A Home for Everyone. Part 3 of 3. The important part.

The first thing I saw upon waking was a stack of board games that were well-meant donations, though I can’t imagine any of these kids sitting down to a calm and orderly board game. Maybe when they’re older?

For breakfast we had bread rolls with honey, cafe con leche, and colada morada, a sort of warm fruit smoothie, thick, purple, with chunks of pineapple and strips of cinnamon swimming in it that is specifically traditional for Independence Day.

We ate with Nancy, the founder and head honcho of the orphanage and all its various programs. An intelligent and impressive woman, she is dignity with salt and pepper hair, compassion with kind eyes, and is one of the profoundly kind souls that keep the world on its course.

But the future of Hogar Para Todos is uncertain as Ecuador reevaluates its childcare systems, in particular the relative benefits of group orphanages versus a foster-parent system of one or two kids per house. Changing regulations and support could leave Hogar high and dry at any moment.

Meanwhile, they are encouraging a dialogue with other systems and nations, and the murky swirl of international politics has lately put Ecuador on a team with Venezuela and Cuba, so we were joined at breakfast by a matron from that unique island who was there to exchange and discuss techniques and approaches.

The conversation ranged from the relative importance of nuclear families, to substance abuse and its repurcussions, to the looming dangers of a world system based on importing cheap and often non-nutritious foods. Nancy looked out the window and reminisced about only a few decades ago when the view would have been local farms producing food for the nation. Now it’s mostly concrete buildings on top of the former fields.

[I have run into this danger in many countries. Is it really a good idea to rely on a system that makes everyone vulnerable to the problems of key individual nations? Especially in an age of climate change? Fish are caught off Norway, shipped to China to be cleaned and boxed, then shipped back to Norway. America does the same with meat, shipping frozen pig carcasses to China and back. What local farm grows Pringles? But I digress.]

The girl on the left is “G.”

After breakfast, Nancy showed us some of the projects she wants to build to improve the orphanage. They are halfway through installing living quarters for volunteers or visitors, which often include the families and children adopted there. She wants to put a sort of infirmary where sick kids can recover in peace, and she dreams of putting in a little living space for single mothers whose partners have run off or are otherwise absent. (They are already trying to do this, but having a safe living space will be an integral part.)

Then it came time to leave, and we went downstairs to say goodbye to the kids.

It was a sea of hugs, smiles, and voices saying thank you and sometimes begging us not to leave. Hugs that the day before had been light and happy were now somehow heavy, not wanting to let go, even though we’d only been able to give them a few hours of friendship. I’ve left a lot of good places and people, but after only a day, it was already among the hardest I’ve ever had to walk away from.

G, the young girl with the oral surgery scars, gave us big hugs then ran off, reappearring a moment later with a drawing she had made. She painstakingly wrote on the back (in Spanish) “we love you a lot, from the boys and girls.”

Some of our best friends from the day before saw us coming, backpacks signaling our imminent departure, and turned to go the other way.

Then J, my particular little angel-faced sweetheart who rode around on my shoulders in pure goodwill the day before…came up without a smile, giant brown eyes in an expressionless face, and hit me in the stomach with her tiny child fist. A long look and she walked away. She’s seen a lot of walking away, I think.

These children understand helplessness, far too well, but we were helpless too. We had no more time to give.

So now for the important part.

Ecuadoran law does not allow direct sponsorship of a particular child, but if you are inclined to help, please contact me for info, check their facebook page (Fundacion Hogar Para Todos in Azogues), or head to my blogspot version and click the paypal “donate” button at the top and I will pass it along.

Hard to get a sharp picture when they’re laughing so hard.

In fact, I will match the first $200 donated that way.

There are so very many worthy causes in the world, and I haven’t meant a single word of these three posts to be a guilt trip, but after seeing the tangibly important work that Hogar Para Todos does every day for the 28 children living there, plus the offsite people they reach out to help and the local women they employ, and all in a place where even a few dollars buys food and clothing, I hope we can help them a little in turn.