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by Leigh-Kilton Smith, FOEF Board Member
Sometimes I drive down to the orphanage earlier than the weekend. These are treasured times because I get a glimpse of the day to day, which is different from the energy of the busy, bustling weekends. On a recent Thursday night I helped make lunches the night before school on Friday with dorm mothers and some of the teenage girls.
I spread mayonnaise onto white bread. Claudia Vanessa, one of our beautiful teens, slices ham meticulously, making sure each slice is fair, accurate. It’s like she is imagining the next day and one child comparing their slice of ham with another child’s. She makes sure our child will not be wanting.
Hermana Carmen places ham, Ma Esther places cheese and finally another slice of bread seals the deal and one of the girls tears a clear plastic vegetable bag from a roll and in moments, the sandwich is folded, knotted and sealed.
This is repeated over 80 times, and during that time, the teens and the mothers interact seamlessly. They crack each other up, gossip; they tease me about my love of spicy foods asking if I want to put a jalapeno in each sandwich. We laugh together.
The relationships in this kitchen, late at night are easy, focused, filled with love and mutual respect. The enormous workload of the day is behind them, and here, they finally relax. There is tea, a cookie or two. From time to time, a child wanders into the dining hall to get a jug of water for their dorm. Curious, they make their way over to watch the sandwich assembly line for a moment before being kissed and sent off to bed.
Finally, a leaning tower of sandwiches rests in the middle of the table. A case of apples is left open for easy access in the early hours of the morning when the children leave, in shifts, beginning at 5 a.m. for school. Ma Esther explains that we no longer use lunch sacks since every child has their own backpack. We clean up. We say goodnight with kisses and hugs and go off to our beds to rest and prepare for the next day. These mothers easily have another two hours of work before they can go to bed.
These women are amazing, not more so than the men who work here, who face their own responsibilities which are equally as emotionally and physically challenging. But these women, my friends, sisters and mothers that I join hands with in the fight to make every child feel worthy and acknowledged are incredible at balancing the respect necessary for each child to feel safe and the love necessary for each child to feel loved.
Saturday, at 5:45 a.m., I am awakened by giggling children, still in pajamas and mysteriously drug outside in the still darkened morning. I watch as the children knock on dorm room doors. Excitedly they whisper and finally half shout the dorm mother’s name and when she opens the door to peak out, the children launch into a song that I believe to be the equivalent of “Happy Mother’s Day”.
I watch and wipe away tears, tears that I share with the mother being serenaded.
We travel from dorm to dorm and I watch as again and again the children knock and wait. There are giggles of anticipation and then the magic moment when the mother appears, squeals of delight and then the song and then their sweet beautiful faces now lit by the growing light of dawn as the mother thanks the children profusely for their song and their love.
I know that one of the girls lost her mother on Christmas morning a couple of years back. The call of the streets proved too much for the mother to resist and this beautiful girl and her sisters awoke on Christmas morning to find their mother simply gone. But here, there is no bitterness, no sadness, she leads the pack in heart felt appreciation for these women who do not disappear in the night.
The last mother is serenaded, some of the children are yawning and begin to walk sleepily back in the directions of their dorms.
I make some tea and watch the sun rise. And I thank God profusely for the honor of simply letting me be here to bear witness--the miracle of motherless children serenading their Mothers on Mother’s day in Mexico.
For volunteer opportunites and
questions on how to help,
Save the Date! The 5th Annual Friends of El Faro fundraiser will once again benefit the children of Tijuana’s Casa Hogar Sion (El Faro II) orphanage – providing food and shelter for more than 125 children every day!
OFFICIAL INVITE COMING SOON!
Date: Thursday, August 7, 2008
Time: 7pm – 11pm
Locale: Boulevard 3 (www.boulevard3.com)
Entertainment: An array of surprise acoustic guests and old favorites
In the past years, celebrity guests have included: Molly Sims, Andy Garcia, Ben Stiller, Rosa Blasi, Sharon Lawrence, Josh Duhamel, Sheryl Crow and many more! You can expect a host of celebrities, along with old friends and family as we help move our cause forward for another year.
For information on sponsorship opportunities please contact, Nicole Balsamo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Bernice aka Bon Bon
With a nickname like Bon Bon it’s hard to go wrong and fortunately for all of us, twelve-year-old Bon Bon is as sweet as her name! Always bearing a welcoming smile, Berenice makes a point to greet each visitor and politely thank them for coming. Celebrating her sixth-grade graduation this past Friday, Berenice is known for being one of the hardest-working and most promising young women at Casa Hogar Sion. Congratulations, Bon Bon! This month, we celebrate you and all of your accomplishments!
All the Orphanages (Casas Hogar) in Baja, California are overseen by the Social and Family Services department of the Government. Sistema para el desarrollo integral de la familia (DIF) regulates the quality of life provided to the children, and places orphaned, endangered or displaced children in the Casa Hogar. However, the government does not support the Casa Hogar financially. The burden of feeding, clothing, educating and caring for the children is left to the ingenuity of the individual Casa which makes support from individuals, like yourself, so valuable.