Day 13: Play Date with the Orphanage
Hey PERL 300 class, what are you doing this weekend? WELL, LET ME TELL YOU! In the morning we are going on a tour of Fundacion Santa Maria de la Esperanza, it is an orphanage that we are working with in Olón, then later on today we have a play date on the beach with all the orphans, and tomorrow we will be building them a playground. How exciting!! Mamita (the director of the orphanage) and Fatima (the inspiration and founder of the orphanage, and is seen at the surrogate mother) gave us a tour around the orphanage; we saw where the children slept, ate and played, and how the buildings were separated into male and female quarters. They explained that when the teenage boys got to a certain age, that they had to transfer to another location associated with Fundacion Santa Maria de la Esperanza, while the females were able to stay so they could learn and develop healthy maternal roles with the younger children. Although we saw many of the children, our interaction with them was quite limited, hopefully that will change once we get them out to the beach.
The excitement and anticipation of playing with the kids was quickly building up inside me as we walked towards the orphanages house on the beach. We had come well prepared: a giant slip and slide made of a giant tarp, various toy balls, hula-hoops, and Frisbees; not including the number of games and activities we could play in the ocean and on the sand. The kids eyes lit up as they saw all the toys we brought, and were eager to help set up the giant slip and slide. Something that I noticed was that the children at the orphanage were very obedient, this could be attributed to their regimented weekly schedule and the overall structure of the orphanage; they did not have to be asked multiple times to do something or to help out, it was just an automatic response. Even with everything we brought them, the children also saw us as a means of entertainment. Doing cheerleading and gymnastics on the beach, burying each other in the sand, diving into the waves and even just wading in the ocean was enjoyable to them. The orphans, just like the teens at Colegio 20 De Abril, were very curious about our lives and asked all sorts of questions: what our names were, how old we are, where we came from, when we were leaving back to Canada. I actually had most of a conversation with one of the older girls (name unknown) in Spanish because she asked all the typical questions, sadly I was exposed when she asked a question I did not recognize, and was deeply confused when I told her “No hablo Español” (I do not speak Spanish). After the slight language obstacle (not barrier), we began to speak to each other using more facial expressions and hand gestures. Although verbal explanation is the preferred method of choice for many individuals, I found that, because we were unable to use it as our primary means of communication, I was able to establish a relationship with her that went beyond what words could express. Another interesting character that I became quite fond of was a boy named Pedro; a very outgoing boy who would randomly grab you by the hand and lead you somewhere: the end of the hallway, into the other room, to the front of the group, etc. Pedro and his younger sister, Maria, are one of the few sets of siblings in the orphanage, they are also apart of an elite group of disabled children that will go through the orphanage. Even though communication with Pedro can be difficult, he is very persistent at letting you knew exactly what he wants, regardless of how long it takes to communicate his message. One of the most surprising interactions came from rather shy young adult (who looks deceivingly young) named Velma. She is was fascinated with hearts and throughouly enjoyed, and was quite talented at, playing with hair; I thoroughly enjoy when people play with my hair so bonding was quite effortless for us. Last but not least is another young boy named Carlos, the only fair skin colored individual in the orphanage at the moment, the language barrier between us is non existent, mainly because he has yet to say a word to me. Hopefully I can get a few words out of him before our time here at the orphanage has ended.
To end our beach play date, we invited the kids back to the Sea Garden for some fruit and ice cream. As if it was not enough that all the kids sit down and waited patiently for their bowl to arrive, but none of them complained about the flavor of ice cream or types of fruit they received but were grateful for what they were given. The kids helped us hand out the bowls by indicating who had been given ice cream and who had not, and even brought their dishes to the kitchen once they were done. Absolutely precious, I wanted to keep them all!!
End of day 13.