2005-06 Casa Hogar Misericordia Orphanage Fundraiser


Once you turn off the highway, it's easy to lose your bearings. There aren't many landmarks other than the surrounding mountains. The partially washed out roads and scattered buildings are almost indistinguishable. As we bounced along in a Suburban whose shocks had since ceased to absorb, I finally realized that Alex was using the power lines to guide us to the Casa Hogar Misericordia Orphanage outside Chihuahua, Mexico.

We arrived just before dusk Thursday January 19th 2006, having learned the hard way on our last visit that you don't want to be looking for it after dark. The truck was packed with supplies that we had picked up earlier in the day. Included among them were a few items that you might not find at your typical Wal-Mart in the States:

crates of tomatoes
crates of potatoes
crates of vegetables
crates of fruit
80lb bags of sugar
large boxes of eggs
shampoo & soap
rubbing alcohol
disinfectant & band-aids
anti-diarrhea medicine
a ton of other prescription medications too numerous to list
tooth brushes
coloring books
sticker books
The Chronicles of Narnia series (en Espanol of course)
jump rope
soccer balls
play balls
air pumps


Suffice it to say that we brought a lot of stuff out there. All told it was over $1000 worth of goods. We also donated the reminder of the money we raised to the orphanage for them to use for heating fuel. Thanks to everyone who helped make this possible.

Right now the orphanage is paying close to $500 a month to heat their water and keep the buildings warm. Because of the cost, they try to minimize the heating as much as possible. A recent donation of a fleece blanket for every bed helps them in that regard. But for the foreseeable future, paying the fuel bill will be an on-going challenge.

Another challenge is keeping the clothes clean. With nearly one-hundred kids, ranging in age from five to eighteen, they have a lot of dirty laundry to deal with. And right now the orphanage is down to one working washing machine. It is one of those commercial models that can handle large loads, but just to keep up, they need to have it running most of the time. This is an area that we may try to help in a future effort.

One of the most critical needs facing the proprietors, Fidel Rubio and his wife Marianna, is to get a clinic set up. With close to one-hundred children in close quarters, you can imagine that containing the outbreak of various illnesses is a constant problem. When many of the children arrive at the orphanage, they have been living without adequate food or shelter for months (and years) and suffer from a variety of physical ailments. Fidel would like to devote space in the clinic to nurse these children to health before they join the general population. They would also like to have a place to store and dispense medicine and carry out check-ups when doctors come out to the orphanage.

Construction of the clinic has begun as you can see from this picture. But they still need windows, flooring, a roof, and electrical work before it can be used. Fidel estimates that the cost to complete the clinic is roughly $5000 (US).

There are a number of areas where the orphanage has made improvements since our last visit. They managed to acquire a newer (although certainly not new) and much more reliable school bus. One of the boys dorms has a new tile floor and roof. And the bathrooms throughout the facility have been redone. There are also more books in the library and study center and they even have a few very old PCs for the kids to work on.

But the most impressive thing that you notice when you visit the Casa Hogar Misercorida Orphanage is not physical. It's the faith, spirit, love and commitment to the children displayed by the Rubio's and the staff. You can witness the way that their efforts have paid off by the organization and cleanliness of the facility and the behavior of the kids. The children are playful and usually happy, but also disciplined and well-behaved.

When we pulled up with a truck full of goodies and the kids helped us to unload, I expected them to immediately break out the new balls and dip into the candy. Instead they did exactly what Marianna asked them to do with the supplies. With the exception of a couple of coloring books that she allowed a few of the younger girls to peruse, everything else was carefully stored. Toys, balls, books, cleaning supplies, and medicine went into the office to be sorted and dispersed later and the food went to the kitchen.

All this was done with little or no whining from the kids and without Marianna ever having to raise her voice. I suppose that when you're trying to raise one-hundred children in a confined space, the only way to survive is with organization, routine, and discipline (and a healthy dose of love), but it's still striking to see it for yourself.

Another memorable moment from this visit was when we had the privilege of hearing one of the older children, a girl of fourteen or fifteen, recite a couple of speeches that had won her a top spot in a state forensics competition. I could not comprehend most of what she was saying, but her flawlessly delivered, passionate performance broke through the language barrier and was truly moving. She appears to has a natural talent for the stage and I could imagine her becoming quite an actress some day.

I was told later than one speech dealt with a criminal's pleading in court and the other was a lamentation asking where the hands of God (las manos de Dios) were in a world so full of pain suffering. At the end of the speech, the answer emerges that the hands of God are our hands and it's up to us to see that his work is done in this world. An appropriate message indeed.