"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27
Have you ever wondered what life would be like as an orphan? Probably not. I can tell you that after today, there is a drastic difference between a government orphanage and a private orphanage. Today was spent with the children of San Jose Pinual orphanage. The orphanage is operated by the Guatemalan government and is home to more than 800 children.
Walking into the therapy room, I couldn't even make it in the door before I was hugged by the children. They were immediately loving--hugs and smiles--and they didn't even know me. They yearn for love and affection. We completed worksheets to help them with their fine motor skills. Boys and girls, men and women, from elementary school age to their forties with developmental disabilities, were all working on their papers. I helped one boy to draw circles on his page. He was probably 13 but couldn't even hold the crayon by himself. I also helped a 33 year old man make shapes on his page. Helping Tito was difficult. He is three years older than me but will never experience the life that I have. He won't have a wife or children but he is so happy to sit and color with me.
I was overcome by the smell as soon as we entered the first building. I don't think I will ever forget the smell of those rooms--a mix of body odor, the staleness of the buildings, and the occassional breeze of sewage. The buildings were reasonably clean but the size of the campus, the large number of residents, and the limited number of staff leaves the facilities overwhelming.
Much to my surprise, I was more comfortable in the ghetto yesterday than I was at the orphanage today. The orphanage made me feel confined, what I imagine it would be like to be in jail. The older children are made to march between their activities like soldiers, chanting songs. The perimeter of the property is surrounded by a cement wall topped with barbed wire and the housing sections are separated by gates with armed guards. As we walked through the sections, I was so afraid that I would get stuck inside. It's no wonder that children try to escape. I wanted to escape!
I struggled all day to contain myself as we visited the different children. The special needs nursery had 24 cribs and too many children who had been abused. The infant nursery is home to 16 babies between the ages of 0 to 3 months. The other nursery has 39 cribs in one room for children between 4 months and 1 year. When we entered the room, there were children crawling everywhere. All that I could think about when looking at those beautiful children was that they will most likely spend their entire childhood in this place. It is so sad to me that they will never have a family to love them and comfort them.
After supper, I sat quietly in Casa 5 feeding Maria while the other children slept. It was so comfortable to be back at Dorie's Promise. Today was a challenge but it makes me so grateful for my own family.