Sandy Hopkins

Reflections on the Refugio

I had the privilege of traveling to Quito, Ecuador in February 2012. My qualifications for this journey were my willingness to help the children at the Refugio, my experience as a first grade teacher, and my years of training as a Mother. My Spanish consisted of hola, si, no, gracias, como estas, and bien. This worried me a great deal before I arrived, but I was soon to find that Charade like sign language and hugs provided all the communication I needed.

Each morning when I arrived at the Refugio, the children were at school so I would help the adult workers. Some of my duties were to assist with the meal preparations, setting up an arts and crafts activity, washing windows, gathering supplies for coloring activities, or doing general cleaning.

As the children started arriving, things changed quickly. The quiet atmosphere of the Refugio changed into a busy, noise filled place of conversations, laughter, singing, and banter among friends. Activities began – arts and crafts, painting, knitting, homework, computer lessons, playing soccer, swinging, making bracelets, and talking with adults and therapists. When the meal was ready, everyone filed into the eating area, choose their favorite table, and waited patiently while the ladies and children helpers served the meal. The manners and politeness I observed, when the children served themselves and then passed the food to their neighbor, would put our school cafeterias to shame. When the meal was over, the children took their dishes and eating utensils to the sink area and scrubbed them clean. The child who acted as “inspector” made sure everything was thoroughly cleaned and ready for the next meal.

Some things I learned from the Refugio children are:

  • You can feel love for someone the first time you meet.
  • You can feel happy and carefree when you are in a safe environment
  • You can share and communicate with gestures and a smile.
  • To sit beside someone and hold their hand speaks volumes.
  • Laughter and tears have no language.
  • There is no such thing as giving someone just one hug a day.

Visiting the Refugio and meeting the children is a Heart Making Experience. To see the impact that our sponsorships are making is miraculous. “Our children” are going to school, getting medical and dental treatments, receiving therapy if needed, enjoying a hot meal each day, and growing up learning that Padrinos at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Yorktown, Virginia love and care about them.

Yes, I want to return to the Refugio. I need more hugs!


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