The annual trip for our non-profit, Project Left Behind ( PLB ) is always a highlight of the year. This year, Kevin and I both went, which is always a bit of a struggle since we’re going out of the country without our kids. This year, however, we left San Diego without a second thought because the boys were in great hands with their older sister (who’s 22) and our 10-year-old Rottweiler. Our destination: Casa Guatemala Orphanage in the jungle of Rio Dulce.
The timing for our trip was right before Christmas, which in so many ways is a perfect end to the year while simultaneously tying in the “new” year with new goals and vigor for PLB. I know working with orphanages around the world is my true calling, and like starting my own business, I’ve found the daunting part to be honing in on how to provide the most impact. These trips are a true oxymoron of exhilarating and depressing. The raw realization that there are 10 million more children like the ones in front of me can leave me sleepless, while the prospect of actually changing the destiny of the “innocent” is invigorating.
The children were so charming and warm at Casa Guatemala. There were ample volunteers from all over the world at this orphanage. The stark reality of what these innocent souls have to endure and overcome in the world is surreal. Our world becomes nothing more than a fairytale for them. Homes with refrigerators stocked with a week’s worth of groceries; closets full of fun, colorful, clean clothes; carpeted floors; doors and windows; toys; soap, toothpaste and a toothbrush; running water; clean drinking water from the facets; a hot shower; a soft mattress; and even a piece of bubble gum to chew are more than likely just a dream for these children. The reality is they’re trying to endure their adverse circumstances of life.
A flash of clarity came to us on this trip that two things are critical (if the basics of food, clothing, and shelter are being satisfactorily met) for a feasible chance at life: love and education. It seems apparent how to provide those things, but when you’re staring into this black hole it’s very unclear.
LOVE. New research shows the devastating affects to children who are in environments for long periods of time where they’re not adequately cared for in a nurturing, “loving” way. A severe lack of caregiver responsiveness to the child’s early communication efforts between birth and the age of three manifests into a child who can’t have social relationships that are crucial for a fulfilled life. Orphanages that encourage volunteers to stay and care for the children actually are alleviating some potential critical development issue.
EDUCATION. Learning is the only stepping stone from the brutal grip of destiny into the unknown realm of optimistic possibilities for these children, most of whom will only receive a sub-par 6th grade education. Schooling beyond 6th grade will cost $2,000 for education plus room and board for one year…which might as well be $2 million for these children. Every child should have the opportunity to change his fate.
Tonight, give thanks that you were lucky enough to be born into the world of possibilities, for so many were not.
Please enjoy the video of our trip .