Todays article is a little different from most, it is about an orphanage in Panama I had the opportunity to visit recently. If you are looking for articles on Panama Marketing, Creating a USP, SEO or other Internet Marketing article, please visit some of my other articles. However, if you are interested in learning about a way you can make your visit or life in Panama more interesting and fufilling, please read on …
The moment you look into their eyes, you are struck by the contrasts. First, there is an overwhelming curiosity and joy at seeing a new face. Your face. But next, is the heart breaking emptiness. A searching gaze that has no destination. A lost look. A look that asks why am I here, and what is there to look forward to?
I recently had the opportunity to visit one of Panama's orphanages. It was an experience that left me heartbroken, while showing how much we take for granted. It was a first hand account of how much need there is in the world, and how a small thing can leave a big impression.
First, I need to mention that the pain I felt for these children was not due to the facilities. I knew that the place we were visiting did not have a lot of money. Panama does not have the social net, and the extreme waste that goes with it, that North America has.
I was worried I would walk into a place of squalor, and where the children were treated with disrespect by workers who are too jaded and overworked to do a good job.
But, it was not like that at all. I can say only good things about the staff and volunteers at the orphanage. They showed genuine care for the children. All the kids were all clean and well dressed.
The kids appeared to be well taken care of, and that was comforting to see. It was obvious that everyone who worked there did it for the kids.
But that doesn’t change what these children are. These kids have been abandoned and forgotten by their families. They are the completely innocent victims of poverty, drugs and abuse. These kids have no idea who there parents are, or where they came from.
In fact, due to bloated government bureaucracy, it takes over 5 years for a child to be ready for adoption while they try to track down parents, siblings or relatives. Fortunately there is work underway to change this law.
But, back to the kids. There are 2 separate types of children this orphanage cares for. The first is adolescent girls, most of which are pregnant. There is one girl there who is pregnant at 9 years old. Talk about abuse. I don’t know this girls story, but you know it was either domestic sexual abuse or prostitution. Probably both.
The next group of kids, the ones we got to spend time with, ranged from 3 weeks old to 5 years. Boys and girls, who were all full of energy. Boys and girls just like your kids, but abandoned and unwanted. Forgotten.
When we first met the kids, we were struck by how playful and loving they were. These kids, who have never known a family, immediately walked up to us, complete strangers, and lifted up their arms to be held. As we lifted them up high they laughed with a joy that was so pure your heart was warmed instantly. You wanted to take them all home with you.
We had purchased a number of toys and games, but the children did not see them. Even if they had, they probably would have had no interest. What they wanted was the company. Company of complete strangers they fell in love with instantly. And, us with them.
These are kids who did not speak a word of English, and didn’t even respond when we tried to talk to them in Spanish. They were just happy to be carried around and played with. Happy that someone spent a little time with them.
The boys especially were drawn to my father and I since most of the staff are female. These are boys who have never had a male role model in their lives. If they are not adopted soon, what type of future is going to be available to them? Any men who were in their lives wanted nothing to do with them. And abandoned them.
Like we had to when we left, which was one of the most difficult things in the world to do. As we were leaving, I had one boy’s arms wrapped around my neck so tightly the worker had to pry him loose. With both hands. And then I had to listen to him cry as I walked away.
With all the joy and love that the kids showed us, there was still one constant. And I mean in every child we saw there. It was a lost look in their eyes. Even in the very young children. There was one baby boy; he looked to be about 1.5 years old. He watched me constantly as I walked side to side trying to play peek-a-boo. He didn’t take is eyes off me for a second. But he appeared to be looking past me.
It was a look that said, “Ì have no hope”, or maybe “Please take me out of here”, while knowing it wasn’t going to happen. It was completely inescapable, from the small girl that latched onto my wife like she was her mother, to the boys calling me and my dad Papa. They were all just looking for someone to love them, love them the way they deserve to be loved.
This was my first experience with an orphanage, and I know there are many in the world that are in much worse shape than the one that we visited.
There are so many, in so many countries that need your help. That could be financial help, help through donations of toys, food or clothing, or, if you have the opportunity, you can help by just visiting with the kids.
As you are living or visiting Panama, or travelling to any of the foreign countries on your list, why not take a moment to step away from the tourist traps and the resorts, and take a few hours to visit an orphanage in the country you are visiting.
These kids are forgotten by the world, by their families, by almost everyone. But, I can guarantee, if you take the time, they will never forget you.