For the final weekend of April, the 26th-28th, the world celebrated Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) 2013. GYSD is celebrated in six continents around the world every year on a weekend in April. It’s main goal is to “engage millions of young people, ages 5-25, especially those not usually asked to serve, in an early step on a life-long path of service and civic engagement” (http://www.gysd.org). At Amigos de Jesus, we participated in GYSD by beginning a monthly relationship with a state run children’s home in San Pedro Sula called Nueva Esperanza (New Hope). Nueva Esperanza is a place that a number of our kids have lived at before coming to Amigos. Contrary to its name of “New Hope,” it is understaffed, under resourced, and has an institutional-feel as it is enclosed by barbed wire fences and there is not much open space in which the kids can play. Life at Nueva Esperanza is drastically different than the love-filled lives that the kids at Amigos experience. Each month, a group of eight children from Amigos will visit Nueva Esperanza to spend time playing with, organizing games, and sharing of themselves with the children at Nueva Esperanza.
GYSD began about three weeks before the actual visit to the children’s home last Saturday. Originally, we were just thinking of taking one trip to visit Nueva Esperanza. Each week at Amigos, we have a spirituality night with the entire hogar. This particular spirituality night was all about service and sharing our gifts with others. After a reading from Matthew 25:35-40, we introduced the service trip idea to the children and broke them into groups to brainstorm what their gifts were and ways in which they could help the kids at Nueva Esperanza. Our kids responded so enthusiastically and brainstormed so many ideas that they wanted to share: games, songs, making cookies, making a piñata, writing cards, making bracelets, drawing pictures, giving of their own clothes, bringing photos of Amigos de Jesus, etc. One of the older kids even wanted to dress up as a clown to make the kids laugh and bring them candy. At the end of the spirituality night, we asked for the kids who were interested in going to Nueva Esperanza to form a line so that we could write their names down. Fifty five names later, nearly everyone who was present at the spirituality night was extremely interested in going.
Three weeks passed in anticipation. The kids asked me nearly daily if they could go on the trip and offered compelling reasons why they wanted to go: “I might have family there;” “I spent two years there and want to see if my friends are still there;” “I want to help the kids there because I know what it is like.” With the overwhelming number of kids and teens passionately interested in giving back and doing service, we decided to make the trips to Nueva Esperanza a monthly event. The kids were ecstatic to hear this and continued to ask me when they would be able to go. In the next few weeks, the entire hogar eagerly anticipated the trip to Nueva Esperanza by coloring pictures, and writing cards with messages of love and hope to be delivered to the kids. The cards were so sweet with messages like: “I love you;” “always pray before you go to bed,” “behave well and listen to those who take care of you;” “always try hard in school;” “you are a princess.” The kids at Amigos really took a lot of thought and time creating these messages to send to their new friends at Nueva Esperanza.
The morning of Saturday April 27 began with a truck full of cards, a piñata, a soccer ball, and eight smiling children eagerly anticipating the 2 hour trip to San Pedro Sula to visit Nueva Esperanza. On the way, we stopped to pick up some treats to give out and our kids thoughtfully chose the snack that they thought the kids would like the most: little bags of marshmallows and cookies. As we passed through the large gate and barbed wired fence at Nueva Esperanza, a few little boys ran up to the car, eagerly anticipating the visitors. We looked for the person who was supposed to be taking care of the children, and could find no one. We went out back with the thirty unsupervised kids and told them a little bit about Amigos de Jesus and then the games begun.
At first, our kids were pretty shy as we began playing games like “mar/tierra” and ring toss. When I asked our kids why they weren’t playing, they said it’s because these games are for the kids at Nueva Esperanza, they get to play these games every week at the hogar. They didn’t want to take away from their fun. We then talked about sharing ourselves with the kids and getting to know the kids better as a form of service. After a little while, the kids started to warm up some more. Some organized a soccer game, others colored with some of the girls, others went to the baby room and helped to play with the babies and toddlers. The kids were so happy laughing and playing as kids should be.
The three hours we spent there passed quickly and before we knew it, it was time to break the piñata and say our goodbyes. As we organized the kids from Nueva Esperanza in lines to receive their treat, our kids handed out the cards made by the entire hogar. Those who could read eagerly read their cards, and those who couldn’t were helped by our kids who could read or other adults. The cards had the photo of the Amigos sign on the front and the Nueva Esperanza kids were so curious about Amigos, asking our kids a bunch of questions about what it looks like, what life is like here. They were so grateful for our visit and said goodbye with hugs and questions of when we would return. One boy of about ten years, asked about one of our kids, Ivis, who was his friend and who had lived at Nueva Esperanza. When I told him that Ivis was doing very well with us, he asked if I could deliver him a message. He thought for a few minutes and then said with a caring face, “Take care of yourself. And your sister too. Take care of yourself.”
After our service trip, we pulled on the side of the road to have a little snack and reflect a little bit about the experience. Each child shared what part of the day they liked best, and many commented on how they are so grateful for the life they have at Amigos. As soon as we arrived at Amigos, our kids asked me when they would be able to go again. They had a great trip serving others, and it was just another reminder to me of how truly great our kids are.
Amigos de Jesus Volunteer 2012-2013