We FINALLY got to take the kids shopping for their new jackets and shoes!
The director of the facility, Viviana, invited us to spend the weekend with her and her husband, Avishai, in the little town of Calca. Viviana is a native Peruvian, and Avishai grew up in a Kibbutz in Israel. They met in Oregon and have been married for ten years. They are two of the most beautiful, open-hearted, truly kind people I’ve ever met.
Avishai hosted a Shabbat (Jewish celebration of the end of the week) at the children’s home to welcome us on Friday night. We found Avishai in the kitchen preparing dinner with a tall chef’s hat on. He greeted us with warm hugs and introduced us to the kids, who also greeted us with hugs and smiles, and then took us to meet Viviana.
She gave us a tour of the current facility, explaining that the children had to leave their property after the death of the orphanage’s founder, Kia. They are in temporary housing that is less than ideal. There is no land to grow their own food any more, so it’s harder to make ends meet. The kids are sleeping three and four to a room, and at least one of the caregivers sleeps in a pup tent in the yard. All group activities take place in the dining room because it’s the only large, well-lit space in the house. But they have a roof over their heads for now, and until she can find an affordable space that can house two dozen people, they are grateful for this roof.
These kids have all been through more trauma than any person should have to bear. I will spare you the details, which aren’t mine to tell, but all have been through some sort of abuse, been witness to violence, or otherwise been traumatized. In addition to being orphaned or abandoned by their birth parents, they’ve now been through the illness and death of their loving adoptive mother, Kia. Hearing some of their stories broke my heart.
They seem to be recovering under Viviana’s care, though. (Viviana is a transpersonal psychologist who worked with the homeless in San Fransisco for thirty years before returning to Peru.) The kids seem to get along very well, look out for each other, and are very well-behaved. There were lots of smiles and laughter during the Shabbat.
Avishai fed everyone with duck soup, stretching two ducks he raised to feed 30 people. Avishai is an organic gardener and avid chef.
Viviana and Avishai had invited some adult friends from the community to share in the feast, both Peruvians and foreigners. Viviana is working to build a community that will provide an ongoing support network for the kids as they grow into adulthood.
She is also working hard to help the children understand and feel proud of their own culture, something the original American director wasn’t well-equipped for. The children grieved heavily when Kia died, and their lives have been in upheaval ever since, but they have begun to trust Viviana and respond to her. It is heartwarming to see the respect and affection they have for her and Avishai, and their love for the children is written all over their faces in return.
Craig and I went back to Viviana and Avishai’s house with full hearts that night. We couldn’t get over all this festivity, just to greet some new shoes and jackets. We couldn’t get over the smiling faces of the children, or the warm glow we felt in that dining room as the whole group sang, ate, and played together.
The kids all do their own laundry, and take turns helping with kitchen chores. The whole time we were there, I never saw a child balk or whine. Not once.
The next day, we took the kids shopping. See Part 2 of this post.