More than an orphan


Nine-year-old Angel sits on the steps of the orphanage. He was playing with his toy bear.

Before my first trip to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, when I heard the word orphan, I would shudder. Thinking of a child left alone on the doorsteps of an orphanage with no one to care for them would tug at my heartstrings. I think that is because I associated the word orphan with loneliness, almost as if the two were interchangeable. Now, I shudder when I think about how wrong I was.

Casa Hogar Elim is home to more than 60 children in Nuevo Laredo. While Casa Hogar is considered an orphanage, it is far more than that. It is more than just a safe haven for children who can’t live at home: it is a place for kids to learn about life, friendship and their faith.

My past trip was my third visit to the orphanage, and this trip was different than the previous two. Usually, there are around 60 kids in the orphanage, but on my past visit, there were only about 20. At first, I was a little confused. It seemed odd to me that suddenly 40 of them were gone. Then the concern set in. I knew that things in Mexico had been dangerous lately, but this was not what I had expected. Had things gotten so bad that 40 of the children were forced to leave the orphanage?

I was wrong. While the orphanage is a place for children to live who don’t have a stable home life, most who live there have relationships with their parents. Before I knew about Casa Hogar, I assumed that the children at orphanages didn’t know their parents, let alone have a relationship with them. That is not how it is in Mexico. Almost every child living at Casa Hogar has a relationship with a parent and visits them regularly.

While this trip was unusual because there were less kids there, it really changed my idea of what the orphanage was. Before this trip, I felt bad for the kids who were there because I thought they would never know what it’s like to have a family, but I was wrong. They have families that love them so much that they are willing to sacrifice raising their children in order to make sure they have opportunities for a bright future. Their families love them enough to give up the memories that shape who they are as parents. They might not see their baby’s first steps; they might not get to celebrate every birthday with them. These parents love their children so much that they gave up the precious moments in order to make sure their kids get three meals a day.

While some people think of the word orphan and think of loneliness, I now think of the word orphan and think of love. Of course, there are some orphans that will never get to know their parents, and there are some orphans who will never have a relationship with a parent like I do. But even though they might not have parents who they are close with, they have a chance for a brighter future. They have a chance to accomplish their goals and dreams because of the love their parents have for them, enough love to be willing to let go of their child to make sure they can live a better life.