Here is an overview of the day from Hayley Latta...
"I’m Gonna Put on My-My-My Boogie Shoes to Boogie with You!"
"I will be the first to admit- for the past few days, I haven’t felt the most useful. Even though my dad is a carpenter and I am accustomed to references to the ‘job site’, put a hammer in my hand and I am as lost as an Easter egg in July. Therefore, I felt a little more needed today we traveled and worked in differing orphanages and residences.
We left the mission house at 8:00 this morning and headed toward EPA, which is a hardware store located in San Salvador. Each group we split into was given a short list of items to locate and take to the register. Although I speak a little bit of Spanish, surprisingly, I do not have a large home improvement vocabulary ;). However, EPA is just like a Lowe’s, so we were able to find our items in a relatively short amount of time.
The supplies we purchased at EPA were taken to the boys’ transition house in the city. The house is sponsored by Sus Hijos, or His Children, which is the organization that Kurt Akerman runs here in El Salvador.
The home is for male orphans who have turned 18, and thus have had to leave the orphanage. The goal of the house is to give the boys a safe place to stay off the streets while providing them with opportunities to obtain employment, work on their education, and learn basic skills required for smart living (for example, they are taught how to cook, manage money, and are given guidance for their spiritual life). Each boy accepted into this program can only stay for two years, so there is an incentive provided to them to learn all they can while living there.
At the transition house, we painted the walls of their main room, kitchen, stairwell, and patio. The creamy brown ‘Naturally Calm’ paint color went a long way in making it feel more like a male residence.
We were there for three and a half hours, and although my arm is sore from rolling the paint roller up and down for practically the whole time, they were all so appreciative of what we did. I think the biggest accomplishment at the transition house was not that we painted (and painted and painted), but that we showed those boys that people really do care about them, that they do matter in life. And that makes me happier than the Tylenol I might take for my arm ;).
Our next stop was lunch at McDonald’s (I know, they’re everywhere!) Besides the fact that the menu was basically the same (aside from the guacamole McWrap) was that it was so nice inside. Everything was so clean it almost shimmered and instead of a McCafe corner like in the States, they had a separate little McCafe that almost looked like a bakery because of the display case filled with delectable desserts.
One thing I’ve noticed about the fast food restaurants we have dined in here is that the workers take extreme pride in their job. Fast food restaurants in El Salvador are considered more upscale to them, and only those that are fairly well-off frequent these establishments. The restaurants are so clean and well taken care of, and there is no lacking in security, thanks to the intense-looking guard that paroles the parking lot carrying a machine gun.
We then drove about thirty minutes more to San Martin to visit ISNA, which is the special needs adult center ran by the El Salvadorian Government. Each of the 60 residents has a physical and/or mental handicap. We were given a tour, and then met with the residents outside to have a dance party, which is one of their absolute favorite things to do. We set up speakers and a music system, and danced for about two hours.
We each paired with one of the residents danced to the Macarena, Cuban Shuffle, and many others. The residents were so enthusiastic and joyful- who knew some portable speakers and a grassy dance floor could provide them with so much joy! I realized anew that it doesn’t matter if the activities planned aren’t elaborate and complicated, just that that they are carried out in a joyful and cheerful manner. And with this group, it wasn’t hard to be cheerful and joyful. Their smiles and laughter spoke volumes.
Our last stop for the day was the AIDS orphanage next door to ISNA. We set up craft stations where the kids could decorate journals, masks, and pennants. We read the children the Resurrection Egg story, and had an Easter egg hunt. For some, this was their first time to ever experience such an American tradition.
About all the children I came in contact with were in the 3-9 age range, and each, to my understanding, have AIDS. They were so in need of attention and love from someone other than orphanage personnel. One of the girls I worked with kept wanting two journals to decorate. When I told her that she could only have one, she gestured to a girl in a wheelchair who was severely crippled. The girl proceeded to make one for the child in the wheelchair. I saw her taking care of that girl for the rest of the afternoon and finally asked her if the girl was her sister. She said yes, and continued her care for her sister.
This child’s devotion to her sister who was older in age, yet younger in so many other ways, touched my heart. I realized that these children have an extreme capacity to love, far more than we give them credit for. These children are not only orphans, in fact, that is only their title at this present stage in their life. These orphans are human, and yearn for the same things that we as happy and healthy children once yearned for ourselves. These children feel things, experience emotions, have heartache and pain, joy and happiness. And I feel so honored to be able to share in their happiness and give them a reason to smile and experience joy.
Our day was extremely busy- but then again, when are our days not? Before I post this and head off to bed in preparation for an early wake-up time, I would like to extend the happiest of birthday wishes to Melissa and Andrea, who are celebrating their birthdays this week. I consider it an honor and a privilege to have met you, and please know that you both have been a tremendous blessing in my life. Even though I just met you all last week, I know that you all are precious blessings from God. Happy Birthday!
And by the way- the cake we had tonight in celebration of your birthdays was fabulous! ;)"