As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica, a childcare worker at Casa Myrna Vasquez (largest shelter for women and children in the Boston area), a teacher, school psychologist and Assistant Principal in both Lawrence and Norfolk, Massachusetts, I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of children. My most important job of all was becoming the mother of my two children, Jackie and Alfonso. Jackie was adopted at the age of 7 from Colombia and Alfonso was adopted at age 2 from El Salvador. My children gave me the gift of being their mother and today I have three amazing grandchildren, Dwayne, Deja and Jose. As a therapist specializing in the field of adoption, I have had both a personal and a professional interest in this area. My children, along with many other friends who were also adopted, have become my greatest teachers. My documentary, “Forever Families” chronicles the lives of seven adopted children raised by single parents.
Tanzania: In December 2006, I had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania, Africa and work at an orphanage, Living Water Children’s Centre. Each child at the Centre came from destitute conditions but was welcomed to the Centre by the generous compassion of the Kimaro Family. When I first arrived at the Centre, I had expected to meet a group of children with severe forms of emotional and/or behavioral problems, given their histories characterized by loss and often physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Instead however, these 29 children, ages 4 to 15, were among the most respectful, engaging and responsible I had ever encountered. Their genuine appreciation of the time we spent together was endearing. I spent two wonderful weeks getting to know the children and the hard working Kimaro family and returned to my home in New York, determined to support the Centre.
Upon my return home, I formed an NGO, under the name of Living Water Children’s Centre. Since its inception in 2007, the fund has raised more than $100,000 and the number of the children served has more than doubled with an entire new Centre now in operation! My recent return trip to Living Water only reaffirmed the good work that continues. The children continue to thrive in the classroom, excited and serious about their education. On the soccer field learning sports and sportsmanship, and within their relationships with each other as well as visitors, they are always kind and considerate. We have begun a sponsorship program and continue to receive positive feedback from volunteers who would like to support the Centre. Please check the link to Living Water Children’s Centre for more information on volunteering and/or contributing to the fund.
Haiti: I spent two heart-wrenching weeks in October 2010 as a volunteer in Haiti. Even nine months after the earthquake that devastated the country, Port Au Prince was still in ruins.The poverty I witnessed was beyond belief and disease was rampant. Many of the local children are unable to attend school as there is no public school system in Haiti and families have no money for school fees, uniforms or books. I spent much of my time at an orphanage that was home to about 24 children who shared a few soiled mattresses, a table, three chairs, and a bucket that doubled as a washbasin. Before leaving, I bought twelve tables and thirty chairs for the orphanage which we painted in bright colors that brought smiles to the faces of the children.
Haiti is a country struggling to recover from an earthquake that killed about a quarter of a million people, and left countless more crippled and homeless. The months that followed brought a cholera epidemic. People are still living in tent cities. Haiti will require ongoing support for several years to come. One must believe that change can occur – perhaps one person at a time – and that hope must remain alive. To that end, I will be making a return trip to Haiti in the coming months.
Please visit my Haiti page to read more of my experiences and download my entire journal, and please consider donating to help the people of Haiti through this tragic ongoing crisis. The Living Water fund continues to seek out worthy organizations globally that support the needs of orphan children. Donations of all sizes are greatly appreciated and go entirely towards helping the people of these impoverished countries. Thank you for stopping by.