I first met Exuar on a Friday night, when I was having dinner at the Niños Del Sol children’s home in Peru. He arrived late, after dinner, and the younger kids instantly gathered around him with guitars, begging for a lesson. I was impressed by his easy smile, and his disarming mix of his vulnerability and poise. I could see how much the younger kids adored him, and how happy he was to spend time with them. I’ve never met a young man who gave off such waves of goodness. I loved him instantly.
Viviana, the director, told me more about him later in the week. His story bowled me over and I want to help him. I’m hoping you might feel the same way if I share his story with you.
If you’ve missed my earlier posts about Niños Del Sol (formerly known as Casa De Milagros), I should tell you that Mama Kia, the founder of the home, passed away a few years ago. The children struggled for a while, losing all but one of their donors and their property along the way. Viviana and her husband, Avishai, have been employed to rebuild the children’s spirits and lives. Money is tight, but so is the family, and under Viviana and Avishai’s loving and experienced direction, beautiful things are happening in this place for kids whose lives have been torn apart repeatedly.
One day, shortly after Viviana took over as director of the facility, a young man knocked on the door. He told her he had grown up in the orphanage and now attends college in Cusco, and he’d like to be allowed to visit the younger children. His name was Exuar.
In Peru, kids graduate high school at 16. If you’re a good student, you might be accepted to college or university, which is great because tuition is reasonable. But if you’re an orphan, you might have no family to live with, no one to turn to for food — and college doesn’t come with a dorm room. You could be homeless at 16, whether you’re accepted to higher education or not. You could be alone in the world.
Exuar told Viviana he was waiting tables in a restaurant after school to cover his expenses. Then — this is the part that breaks my heart — when the customers were gone and he’d swept and cleaned and finished his homework, he was sleeping under one of the tables. He was, in essence, a homeless college student.
Cusco is a hotbed of clubs, young attractive tourists, drinking and drugs. But Exuar didn’t want to party with friends on the weekend. He wanted to be with his younger siblings. He said being with them fed his soul. Viviana invited him to come spend weekends with his ‘family,’ and it’s clear Exuar looks forward to spending time there, just like any college student enjoys visiting home. Although the children’s home has moved, his 21 younger siblings are here, and his heart is with them.
The children at Niños Del Sol are growing up. Many of them will turn 16 and graduate from high school in the next few years. There are already five teens attending either Institutes or Universities in Cusco!
Quiet, studious young Ermelinda, is the youngest Niño ever to attend college and is doing very well in the chemical engineering program. Ermelinda’s younger brother, Belisario, has just been accepted to the University as well. His goal is a degree in economics, and his dream is to become president of the World Bank and change the economy of the world for the better.
Viviana has found an apartment in Cusco for the kids, so they will not have to sleep under tables in restaurants. Better than that, they’ll be able to live together, support each other, help each other study, and travel back and forth to the Children’s Home for weekends together.
The rent for the apartment is just $500 a month. In addition, the students need food, school supplies, and transportation back and forth to visit their siblings on weekends.
Viviana dreams of a day when these young adults will make up the Board of Directors for the orphanage. No one will ever know what the younger kids need, what is in their best interest, better than the program’s alumni. Someday, they may be able to help support their younger brothers and sisters as well, and allow the program to take in more abandoned and orphaned children from the Valley. These kids are the greatest hope for the future of others like themselves, a positive feedback loop.
My goal is to raise $1,000 a month to support these college kids — just $200 a month per child to put them all through college! Can you help? Donations are tax deductible. $50 or $100 a month would be a terrific help, but even $25 would be an incredible gift to these kids.
Seeing a good kid like Exuar become a fine young man is remarkable. Providing motivation to the kids who are still in high school, to keep studying and working because there is a future for them, is priceless.