The power of love

by Valerie
(North Carolina)

MariaElise and i the first year

MariaElise and i the first year

MariaElise and i the first year
The second year, (Elise is on my lap)
giving her the locket :)

Hello everyone, I am 17 years old and i live in the United States. For two summers in a row i have gone to bolivia to work in an orphanage called Manos De Amor (MDA) in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

My first experience in bolivia was when i was 16. i fell in love with Bolivia and the orphans in MDA. I was with a missions team of 14 teens from across the United States. the second time i went (just a few weeks ago), was for a month, with an entirely new team.

i never knew i could love someone so much as i love the children there. the children respond so well to love, because a lot of the children in this area don't receive a lot of love. so just holding them on your lap or giving them high fives, makes their face light up.

The first year i went, i met a little girl named Maria Elise. Even though at that point, i spoke very little Spanish, we both connected so well. Elise was malnourished, and she stayed at MDA during the day because her father abandoned her and her mother worked all day. Elise told me she was 2.

My heart was broken for this little girl, and it tore my heart apart to leave her. Even though i only saw her for 3 hours of my life, she was engraved in my memory. The happiest moments of my life was after i had swung her around, and carried her on my back, she fell asleep in my arms, and i will never forget the look she gave me right before she fell asleep-- it was a look filled with love. i was so touched.

I went back this year, hoping to find her. i have worn a locket for an entire year with our picture in it, and i have prayed for her everyday. i went and sat down at MDA with 3 cute little girls as we waited for the program to start, i was looking around the room for her trying to find her. but i didn't see her. about 15 minutes into the program, i looked down at one of the little girls on my lap, and it hit me. she was sitting in my lap and i didn't even notice. she had grown so much i didn't recognize her. i was filled with such extreme joy.

she noticed the necklace i was wearing and opened the locket. she stared at our picture. i asked her if she knew who the 2 people were, she just stared. i told her it was us. she kept opening and closing the locket for the next 30 minutes and showing the locket to her friends. i later gave it to her. and she didn't understand that she could keep it, she must not get gifts very often. when she finally understood, her face lit up and she buried her face in her hands. it was very precious.

it gives me so much joy to see all my prayers answered. she has grown, (she is still malnourished, but it is not nearly as severe), she gets love every day at MDA, and MDA is feeding her.

i plan to live in bolivia next year, when i am 18 and work at the orphanage. i cannot wait to see the children and experience that kind of powerful, pure love.

Comments for The power of love

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Dec 26, 2011
manos de amor
by: willie dee are beautiful, and your heart is beautiful.........God bless...........Willie

Aug 13, 2011
Helping Manos de Amor
by: Valerie

hey if you wish to help out, you can go to the website, and email the staff there. The orphanage is in Comarapa, Santa Cruz.

Jul 29, 2011
I would love to help
by: Herman

i live santa cruz bolivia but i have no idea where a can start or go to help i got a facebook if anyone can email me

Jul 27, 2011
We'd like to feature you in Bolivia Bella News
by: BoliviaBella

Dear Valerie. Bella News is a free monthly newsletter about Bolivia that our website sends out to subscribers. It features travel articles, interesting trivia, restaurant reviews, and many other things. Each month it also includes an interview of an interesting person.

We've been featuring volunteers over the past few months we'd like to feature your story in a future issue. We'd conduct an interview of you by email, basically by sending you a list of questions. You could respond to all or some, as you wish. The idea would be to gain more insight into how you found your volunteering position and gather information on the organization for others who may want to volunteer as well.

Would you be willing to share a bit more about your volunteer experience in this way?

These are some of our previous issues of Bella News. Please take a look at the most recent 3-4 issues so you can see what the interviews look like.

If so, please discuss the idea with your parents and if they agree, contact newsletter editor Alison Donald by sending us a message through our contact form.

Jul 26, 2011
Great Work
by: Abhijeet

I am from India and now staying in Puerto Suarez, Province Santa Cruz .

You have done great job in Bolivia. Must best wishes are with you. Keep it up.

Abhijeet, Puerto Suarez

Jul 25, 2011
thank you so much for sharing this
by: BoliviaBella

Dear Valerie, you must be such a special person. Thank you so much for sharing this. Isn't it incredible how powerful an experience volunteering can be? What a difference you are making. I'm sure the children you work with will have memories worth holding onto for a lifetime because of the time you're sharing now with them.

Please tell Manos de Amor that if they need more volunteers, we'd be happy to list them on our volunteer opportunities page and create a free page for them on the site. If they want to do that, they or you can click here to contact me or just click the green TELL BELLA button on any page of the site.

Your story changed my day for the better. I'm pretty sure there won't be a dry eye among anyone who reads this. Thank you Valerie!


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