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What love can do
My camera has captured many, many moments. Not all newly arrived children show physical evidence of their traumatic experiences, but don’t let that fool you. Some of those pictures I hesitate to publish because of the shocking nature of the event. The other night was one of those moments. Five children from one family from the earthquake region, abandoned by their mother, finally arrived at the orphanage by a police car. I just happened to arrive when the cops left. Although cruel, I refuse to judge the mother’s decision. Her pain must be unbearable too. The youngest girl was clearly deeply traumatized. There was no life in her eyes and she was covered in open wounds from flea bites and lice. My wife held her and broke down. I put my camera aside and carried the girl to her new sleeping quarters. I sat beside her and sang her a little song. I cried. These two pictures show the girl at the night of her arrival and three months later. This is how good our caregivers are.
She came to the orphanage a few years ago with a shattered leg that never was attended to. Her injuries were not an accident but caused by domestic violence. When she turned 14, the prognosis was that she most likely would end up in a wheelchair for the rest of her life, unless someone could pay for the four operations that were needed to save her from that grave outlook. We could not let that happen and took care of all the costs to give her back her future. As I write this, she has one more operation to go. She never, ever complained about her long and painful recovery, but she keeps her eyes sharply focused on her dreams for the future.
What to do when two sisters at the orphanage ask us to be their godparents when they are baptized? You look into their hopeful eyes and without one moment of hesitation, you put their wish above your personal religious beliefs. Growing up without parents is unfathomable to most of us. We can’t take that pain away, but we can put a very happy smile on their face today. Since that day we have become godparents to twelve children, five at the orphanage and seven in our little town of Olón, Ecuador.
A day at the races
They race their toy cars down the sandy racetrack. All shapes and sizes are allowed. Clearly, the kid on the left is a winner. As with all car races, not everyone reaches the checkered flag, but you get up and do it again. And again.
A bit fuzzy and dark, but too much fun not to share. When I was in the USA for some business, I was thinking that the kids at the orphanage rarely leave their home. Their world ends at the gate. So I got an idea to bring the world to them. I bought a professional big screen video projector and we had our first movie night in their courtyard. Imagine a giant projection on a white wall. We even had an intermission with ice cream. Their hollering and laughter during the movie was heartwarming and all I was hoping for. Since that day we have movie nights twice a month. One is appropriate for everybody and one for the teenagers.
Just a couple of happy faces
One girl too young to understand the nature of the abuse she suffered. One girl crying for three weeks straight when she was dropped off at the gate. One girl who stayed silent for months before whispering her first word. One boy hesitating to accept adoptive parents. One girl abandoned with her four siblings. Look at their faces now. Proof that there is hope when there is love.
A great story from Shawn Turner. Our tireless English class volunteer.
” Teaching is my heart and soul. I am a retired teacher of more than 33 years. About a year and a half ago, I started teaching English to the teen girls at the orphanage after the previous teacher left the country. I want to share a story of my connection with one of the girls in my class. From a visitor’s perspective, this young lady is a constant handful. She’s a bundle of energy, somewhat pushy, loud, and very demanding of attention. The thing you may not notice, she is absolutely, totally, attentive and eager to learn every new skill I prepare for English class.
She and her siblings were brought to the orphanage from horribly bad circumstances. Her life before coming to Santa Maria de la Esperanza was one of survival. Sometimes to survive, she needed to steal or cheat. She brought those behaviors with her to the orphanage. But things are slowly changing. Through the patience and consistency of the wonderful mamitas or “tias” as the girls call them, this young lady is blooming. She suffers consequences for her negative behaviors, but she is always encouraged and given lots of positive praise and love for her successes. She is becoming a terrific reader as she goes with Erwin to the library most every Saturday. She is becoming a leader in her age group, and she practices her English every single chance she gets! With every gringo that passes through the campus for a tour, she uses her best English phrases.”
Erwin : I know that Shawn is making a difference in this girl’s life. She knows it, too. That’s why she always greets Shawn with a cheerful ‘Hello Teacher !’
And here are some of the ladies who have dedicated their lives to care for all the children who have come through the gates of the orphanage through the years. These are the real faces of angels. I feel humble in their presence. The only reason that Danielle and I are in this picture is because they found out about our 27th wedding anniversary and thought it absolutely necessary to throw us a secret breakfast party to celebrate.
We are Erwin & Danielle C. Musper. Co-founders of MJM. Very fortunate to live almost next door to this magical place in Ecuador.
Almost every picture on this website is shot with the camera hanging from my neck.