"The Children Of Esperanza" Esperanza by lamentforicarus
Esperanza Travel Guide: 10 reviews and 46 photos
After a day of acclimating to the tropical climate and Caribbean culture in Sosúa, our group (the Esperanza Orphanage Project) journeyed through the Dominican’s forested mountains to the town of Esperanza. The dusty streets and small, wooden houses were a tremendous change from the highways and beach resorts of our first destination. Two dozen very excited boys met our arrival when our bus lurched off the rutted road and into the gated compound of the Buen Samaritano Orphanage. For hours, they competed for our attention by climbing trees, showing off their muscles, and engaging us with games. As I jotted down my first impressions, "attention starved" dominated my thoughts. Truly, these boys are in need of attention. Many have suffered physiological harm resulting from abuse and neglect. Many arrived at the orphanage after being abandoned on roadsides, or after years of torture from their parents. Others are there simply because their parents are too poor to feed and clothe them. Coworkers and friends have asked about the probability of adoption for these boys. Slim to nil. Furthermore, the staff of the orphanage consists of only three employees. One woman prepares the boys’ every meal from the relatively meager foodstuffs available while another washes and dries the never-ending heaps of dirty clothing. The humble director of the Buen Samaritano orphanage, Chavo, was truly kind and accommodating but always seemed bogged down with a mountain of paperwork and responsibility.
Our belongings were moved into our new accommodations, which consisted of no more than a tin roof and tarp-cloaked fencing. The small mattresses we slept on were shielded from buzzing mosquitos and enormous arachnids by narrow lengths of netting pinned to the bedposts. Though modest by most standards, it was luxury compared to where the kids slept.
Over the next few days, we were given our project (as decided by Chavo) and set to work building new bathrooms for the boys. At the time of our arrival, the orphanage had one toilet and one shower for 20-30 boys. They had been built by the Esperanza Orphanage Project several years earlier. Before that, the boys used a hole in the ground. Our construction organizers, Jim and Randy, purchased our supplies from a local "hardware store" and began pounding away at the ground in the boys' bedroom (where the plumbing would be laid). Most of the group members, usually including myself, gave the boys much needed structure through activities (such as decorating picture frames to showcase Polaroid photographs we took of each child) and playing baseball in the fenced-in field built just a couple years earlier.
We went to a local elementary school as ambassadors of the U.S. and played soccer with the older kids and pato, pato, ganso (duck, duck, goose) with the younger. What an experience! Despite the large rocks protruding from the dusty field, most of the kids kicked off their worn shoes and scampered down the field barefoot in pursuit of the old soccer ball. Avoiding the carefree chickens, I attempted to showcase my years of soccer experience with the athletic adolescents. Ultimately, my skills were put to shame as I was outplayed by a tall fourteen-year-old named Ronaldo. In addition to friendly games, the group also brought essential school supplies (paper, pencils, rulers, glue, etc.) and donations collected in the States.
Our last full day in the Dominican was filled with uproarious laughter and ear-to-ear smiles. In two chartered buses, the group and all 24 children from the orphanage (plus the employees and their children) headed to the north coast to enjoy the once-in-a-year experience of splashing through water slides and wading pools at the Columbus water park. The kids, who had anticipated a visit to “Columbo” for weeks, shucked off their clothes and leaped into the water as soon as their entry fees had been paid. I guided the younger boys, who clambered on to inner tubes, through the shallow areas of the pool, while wrestling and teasing the older. Five entertaining hours later, I completed the last of three “final inner tube rides” around the wading pool with an energetic five-year-old named Manuel, and we slowly rounded up the kids. Heading back to the orphanage in Esperanza, a fellow group member, Randy, shared a startling realization: many of the locals in Esperanza would need to save a weeks’ wages to purchase a one day admission ticket to the park!
I cannot emphasize enough the lasting impact the children of Esperanza have had on my life. With each smile, with each joke, and with each high-five, they leave immortal memories, enduring hope, indomitable courage, and a priceless friendship. As I hugged each child goodbye, I could not help but wonder how such a worthy name - “Esperanza” (Hope) - had been chosen for the town.
- In a nutshell:An unforgettable experience!
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