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Be Present

Judie Stilman December 17, 2019

If you volunteer for a favorite cause, you know the feeling you get when you spend your time doing good.

From our home base in San Diego, my Coin Up colleague and I joined a group of volunteers for a day trip to Baja, Mexico. Our mission was to spend one-on-one time with children at an orphanage. These kids are wards of the state, having been abandoned by parents overwhelmed with poverty, drug addiction and other devastating circumstances.

Just over the border, but seemingly a world away, our bus lumbered through the narrow, impoverished neighborhoods of Tijuana. It’s truly humbling to witness the stark difference in quality of life in the short distance of a few miles.

I didn’t know what to expect, or what I could offer these kids who need so much, in the few hours we would spend together.

As we entered the modest building, we were welcomed by a throng of beautiful, smiling faces. With arms out, one little boy, no older than 4, greeted me with the sweetest hug. Some of the kids rushed to embrace familiar volunteers who have been visiting the group home regularly for many years.

We settled in at an extra-long dining table, laying out the coloring books, puzzles, games and crafts we had brought. Each child gravitated to the activity they liked, and we adults jumped in to encourage, admire, and engage.

At noon, a few of us gathered in the kitchen to plate about 80 lunches (for 40 children and 40 adults). It was a feast of tamales, beans, chicken, macaroni salad, tortillas and juice.

While sharing our meal, we met several university students who had grown up at the home and now came back to spend time with the younger kids, showing by example what they too could achieve with hard work and the education that is provided to them.

After a tour of the facility and grounds, we came back to the dining hall for a little show put on by the kids. While they sang and danced, we cheered, applauded, and wiped away a tear or two.

In those few hours, with no agenda, goal, or expectation, something real and wonderful happened. To be honest, I feel I received more than I gave. It turns out, sometimes to do good, you don’t have to do anything more than be present.

 

Corazon de Vida, based in Irvine, CA supports 10 group homes in Baja, CA. For more information about their services and orphanage trips visit: https://www.corazondevida.org/

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