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Guatemala

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October 22, 2001, I headed off to Guatemala to volunteer in the orphanage La Vida Nueva. With the exception of two days spent in San Pablo near Lake Atitlan, I spent my days from 6:30 am to 4 or 5 pm in and around the facility, primarily focusing my time and energies in the newborn nursery. I shared a dorm type room with another volunteer, Petra from Sweden, until I left on November 1 for home. This was a short, but invaluable experience for me. Prior to this I had visited orphanages in Peru, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal and India. During those visits I had done cursory evaluations of the facilities, looking for signs indicating the children were being cared for emotionally as well physically. My time in Guatemala, however, was radically different. The point was not assessment of the orphanage but to help with the day-to-day, minute to minute care of the infants. I wanted to experience what it was like for one woman to have total responsibility for numerous infants and see if it was possible to maintain both physical and emotional care.

I entered the nursery at 7 am, towards the end of the ninera's 24 hours shift. The nineras sleep on the floor amongst the cribs, getting up as needed to feed and change the babies. Theirs is an impossible task. They work 24 hour shifts, every other day, week in and week out, no paid vacation time, year around for $125 a month. They are glad for the work, enjoy the work, and are dedicated to the babies. My heroes!

The babies are incredibly clean and well fed. They get a hot bath every morning, are changed when they are wet, and fed on schedule. The medical care is excellent as the doctor checks in the nursery every weekday. A+ for hygiene, nutrition and medical care.

While I would have preferred to see more bright colors on the walls and cribs, rocking chairs for mental stimulation, plus a few other minor policy changes which would have helped stimulate the emotional and intellectual growth of the babies, this was overall a wonderful orphanage. I am grateful for the work the staff does. It was a pleasure to be part of it for even such a short amount of time.

Gustavo Happy baby Isabel folding clothes
Gustavo
Happy baby
Isabel folding clothes
Isabel with Jose and Pedro Deborah and Martha, head ninera, with toddlers
Isabel with Jose and Pedro
Deborah and Martha, head ninera, with toddlers
Jose Isabel bathing a baby
Jose
Isabel bathing a baby
Isabel and Thelma doing laundry Deborah with babies Graciela cooking
Isabel and Thelma doing laundry
Deborah with babies
Graciela cooking
Sorting clothing donations from Lord of the Mountains Luthern Church, Dillon, Colorado Deborah with babies
Sorting clothing donations from Lord of the Mountains Luthern Church, Dillon, Colorado
Deborah with babies
Kevin and Joycelyn Dr. Jacobs checking out babies Nineras Sondra and Blachi with babies in infant nursery
Kevin and Joycelyn
Dr. Jacobs checking out babies
Nineras Sondra and Blachi with babies in infant nursery
Petra, a volunteer from Sweden, playing with the older children Kevin and his brother, William
Petra, a volunteer from Sweden, playing with the older children
Kevin and his brother, William
Lolita and Graciela Odita and Amparu feeding babies Betty amd Mimi receiving washing machine donated by Lord of the Mountains Luthern Church in Dillon
Lolita and Graciela
Odita and Amparu feeding babies
Betty amd Mimi receiving washing machine donated by Lord of the Mountains Luthern Church in Dillon
Director, Betty Morales,with Mimi purchasing a refridgerator with funds donated by Lord of the Mountains Luthern Church Amparu with babies
Director, Betty Morales,with Mimi purchasing a refridgerator with funds donated by Lord of the Mountains Luthern Church
Amparu with babies
Laundry drying
Laundry drying

 


Deborah Hage, MSW
deborah@deborahhage.com

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