|La Puerta de Fe Orphanage Trip - April 2003|
Our group of parents, kids and CLC alumni headed to Mexico on Saturday
morning, April 5, in a caravan of about 13 vehicles. The only problem:
we set our trip for the same date as the Rosarito to Ensenada Bike Race,
which draws, oh, about 10 million bicyclists, all of whom were riding
along the road we needed to use to get to the orphanage. Despite the
temporary road closure, we eventually arrived at our destination and
unloaded the food and supplies we brought to cook and serve two meals to
the residents and staff as well as our group of about 40.
We also brought paint and supplies to complete our service project. The director of the orphanage, DJ Schuetze, had specified a bright red for one of the wooden bridges that spans the creek that runs through the 60-acre property, and a redwood stain for the many picnic tables at which the children eat every day.
In between playing games and getting acquainted with the children, the painting was completed by the many helping CLC hands. Suppertime meant firing up the charcoal grill and preparing 200 hamburgers, served promptly at the dinner bell with carrots, fruit, and milk. The meat, fruit and cheese for the burgers were special treats for the children, who are seldom served such fare.
Many of the families elected to camp at the campsite or in the adjacent bunkhouses on the orphanage property. Some stayed at the local hotels, which, although perhaps more clean and comfortable, meant leaving the camaraderie around the evening campfire and driving back to town a few miles away. Our leader and organizing genius Bill Hoffman, who came with his two CLC alumni teenagers, played his guitar until his fingers almost bled, and the group sang long, loud, and mostly off-key while the children made s'mores. Tasting his first s'more at the campfire party was a special guest of honor, Jonathan, the boy whom CLC sponsors through an annual stipend. We sang "happy birthday" to him, as he turns 11 on April 11.
With the daylight saving time change, morning came quickly, especially for those who had to go make 500 pancakes and serve them up with 400 tiny sausages and 120 eggs. Breakfast time meant more time to spend with the children and get a glimpse into their lives, which are surprisingly what we might call "normal." They are kept on strict time schedules for church, school and meals. Despite the minor skirmishes one might expect when there are almost 100 children living as siblings, director DJ said the kids enjoy playing with one another, and they live comfortably in their dormitories as families with their respective dorm parents. They form alliances and learn respect for one another, and in between, they play.
And they play. Each child's personality shone through on the playground. There were many smiling faces and arms eager for a hug or a push on the swing. Our own children were amazing, although not to themselves, as this is what children do when put together - they play basketball, volleyball, they hit a ball with a bat, they chase each other, and of course they ride the dangerous, infamous merry-go-round.
One needed only to glance around to get inspiration from the resident children. Martin, Jonathan's older brother, uses a walker to get around, but this did not deter him from playing basketball with the group - on his knees. Ramon, the astute eldest of the five siblings in his family who made it to the orphanage, was eager to practice his considerable English skills and learn all about our families. Little Lupita just wanted to be held and sang to.
Is the trip worth it? More than you can imagine. Do our kids arrive home with a new appreciation for their good fortune and a greater sense of compassion? Thatıs difficult to say. Do their parents? Probably so, or we would not keep going back each year.