Sunday, December 26, 2010
Today we visited the SOS Orphanage in Cristobal, Panama. SOS has homes worldwide which cares for orphaned and neglected children in over 130 countries. From the moment we left the ship, it rained. Streets were flooded and many stores were closed. The van driver told us that this weather was peculiar, usually it would be warm and sunny this time of the year but it was about 70 degrees and wet. When we arrived at the SOS Childrens Village, we were shown a brief film about SOS. SOS Children's Villages focuses on family-based, long-term care of children who can not live with their biological families for whatever reason. The facility is set up like a village in that in each house there is an SOS aunt, or mother figure, with approx 6-10 children in each home. The children keep their rooms spotless and are given chores in which they keep them selves strictly disciplined toward doing. We visited about 4 houses, played with the kids and spoke with the parents. Many of us brought our cameras, however something struck ill with me when I watched one of our group members treating the experience like we were at a zoo. She would snap candids of the kids on the couch watching TV, at the table, position the children to hold things they owned. It was disgusting. I mentioned to her and others I was with that we were there to meet and learn not to fill up a photo album. I let the kids play with my camera and they really enjoyed it. I met one little boy named Alman who loved getting hugs. My friend Denora, who’s fluent in Spanish, said that when she hugged him he said that “getting hugs is so cool, I don’t get them that often”. We were pretty much brought to tears. For the rest of our time visiting Alman home he was wrapped in someones arms. One group member, Neil from USC, gave Alman his Trojans windbreaker and hat. We were all speechless to the altruism shown by our peer. We donated about two boxes of games to SOS, but later realized that clothes would’ve been a better contribution seeing as, many of those kids grow so fast and had limited wardrobes. After the visit, Denora, some friends and myself ventured off into the flooded streets of Panama in search of lunch. We were guided to a stand that served alligator, plantains, rice and beans. There we stood in the pouring rain under the makeshift canopy above the stand eating Panamanian food. Though it was a great experience, the thought of hugging Alman never left out minds, even as we re-boarded the ship.