When I first met Alba at the orphanage here in Copán about a year and a half ago, she was always sleeping. Sprawled on a table, curled up next to her brother in the smoky room where her mom made tortillas, passed out on the floor. When she was awake, she sat alone, smiling whenever you looked at her, but never saying anything. You would often catch her staring off into space for large stretches of time – not behavior you would expect of a 3-year-old child.
Alba lived at the orphanage with her mother Fanny and her little brother Juan. It was common for single moms to live at the orphanage; they worked in exchange for a free place to stay and food for their children. Soon, Fanny found a job at the market and started to take control of her life again. But then she met another man who promised her love and a new life, and in a few months she ended up pregnant, alone, and kicked out of the orphanage. She was able to find a room for rent not far away from where we started Casita Copán.
Alba and Juan were our very first children at Casita Copán. I knew Fanny from the orphanage and when I heard she’d been kicked out, I immediately let her know about our new program. When Alba arrived, she wasn’t much different from the way I remembered her at the orphanage. Quiet, lethargic, her skin infected with boils, her hair full of lice, a loner. She cried easily and it was difficult to comfort her because she shied away from physical touch when she was upset. Her birth certificate said she was 4 years old, but we couldn’t believe it because she was so far behind developmentally – physically, socially, and emotionally.
Six months later, Alba has transformed. It is hard to even imagine her as the quiet, withdrawn, and sickly child she once was. She is literally the energy and the spark of Casita Copán, a constantly smiling, running, hilarious child who becomes the instant favorite of everyone she meets. She is caring and kind and plays actively with all of the other kids. Thanks to a nutritious diet, vitamins, and clean water, her skin is clean and healthy, her hair has started growing again, she is full of energy, and her immune system is strong. She has developed strong, intimate, and trusting relationships with the other children and the staff of Casita Copán, a fact that makes me extremely hopeful about our future goals of caring for more children from the orphanage.
When I look at our smiling Alba, I cannot be more thankful for the people who have made Casita Copán into a reality. The change I see in her proves to me that we are on the right path, and that change truly is possible in the lives of children.
You can help us keep this change going. We are still looking for sponsors for many of our children who like Albita came to Casita Copán after spending much of their childhood in the deplorable conditions at the local orphanage. Click here to make a donation and keep our kids smiling!