Last June I spent every weekday at an Uruguayan orphanage known as the “Hogar” or Home, for children whose parents have deceased or more commonly cannot afford to feed and maintain a healthy lifestyle for their children. Along with two other Deerfield students Emily Reyna and Rose Pember, we spent time with children who have been deprived of affectionate attention for months or even years.
It’s hard to call a day like today a disaster when I’ve learned so much from what I saw. When we started the day, we decided to take a group of six or seven kids down into a separate classroom and basically just take them aside and read and play with them. It was a good idea. It didn’t work out.
The first group we took into the class went great, mainly I think, because it was all girls. The second group of kids, who basically realized the strict supervisors were not in the room, went crazy. They were almost all boys. Once began to grab all the “forbidden toys” meant for later use that were placed around the sides of the classroom and threw them in the middle of the room. Some of the toys broke. Another kid was fighting with the rest of them, and others were climbing on the dangerous thin wooden stairs and walls. It was chaos. And as these kids began to just really, be themselves for just a few minutes while no adult proctors were present, I heard for the first time some of these 3 and 4 year old kids swearing. Saying words they didn’t know the meaning of. It was scary to think that someone hadn’t bothered to hold these words back from these children in their homes, and brought them to the orphanage where they’d all learn the words and use them in any uncomfortable situation.
But what really got to me was this boy named Seb. As I picked him up, I could see what looked like cigarette burns on his stomach. These burns made me think, that maybe, these innocent kids will probably and inevitably grow into what’s coming out of their mouths and seared into their stomachs. Their future’s got to have a lot of sadness from what I can see of the remnants of their parents. I’m afraid of this big family circle leading these kids who I’ve somewhat come to know to become the irresponsible parents I see during the visiting hours at the orphanage.
Today I heard that this one boy named Thiago is going to get adopted by this great family living locally in the area. Apparently they’ve been visiting the orphanage very often and decided to adopt this boy who’s been in this building basically since he was born. And this is great news, its amazing, it’s the one positive thing I’ve heard about the future of any of these kids so far. Progressive things, kids getting out and not getting stuck like their parents.
Well, there is this one thing that’s been bothering me since I heard this piece of info. This kid is small and adorable and as blonde as hay, which is rare for Uruguayan people or children and making him the only “rubio” in the orphanage. I guess what’s been bothering me is that I’ve seen how the other American kids with me have treated this kid like gold over the rest of the orphans, and I’ve seen how the proctors taking care of this 2 year old have favored him and I constantly find myself, over and over again, spending more time with this little blonde boy because he stands out so noticeably and of course, people tend to lean themselves towards the unordinary. Well, now this kid is getting adopted and he seems to have all the luck. And all the other kids will stay there until they are six or so, then go to an even worse “shelter home” where they’ll go to school because they will have no other place to go to during the day, then at thirteen or so be on some kind of foster program and eventually get back on the street, become a basurero like their parents, and maybe have more dark faced kids to stay in the orphanage while they try to scrape a living in the dumpsters. It’s just luck and how things turn out I guess, which explain how some people, even kids like Thiago born in horrible conditions, end up better off than others.
Click here to read about other students’ summer community service projects.