Monday, May 31, 2010

Life in an Ecuadorian orphanage

Maria de Campi orphanage has about 43 children, most of which are under the age of 5 years old. The children older than 5 were in school, so our team spent the day with those under the age of five. They were so excited to see us! As soon as I walked into the orphanage a little 5 year old precious Ecuadoran girl jumped up into my arms. As I went to walk to meet the director of the orphanage, this little girl had wrapped her arms and legs all the way around my neck and each leg and was holding on with dear life. She was not going to let me go! Finally through redirecting her attention to another team members, was I able to walk out of her grip. Throughout my day this was the scene, some children, from 1 to 5 years old, crying until you picked them up. But as soon as your arms would start giving out and you needed to put them down, they would throw themselves onto the ground with their heads hitting the concrete in hysterical cries and would continue the behavior all day. The only thing that would console them was just holding or carrying them. They were so hungry for the love and comfort and attention.

The Director informed us that all of the seven babies, except one had just gotten over the Roto virus and so they needed to disinfect the baby beds. Simon and I got to work on this immediately. We carried the tattered old baby beds outside into the sun rays and pulled out the foam mattresses which were falling apart and ripping at the seams. Simon swept out all the crumbs and dried spit up and throw up and got to work on disinfecting the beds and I disinfected the mattresses.

They asked for two girls to help in the baby’s room all day. Adrienne and Stephanie volunteered to do this. They were busy changing diapers, kissing, holding and feeding the babies. They said that one baby stayed on this wooden rocking horse all day, rocking back and forth by itself until it rocked itself to sleep. I’ve seen many children in orphanages, who rock themselves back and forth all day long, just looking for something to stimulate them and to comfort them.

Then our team turned to washing the hair of the kids as they all were infested with lice. We had a great company that donated the lice shampoo and combs to us. So, as we turned on the outside facets, the kids ran to get their hair washed. They loved playing with the water in the hot Ecuadorian sun more than having their hair washed, of course, so it was quite a chaotic watery mess. But in the end, all children had been treated. Unfortunately our team did not have the hours and days we needed to sit for the endless hours which this task demands, to pull out the eggs the lice leaves behind or to wash all the bed clothes. Sadly, this may only give them reprieve from the lice for a few days. It’s such a common epidemic in orphanages in Central and South America. In Africa, you will find most of the heads of the children shaved at orphanages and those in school, as a way to deter lice. I don’t know which is best…to grow up with no hair at all to distinguish me between a boy and a girl or to have gorgeous hair like they did at this orphanage, but to endure the discomfort of the lice. Thankfully those of us in America do not usually have to make this decision…

Cherri found a sweet little African-Ecuadorian girl named Tabitha who was about 5 years old. She only wanted to be held for hours, and every time you saw her cuddled up in Cherri’s lap, you saw a tear resting on the hollow corner of her eye, waiting to run down her cheek. She was such a sad little girl. She stayed in Cheri’s lap all day until we were about to leave when we were able to give each child some new shoes and lo and behold, this made her so happy! Each child was so happy to pick out the shoes they wanted and exchange them out for the old shoes. Every trip I go on, there’s something so magical about new shoes for children in orphanages. They are such a luxury to them and in America, most of us have over 10 pairs of shoes in our closet at all times.

I can’t wait to bring a team from VO back to work a number of days with the children in this orphanage. A young selfless Christian missionary who had been working in this orphanage this year invited our team to come to Ecuador for the first time, solely to work in this orphanage. As our team left that day we left 30 cans of formula, many baby and children clothes and toys. We also purchased hundreds of diapers as they had just run out that morning! We then headed to the nearest children’s supply company and purchased 5 new baby bed mattresses and 3 new wooden rocking horses for the orphanage. We wish we could be there every day to rock these babies and toddlers. We know these caretakers, who maybe number about 5 for all 43 children do their best, but we know that in their busyness to care for the children, that there’s no way the babies and toddlers get to be held and rocked as they should. Maybe this will bring some sort of comfort until we get back there again soon….and we will! Soon...


  1. What an inspiring post. How did you hear about the orphanage? Have you gone back since?

  2. I would really like to know where this orphanage is. Our church has been going to Ecuador since about 2009 on mission trips. I was privileged to go to Ambato in 2010 and have loved Ecuador ever since. My first year I was able to spend most of my days with a missionary friend working in an Orphanage. That was the most fulfilling, heart-breaking week of my life. To date I still cry or tear up and my heart aches for these children. We have had many weeks spent with various groups of children and the reward is never for them as much as myself. I am planning another mission trip to Ecuador in June of 2016 and would really love to work at least one day with an orphanage around the Ambato area. We worked in a quichua indian village a couple of years, close to Chimborazo. I have a church group in Ambato that is assisting the preparation for our trip. Can you help us find an orphanage where we could help?

  3. This is where I lived until 7 years old .... It's much improved since I live here... Thank you for your service....Maria de Campi kid living in Boston

    1. Wow. How did you end up in Boston?