), and make eye contact with me all the way from the back row and immediately begin dancing (Xiomara).

How are we ever going to leave this place?!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Happy birthday Geovanny and Roberto!

Tonight, we celebrated the birthdays of Geovanny and Roberto, who both had birthdays in June. You can be assured that once you meet Geovanny, you will never forget his birthday for the rest of your life, nor will he forget yours. Birthdays are very important to him. Any time he meets somebody new, he pulls out his little construction paper notepad and writes their names and birthday down to hold onto forever. It is so sweet to see how excited he gets when finding out that little fact about new friends. Since birthdays are such a big deal to him, we had been looking forward to this party for quite some time!

We invited 9 of the residents, and 15 showed up. What's an extra 6 anyway? :)

We couldn't decide on a theme for the party, so it was kind of like a Hawaiian/Hollywood/Birthday party. Most of them had an abundance of leis around their neck, they loved the cute little umbrellas to put in with their Kolashanpan (a favorite soda down here!), and we had a Hollywood themed table runner. I don't think they minded the randomness of this fiesta :)

One thing was for sure, they LOVED the peanut butter & jelly sandwiches! We found out last week that those are one of their favorite meals, so of course we had pb&j's for tonight's party.

Thanks to Pinterest, Melissa discovered the "brownie in a cup" recipe, which is a super easy recipe that included brownies being made in a coffee cup for just one minute, and adding a little (or a lot) of ice cream and sprinkles on top! Easy and delicious! 

Before indulging in these delicious treats, we all sang happy birthday (both in English and Spanish!) to Geovanny and Roberto. The birthday boys loved it while their friends sang loud and proud!

And, of course, it wouldn't be a party without ChuChu, the pet dog.

After consuming 6 (yes, 6) liters of soda and eating brownie sundaes, it's safe to say everyone was on an extreme sugar rush by the end of the night!

And this was the aftermath.... We might invest in paper plates next time ;)

Happy birthday, Roberto and Geovanny!!!!

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