Today I went to the SOS Orphanage in Penenome, Panama. It was my first visit to an orphanage and was very interesting. When you drive through the gates, the road leads to a small circular area which is lined by about 10 houses. In each house lives about seven or eight children and a ‘house mom’. The ‘house mom’ is responsible for looking after the children in her house by cooking cleaning and being there for them.
From what I have learned, there are a number of expats who work with this orphanage, and each house has one or more of ‘us’ looking out for them and helping out where they can. Although, I heard there is one house without anyone doing this as of yet :-(. It is imperative that as expats, we have someone in our group who speaks Spanish and can communicate with both the house mom and the director. This way arrangements can be made for visits, and understanding what the kids are in need of.
My friend Linda, who orchestrated this visit with me, said that they have been able to provide ‘her house’ with new mattresses, sheets, and other necessities. She also said that a large group worked together to fix up their playground area – which looks fantastic! On this visit we took the children pizza for lunch, and I brought along a big bag full of mangoes from our tree. They were very excited to see both the pizza and the mangoes! As you can probably tell by the photo above, the children seemed generally quite happy, and were thrilled when I got my camera out and started taking pictures of them! We plan to print the photos, frame them, and give them their photos on the next trip. The kids in her house ranged from five years old up to about fourteen or fifteen. Once they are seventeen, they must leave and find their own place to live.
I will be working with a house that only has one person named Miriam helping them so far. She is Spanish-speaking, and converses fairly frequently with the house mom. When I was introduced to three of the children in this house I was greeted with giant hugs – it was wonderful! They were also very grateful for the gift of pizza that was given to them. When we peeked in their food cupboards and refrigerator, we saw only corn meal, rice, bread and beans – no vegetables, fruit or meat were visible. The house moms do what they can with what little they are provided.
Anyone who is interested in helping out physically OR financially towards projects that will benefit these orphans, please let me know! Anything helps – even if it is just for a round of groceries. We noticed that the children in this house are in need of new mattresses, as the existing ones are quite thin and saggy, so this could be our first goal.