I was sitting at the table talking with my host Mom, Martha, when the call finally came. It was Franklin, and it was time for me to travel to my third and final home in Ecuador. Unlike a month prior when I stepped foot into Martha’s house for the first time, I wasn’t nervous in the slightest to change my scenery. I have adopted the mindset that worrying about future changes is trivial; once I arrive at my new destination I will take it all in and go from there. I said goodbye to Martha for the time being and spent the next two hours driving south to Latacunga. Countryside. Thats all I saw and I loved it. Growing up in a small town in Oregon, I am most comfortable when surrounded by nature and greenery. I had a feeling I was going to really like my last month in Ecuador.
After getting lost trying to find the Childrens home and asking four different pedestrians for directions, we finally came upon the Latacunga branch of Hogar Para Sus Ninos. Unlike the house in Quito, this one stood in the middle of fields and trees much to my delight. A mansion if I have ever seen one that appeared to have been built within the last few years. The director of the home, Elizabeth, came out to greet us and showed me to my quarters. The downstairs of the house was for children age 0-18 who functioned at a high level, and the upstairs was for children/adults who were severely low functioning. Half of the upstairs was for volunteers as well complete with a huge kitchen, and maybe 20 beds. As I was the only volunteer there that meant I had my pick of room’s. It had been great to live with two different families the past two months but I was so excited to gain back some independence and have some time to myself in order to reflect on what I had seen so far.
Elizabeth told me to rest for awhile and that she would give me a tour in two hours when she returned from picking up some of the children from school. Tired, I gladly jumped on the opportunity to take a nap and dozed off. I awoke three hours later and figured Elizabeth must have been busy elsewhere or didn’t want to wake me up so I got out of bed and did my own introducing. I opened the door that separated the volunteer section from the children upstairs and entered into a room of new faces. The Tia’s were pleasantly surprised I spoke decent Spanish and right away a girl named Liseth asked me to draw her a guitar. There were seven children in all upstairs from age 5-19. Thalia (5), Zacharias (16), and Veronica (19) were all wheelchair bound and largely unable to communicate any of their thoughts or desires. Jose Luis (12), Tatianna (18), Liseth (17), and Adrianna (19) were able to move on their own but each had their own special needs. These were the children who were never going to be adopted… This made me incredibly sad but I also was happy they had such a loving environment that would be with them the rest of their lives.
That night I met the children who lived downstairs, and the first thing I will always remember about that moment is a small boy spotting me and running up to me to give me a big hug. His name was Maycol and he was 5. He didn’t know me, but he knew I was there to spend time with them. There were 13 children downstairs from 1 month old to 12 years of age and did they ever have energy. I realized I was in for a workout in the weeks to come. That first week was filled with special moments, from watching Shrek with the kids to being unable to stop an older boy pushing over a baby in a highchair and being helpless (I was sitting on the couch bottle feeding another baby in my arms) to stop him from hitting the ground. I could fill 20 pages easy but the one that stands out is meeting Jose Luis. He was a boy of 12 that gets upset when he meets strangers. He was also very curious though and would come over to hold my hand and then realize he didn’t know me. This meant epic crying ensued but after two days he started to recognize my face and we would have a blast playing high five. By the end of the week he would stagger towards me as fast as he could to say hello every time he saw me. Likewise, I lit up whenever I saw him and got this really happy feeling inside. I knew then after my first week that he would be my hardest “goodbye” (I was right).