Thursday, July 5, 2012

Maelie and my visit to a Peruvian orphanage

I'm back from Peru and enjoying the time with family and at work.  Although I'm back from Peru, my mind continues to wonder back to the experiences I had there.  Since 1999, Peru has been a place that I have felt is my home away from home.  I feel like I grew from a boy to a man there while serving a two year LDS mission from 1999 to 2001.  The lessons learned and experience gained while serving a mission for my church built a foundation for my life.  Many of the special things that are taking place at the moment with RODS Racing and Reece's Rainbow stem back to the time spent in the streets of Peru sharing a message very close to my heart.

Seven days into my trip I visited a Peruvian orphanage.  The morning started with me and one of my dear friends from Peru, Martin Ortiz, waking up early to get ready for the day.  I went outside hoping to beat some of the ever present traffic for a morning run.  I wasn't early enough.  An endless sea of yellow taxi's bustled through the streets of Chiclayo.  Combi music blaring from their radio's as the taxi drivers aggressively scoped the streets in hope of their next cab fare.  I decided to still give the run a try.  I found a little park that I could make loops around kind of like a hamster running on it's little exercise wheel in a cage.  It was humid and the air smelled Peruvian.  Lot's of auto exhaust, some garbage from the previous days pedestrians and of course the burning oil from the street vendors frying up a variety of different foods.  I didn't wear my running watch because this was a part of town that it could easily get stolen.  As I ran, I wondered what the day had in store.  I wasn't necessarily prepared, but I knew I was excited to forge on.

We piled into a Colectivo Taxi, which is nothing more than a special word for "get as many people in the car as possible".  Martin and I luckily got the coveted front seat with the driver.  Three passengers up front is always better than 4 to 5 in the back.  Just like that we were off to Ferrenafe to find this orphanage I had traveled to another country to see.  I've found that Peru is a lot like camping.  Everything is different than your used to.  You have all your basic necessities taken care of to survive, but a lot of times you have to improvise.  It's kind of dirty and you smell funny, but at the end of the day, it's a ton of fun! 

The drive was enjoyable.  Farmers out working their fields, by hand of course, along with many tree's and open landscape.  It was nice to escape the city hustle and bustle of Chiclayo.  I was kind of nervous and I wasn't sure why as we entered the quiet little town of Ferrenafe.  Within minutes we had found the orphanage.  It was on a dirt road in a quiet part of town.  Just a few stray dogs wandering the streets and us.  We knocked on the door and waited.  A small window on the door opened just like when Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz visits the Emerald City.  A nun peered through the small window and asked what we needed.  I found myself quickly falling all over my words.  "I'm here from the United States to see the kids" I blurted out.  She smiled and asked us to wait.  We had spoken to the head nun the day before.  She knew we were coming.  She also knew that we had asked about one child in particular.  A little girl with Down syndrome that I had seen on Reece's Rainbow.

After a short wait, the head nun opened the door and greeted us.  She had a very warm yet piercing look in her eyes.  It seemed that she immediately discerned simply by looking at us that we were there with good intentions.  She had us sit in the waiting room as she went to find the little girl I had asked about.  The orphanage was clean.  There was a good feeling there.  I knew that these kids were loved and were given the structure they deserved, but in the back of my mind I also knew that they all did not have parents to call their own.  So far, my experience in helping orphans has been running triathlons and doing work from behind a computer screen.  It was one thing to see pictures of orphans, but it was a whole different ball game actually being in their home. 

After a few moments, out walked the head nun.  She was carrying Maelie.  I had to look away because the tears were coming fast.  I composed myself and walked up to them.  She was so beautiful.  Her hair was short and dark.  The look in her deep dark eyes was pure innocence.  She wasn't afraid at all.  She had a curious look on her face as she looked at Martin and I.  Then came that smile.  Her smile made your heart skip a beat.  She was such a happy little girl.  I held her and she kept smiling and touching my face.  She probably hasn't seen a lot of tall white guys before.  We sat down and I held her towards the ground to see if she could stand on her own.  Not only did she stand but she took off running and giggling.  The nun had to chase her down!  It was hilarious!

After spending some time with Maelie, we went and visited the other children.  There were 32 in all.  It's remarkable how resilient children are.  There they are in an orphanage with no parents, yet they were all smiles.  They were supposed to be taking a nap so they were all in their own cribs.  We would peak through the door and they all stopped what they were doing and stared at us like they had been caught red handed with their hand in the cookie jar.  They were the most darling little kids I've seen!

The facilities in the orphanage were great.  It was comforting to see this.  We stopped one last time to visit with Maelie and that was the end of our visit.  The nuns were all getting ready for their lunch and it was time for the kids to take a nap.  As I left the orphanage, I longed to go back.  I knew I would regret not spending more time there, but I also knew I couldn't stay there too long as my emotions were so close to the surface.  Martin and I walked in silence back to where we would take a taxi.  I kept looking back to catch one last glimpse as we walked down the dusty roads of Ferrenafe. 

That was almost a week ago.  Many times throughout the day images of these children flash through my mind, especially Maelie.  The feelings and desire to help these children and all the others are ever present.  Visiting this orphanage made our cause very real.  I need to find a family for this little girl.  She would be such a blessing to a family.  There is something different about her.  I could see it in her eyes and felt it when I was holding her.  She deserves a good family and a good family deserves her.



Michelle said...

this is amazing. thank you for sharing. Those kids are so sweet.. and i'm so glad they have a nice nun to care for them. I wish we were in a different phase of our lives to be in the position to adopt one of those sweet Peruvian children!

Stickley Family said...

Hmmm - last I read, you were tagged "it" to adopt Ms. Maelie.

Brenda said...

Just a lurker here:) I am so glad to see a "good" orphanage visit. I wish they were all so nice and tidy and well run by such loving and disciplined nuns! God bless you!

Rochelle said...

Praying for that sweet little girl, and for your desire to help these kiddos....may it never end! Bless you in your endeavors. :)