Day 12: Play date on the beach!
Hola!! So you know that one song that goes “the sun will come out tomorrow,” well that should have been our theme song yesterday because boom, the sun is out baby! Woo! After breakfast we spent a couple hours out on the beach, baking in the sun before it was time to get back to work. If you can even call it that. We spent the morning touring a local orphanage that we would be working with for the next couple of days. Fundacion Santa Maria de la Esperanza has been open for 23 years and has been home to over 1000 kids. We met with the director, who they call Mamita, who is a very lively woman and reminded me a little bit of Sister Annie. She greeted each of us individually with a warm hug and began to tell us about the orphanage. After hearing about the place, I found that the organization is more like a foster home rather than an orphanage. The children staying there are considered “modern orphans,” that is where they do still have family, but they are unable to be taken care of properly for various reasons.
The orphanage serves a place for the kids to stay until their home situation improves. As of right now, Fundacion Santa Maria de la Esperanza is home to 40 children with various needs. They live a very structured life, something which most of them need right now. They have a private school on site which caters to the individual needs of the children. Many of the kids haven’t had the kind of schooling we had, or even any schooling at all. It’s a place to help them learn basic study habits, and develop their minds so that hopefully when they have a permanent home, they have the tools to succeed. It really is a great organization; for various reasons these kids need a temporary place to call home and it’s very fortunate that they can do that there. One of the girls on our trip mentioned that she had spent time in a group home back home and that it is very comparable to the organization here. It’s crazy to see that even though we are in such a culturally different place, there can be so many similarities too, especially in a place like this. Amazing.
After our tour we went back to our place for lunch with the excitement of knowing that soon we would be playing and getting to know the children out on the beach! We quickly finished and walked the little ways to go meet with the children. Our first big excitement (and slight fail) was the large piece of plastic type stretch of material (basically a long and wide garbage bag) that we tried to use as a slip & slide! We used the ocean water, and we used soap, and it was slippy and slidy, but it was also very sandy and muddy! In the end though, that didn’t matter to the kids, they had a blast launching themselves into the water anyways! The whole event was basically just free play, we brought out all the equipment that we would be giving to the orphanage and we were just able to play with the kids. One point that was really fun for me was when I saw a group of girls doing some cheer type stunting/pyramids. Only the stuff that they were doing was crazy! As a cheer coach, I am very used to safety measures, rules, proper technique etc. etc. This group of people however were just pulling out back bends and crawling people on top of people, layers upon layers of bends and standing. It was so much fun! Something that is so within my element, yet so completely different at the same time.
We played for a couple of hours, and it was great to see how something as simple as jumping in the waves or passing a ball back and forth made them so happy. I think it was a great escape for them, and a great break from their structured schedules. There was so much going on, Frisbee, volleyball, soccer, sand castles, burying people in the sand, gymnastics, tag; the sound of kids screaming and laughing and just having fun. If there’s anything I’ve learned from this experience it’s that play is the flow of happiness. It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you’re from, play is play, and without it, the world really would be a boring place.
Something that I found interesting was seeing some of the kids interact. There was one little boy who had lighter color skin than the rest of the children. At a first glance, one could assume that he was North American, rather than being from Ecuador. It was sad to see how some of the kids treated him, how they wouldn’t play with him or would take his toys away from him. Of course we would play with him and help make his time more enjoyable, but it was just a really weird phenomenon to see. I’m not naïve and I know that racism still exists in the world (something that I don’t condone at all), but here it was sort of a reverse racism, something that would be opposite to what we see at home, but yet still the same. After our time on the beach we came back and prepared a fruit and ice-cream dish for the kids to enjoy. Overall it was such a fun day, and I really enjoyed every moment I got to spend with the kids. It was such a joy to watch them thrive in their own backyard, and really see them enjoy themselves. Tomorrow we will be working at the orphanage to help build a playground for the kids! Can’t wait!
Thanks for reading!