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The Gift of Casa Hogar, San Antonio de las Minas B.C.

by Dick Hatch, Ron Young, Estelle Voelker and Bob & Ellen Bourne
Members at United Church of Christ of La Mesa

The people of UCCLM are an active, involved bunch, sharing their talents, time and treasure to help make our world a better place.  They give much and, as related below, get far more in return.  Told by several “regulars, “The Gift of Casa Hogar, San Antonio de las Minas B.C.” tells the story of the church’s long-time involvement with and commitment to the children of the orphanage.

Dick Hatch
     The orphanage is truly a sacred place.  The woman who runs it is a real saint, and I treasure the time I was able to spend there visiting with her.

     Every trip to the orphanage filled our hearts with joy.  The children had so little and were so grateful for the meager things we brought.  When I first started going there, back in the early days, resources were very thin and the kids got only two meals a day.  The beds were falling apart,: one of my first trips was to take nice bunk beds down and set them up.  The kids rarely saw fresh fruit and when we brought oranges you could see their mouths watering at the prospect of eating one.  Once, when we brought popsicles, one of the kids took hers and put it in her bed to save for later.  Imagine her surprise when she came back to eat it.   The little kids were so hungry for adult contact that they would just crowd around and there was always one who would insist on being held the whole time I was there.  It was wonderful!  I really hated to leave.

     The church would collect clothing, bedding, foodstuffs and other staples and take them down once a month or so.  It was always an adventure carrying the carload of stuff across the border.  Most days they just waved us through.  But one day I was stopped and passed from office to office in the Mexican customs bureaucracy.  Obviously, they weren’t taking my story about the orphanage very seriously and were angling for a bribe, but no one would ask directly, of course, and I didn’t know how to safely offer one.  Finally, after a lot of hemming and hawing, they sent me to an office about five miles further on down the road and I just drove on to the orphanage and made my delivery, fully expecting to be stopped by the cops at any moment.  When we arrived, the older kids would crowd around to help unload the car and carry all the goodies inside.  Everyone wanted to see what we’d brought.  We always included some fresh fruit and some snack treats, which they eagerly waited to see.  Treats were rare.

     The older ones liked to practice their English with us, and their stories were heartbreaking.  Most had living parents who, for one reason or another, couldn’t care for them.  One child after another would tell of the time a parent stopped to visit them and promised to come back next week and take them away.  Next week, they waited in vain.  Yet these same kids faced life with cheerful optimism and genuinely enjoyed our visits.  Living in a “family” of 40 or 50 other kids wasn’t as good as living in a real family, but they provided real emotional support for one another and the atmosphere was upbeat and positive.  We came away feeling that the world was right and good.

     In a country where family connections are the key to success and prosperity, the orphans face a bleak future.  When they grow up and start looking for husbands and wives, the time to leave the orphanage comes, and they have few resources for success in the adult world, especially if their education has been cut short.  As a result, we have recently concentrated on supporting the kids who could benefit from further education.  It’s a delight to see how successful some of them have been in their schooling.

Ron Young
     UCCLM has been making sure that the 104 children in the mountains east of Ensenada at Casa Hogar start every day with a healthy breakfast, school tuition, uniforms, supplies and a special tutoring program for many years.  As they have studied and grown, many have gone on to college so now we have graduates in business and advertising and this year Jonathán is finishing up law school.

     We have so many memories of our years, celebrating Epiphany (Día de los Reyes Magos) with the children, serving them a picnic lunch and in return the kids have put on magnificent Christmas programs (their gift to us).  The children’s gift of love to us over the years outweighs anything we could give to them.  Our gift has been to Mexico, giving them a good supply of educated citizens who are proud of their country and are becoming positive leaders in their community.

     One of my fond memories doesn’t involve the kids, but rather our reaction to a need:  our response to their call for new tires for the school van.   Off to Discount Tires we flew and off to the border we drove the next morning.  None of us, neither Nick Saldaña, our minister Paul Ashby nor I, had taken the time to read the morning headline in our local rag:  “Mexico Bans Tires” from crossing the border!  What a coincidence!  So we were scolded and turned back by Mexican authorities at the Tijuana check point.  Nursing our wounds, we returned to Nick’s house and pondered a bit.  Nick said, “Where there is a will there is a way.”  Paul said, “Have faith in God who has the answer to all things.”  I said, “Hell!  Let’s give Tecate a try.”  Sure enough with the power of all that “positive thinking” and Paul’s prayers with the border guards (who, learning he was our pastor, asked for a blessing), we zipped in and arrived in time so the kids only missed one day of school due to their broken transportation.

Estelle Voelker
     I have gone to the orphanage many times and miss going because of the violence in Mexico.  The last time I went, a little girl took my hand, and although I didn’t speak Spanish and she didn’t speak English, she led me to see a pet cat, which we petted together.  How did she know I am a cat lover?

       Years ago we used to “adopt” an orphan and shop for them for Christmas.  One year, the girl I “adopted” was not at the orphanage the day we came.  It was then I learned that some of the children are not really orphans.  Their parents leave them there because they can’t afford to take care of them.  But some of them do spend certain holidays with their families.  Another time, the girl I “adopted” was too shy to open her presents next to me and ran away with her packages.  But I have fonder memories of the Christmas programs the children used to put on for us, some of them very elaborate with beautiful costumes.  Usually, the programs were held outside, but one year it was held in their new dining room because it was raining outside.

Ellen and Bob Bourne
     Over twenty years ago, when UCCLM placed a bulletin board of pictures in Friendship Hall from which to choose, we selected Jonathan Cordero, then four years old, the same age as our grandson Michael Klass.  Our thinking was that Michael could help us shop each year when choosing age-appropriate gifts to take to Jonathan each January when traveling to Mexico.

     All of the children were so clean, nicely dressed and well behaved.  We did not get to know them all by name, but enjoyed their fresh faces and excitement about our visit with them.

     They entertained us each year and we joined in the noon meal prepared by church members.  Some were passing out the fruit and side dishes, others were at the barbeque cooking hot dogs and hamburgers.

     Shy at first, everyone warmed up as the gifts were opened.  The looks on their faces were grand to behold.  You wished you could take a carload of them home with you.

     Jonathan, our orphan and friend, spoke English very well.  We were fortunate to be able to communicate with him.  Quite early on, Jonathan told us that he wanted to be an abogado (lawyer).  He seemed pleased that his American “dad” was a criminal defense attorney.  They got along quite well.

     Years went by and his dream of becoming a lawyer (and, by the way, of owning a Lamborghini) never faded. 
After discussions among family members, it was decided we should tighten our belts and help Jonathan with the dream law school.  The Lamborghini seemed out of the question.  He would have to fulfill that dream himself and, knowing him, it, too, will come to pass.  Ron Young was very helpful in alerting us to the tuition deadlines and it was through him that funds were supplied to the appropriate place.  We thank him for that.

     Jonathan was a fine student and has an apprenticeship under a law firm.  No Bar exams necessary, just knowledge of the law and a nice appearance – and Jonathan certainly fills the bill on both counts.

     We are so proud of him and it gives us pleasure that cannot be expressed in words that our family had some part in Jonathan’s dream coming true, his success and a career that will carry this 26-year-old through the years ahead.


One Response to “The Gift of Casa Hogar, San Antonio de las Minas B.C.”
  1. Hey its really very nice thing. thanks for posting… it has made things a lot clearer for me.

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