The first thing that struck me when I walked into the house located in the middle-class neighborhood of Beccar was that I felt like I was walking into someone’s living room. It did not feel anything like an orphanage and so it made sense to me that I was informed not to call it one, especially in front of the children.
Admittedly it is a big house, with 15 children living there at any one time; however it seems to me much closer to a foster home rather than an orphanage. The only difference being that instead of parents there are staff and volunteers. I was impressed by the number of people working there and how relaxed the environment was. The first child I met was a little girl who came up to me and asked for ‘un beso’ (a kiss) and was going round the room having different people kiss her and pick her up. I certainly didn’t feel like the children were under stimulated or lacking in attention. This of course would not be the case without the volunteers from Voluntario Global.
I must admit that I find it a little strange that a number of the ´orphans´ are not technically orphans. An orphan is a person who has lost both parents in some way. At this home however, some children receive visits from their parents at the weekends and may on occasion go to stay with their parents for a short period of time. Thus in some cases it is simply that some parents are unable to take care of their children and so the home acts in the same way that we would expect social services to. Also some children who have parents in rehab for example can expect to be returned to their parent(s) at the end of the designated period of time. All of the children come from different circumstances and it is therefore impossible to treat each child the same or expect them to behave the way a child from a stable and supportive background would behave.
We took four of the girls to the local playground where they took it in turns playing on the swings and pushing one another. For an outsider it would be impossible to see that there was anything ´different´ about these girls, they looked full of energy with smiles all round. It makes me happy knowing that such places exist which can save children from an otherwise very unpleasant upbringing and that there are people willing to give their time for nothing to ensure such children never need suffer again.