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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Orphanage in Cuba" - Judy Karlson

I have a guest writer. She recently just returned from Cuba. A lovely woman beautiful inside and out. A woman that has crossed my path, and that I'm honored to now know. Her journey to Cuba was more then just a vacation, it was about children. We can help our world, one child, one orphanage at a time. Collections are starting for their next trip in 2015. Please read below.....
Orphanage – Cuba – Feb. 2014

I recently had an opportunity to visit an orphanage in Cuba. I learned there is one orphanage in Havana where the newborns to age two babies go and they are adopted out. There is another orphanage in Havana where the two to five year olds go and they are also adopted out. If they are not adopted by the time they are five, they are sent to their permanent home near Havana and this is their home where they will live until adults. They will not be adopted out. They are raised as siblings. The home is lovely; it is a large stone house, two stories, built on a ¼ acre surrounded by high stone walls with a locked gate. It is a place of true beauty as you can see from the pictures. Flowering shrubs, trees are planted and tended to daily inside and outside of the property. You feel as though you are in a rain forest, there is so much greenery. The Director allowed me to take a few pictures with a promise not to send them out over the internet etc. So I am providing a few non identifying pictures (seen below) which I will show you.

The home is spotless. We first visited one morning and met with the Director and she showed us the rooms, etc. Fortunately, I met a gentleman from Quebec, who spoke fluent Spanish and worked in an orphanage in Honduras for many years. He could converse with the Director and I took notes. They have cleaning staff every day on site, a full time cook, helpers and a nurse on staff, a pediatrician visits weekly and all children are well looked after.

The Director speaks Spanish with a bit of broken English so we made an apt for us to attend one afternoon when the children came home from school and we visited from 4 to 6 p.m

Right now there are 17 children living there. They are ages 7 to 20. Their education, food, medicals and basic needs are paid for by the government and it is a government run home. It is very basic; the bedrooms are not large and only have small beds, 30 in. wide and a few clothes in the closet, 8 children to one room. They live in the home until they graduate from university, even if it takes some of them until they are 25. Some have a mental disability that will take them longer to graduate. When they graduate, they are set up in their apartment and then can take over their own care. The orphanage is their real home and this is their forever family. They come back to the home on holidays, celebrations and most come back and volunteer on days off to either teach English and help play with the children who live there.

I did learn there are 15 provinces in Cuba. Pierre, who worked in the orphanage in Honduras works as an interpreter in Quebec and offered to come and spend a month teaching the children English. He will be dealing directly with the Director on that. We had such fun visit with the children. They were so well behaved, bright, beautiful, funny, sang us a song. There was a sad moment when a boy came into the room and sat beside the director by himself, not in the group. He was about 9 and his sister 7. They had been abandoned one week prior and were found and brought to this orphanage home to live. They were being treated for medical conditions. Pierre did converse with the boy and he answered questions like giving his name etc. They all love the director and call her mammy which sounds like mommy in Spanish and the boy who came in alone sat right beside her so you could already see the connection. She gives all these children love.

We asked the children what games they liked and if we could bring them something. They want a bicycle, lap top computer, puzzles, soccer balls, volleyball and net. We went back to the Resort and took up a collection. When we go to visit in 2015 we will probably bring 3 bicycles and the other items.

These children were all happy, playful, loving and laughing. They all walked us to the locked gate when our taxi was arriving and one little girl, about 7, held my hand and would not let me go. I truly felt like it was Mealia hanging on to me. Each one of the children kissed us on both cheeks as we left. It was hard not to cry as it was such a big experience. They are all beautiful, some very dark skinned with dark curly hair and some lighter skinned because of the African/Russian/Spanish mix.

I am looking forward to my return in 2015. I know my friends have already planned their trip. I met a wonderful friend, Elizabeth, from Calgary and she goes for one month in Feb. And she took up a collection already and can make things happen.

Judy Karlson

Adoptive Gramma on Van. Isle


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