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.