As I wait outside the gate, I hear the pitter patter of tiny feet running to the fence and a crescendo of voices chanting with great excitement, “Beti! Beti! Beti!” I can see several small faces peering at me through the fence, reaching their precious little hands through to try to touch me even though they couldn’t possibly from where they stand. When one of the staff comes to open the fence, a rush of children run through, still screaming, “Beti! Beti! Beti!” They then pound on the gate eagerly awaiting my arrival. As the gate opens, a wave of children, arms wide open, comes rushing at me, and I brace myself for the impact. Every little hug feels like a new burst of energy vibrating through my body. When they start to finally peal away from me and head off to rejoin other little children playing under the tree, swinging on a swing, spinning tops, or playing tag, I sigh with satisfaction and see that life is good, beautiful, and just as it should be. I feel completely content and happy. All my worries slip away, and all I see are these children and the loving women who take care of them with whom I share warm greetings of kisses and hugs, and I feel at home.
That first Casita Copán greeting of the day is what I look forward to every time I am here volunteering. The children and staff make me feel special and loved. I know that what I do at Casita Copán is nothing in comparison to what I receive from this vibrant community that is buzzing with so much heart. Casita Copán reminds me to find pleasure in the simple aspects of life. Each day is filled with so many little joys that as an adult I seem to forget. Children live in the here and now, not in the past or future like adults, and I find them to be sources of inspiration in my life. These children have faced so many struggles growing up, but they know how to make the best of what they have. One day, there was no ball to be found, so the kids made one of plastic bags and were content to play for hours with their new toy. They are creative and bright children with so much to offer the world. Even now, without their awareness, they are making a difference in my life.
Recently, in an art activity, they told me of their dreams through drawings, to be a doctor of animals and people, to be the boss of several employees, to be a soldier, to be a police officer, to own over twenty cars!, to be in school, to have a home, to travel, and to grow plants. As I looked at their drawings, I felt happy because before Casita Copán their dreams may just have been that, only dreams, or perhaps they may have been uncertain what a dream was because they were too focused on just surviving day to day. But now they have the opportunity, not only to dream, but to make their dreams a reality. The children and mothers of Casita have been given freedom because every day they are receiving the love and support they need to fulfill their dreams and the autonomy and resources to make them happen. Being part of that, even in small ways, is what gives life meaning, and I am never certain how to say thank you to Casita Copán for the many ways it has helped me grow and change. It has helped me to dream as well and find the strength to make those dreams a reality in my own life. I have been humbled in so many ways and am always learning to appreciate life’s simple pleasures with the greatest joy. When these children call to me, “Beti! Beti! Beti!,” they are my little cheerleaders, not only when I am in Copán, but wherever I am in the world, letting me know that life is beautiful no matter what suffering or bumps in the road there may be along the way. I am reminded to appreciate the precious gifts in my life and use my creativity to see how the plastic bags I come across each day can be transformed into something of value.
-Beth Ann Nyssen, Casita Copán Volunteer