A house, a home, a refuge

Angel, a resident at Casa Hogar, helps make pancakes for breakfast.

Photo taken by: Sydney Gray

Angel, a resident at Casa Hogar, helps make pancakes for breakfast.

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Mexico has always been a relaxing place for me. Every summer, my family and I usually go on a trip, whether it’s a cruise or just a single destination. We often end up on a beach in Mexico. My latest trip, however, was a different experience than my usual trips to the beach, because I traveled to Nuevo Laredo, to work in an orphanage with my church on a mission trip.

Casa Hogar Elim is an orphanage in Nuevo Laredo that over 60 children call home. Nuevo Laredo is only one hour south of the Texas-Mexico border, and despite the proximity, the living conditions couldn’t be any more different.

My first thought upon entering the orphanage was how different their lives are compared to ours. A lot of the things I’ve taken for granted my whole life are things that the kids at Casa Hogar Elim have never had, such as toys for the younger kids, hairbrushes, clothes and even food. Yet, despite the shortage of basic needs, they’re some of the happiest kids I have ever seen. I didn’t once see them complain, and there was almost always a smile on their face. Even though they don’t have much, when we do give them things, they run to share it with all their friends. It was amazing to see the love and generosity that each kid has towards everyone they meet.

I was also astounded by the love the kids poured out into each and every person. Upon arriving, I didn’t know what to expect, since I hadn’t been since the previous October. I was pleasantly surprised because they all remembered who I was and were excited to see me again even though it had been months. It changed me because I realized how much impact one person can have on the kids at the orphanage. It’s not because I did anything special. In fact, I know very little Spanish, so I couldn’t communicate with them much at all. It was that someone came to spend time with them.

In all honesty, I didn’t think just spending time with these kids would make any difference to them. I was definitely wrong. The kids at Casa Hogar Elim don’t have a family or anyone that comes to visit them. I’ve learned more from the kids at an orphanage than I’ve learned anywhere else because they’ve taught me that just being there for them can be more important than anything else. The kids in Nuevo Laredo are the happiest kids I have ever seen, and I think that’s because they don’t have worldly things, so the non-material things they have become the most special things they have.

A selfie of Sydney, Nicole, and Julian.
Photo taken by: Sydney Gray

If you were to enter the orphanage, you wouldn’t see fighting over toys or arguments about what game to play next. You’d see smiles, sharing and appreciation for the things they do have. They might not have lots of material things, but they do have relationships with the people around them. That really taught me that I need to invest in relationships with people more than relationships with material things, because the relationships you have with people will outlast the material things you have by a longshot.