Today the other interns and I visited IHNFA, the government run orphanage system in Honduras. For all three of us, it was a second trip to this particular orphanage.
This visit, I vowed to go upstairs to the baby and toddler rooms, which I knew not only housed infants and younger children, but developmentally disabled children who also occupied neighboring cribs.
I had been too afraid the previous visit, having heard how heart wrenching the upper floor can be.
Today, I experienced it first hand.
In the baby room I helped the other interns and the IHNFA staff feed the babies and the disabled children who couldn’t feed themselves.
As we held the children and assisted in their lunch, it became clear that they needed people to hold them…even just touch them—and you could tell they never received this kind of contact.
One baby boy in particular—most likely close to a year and a half old—whom I had helped feed, was in my arms after lunch, getting sleepy. As I stroked his little arm, he laid his head on my chest.
It became time to go and as I tried to lay him back in his crib he began to cry, and clung to my shirt with tiny, desperate hands.
I rocked him back and forth while rubbing his back, hoping to have him fall asleep so I could lay him safely in his crib.
The crying stopped, but as soon as I tried again to lay him down, he began to scream and cling.
As I stood rocking him, fighting back tears, I felt angry.
I was angry at the world for having delivered this child such a bad hand, when I had been given such privilege.
It’s like this tiny baby was never given a chance to live a peaceful childhood—innocent and untarnished.
It was as if these children were born with scars.
Suddenly Ana appeared at my side with a knowing look, and I passed off the child to her, and she laid him screaming, into his crib.
The toddler room was similar, with small children fighting for our attention, fighting to be held, to even be noticed.
One child with developmental disabilities walked by who had his hands tied behind his back, most likely because he scratched others or himself.
IHNFA is understaffed, and has nothing for these children except food and a roof. Those with disabilities are given a diaper and a crib, and are often found with hands bound with sandwich bags to keep them from hurting themselves or others.
I want you to close your eyes and imagine your childhood. You most likely had toys, at least one parent who held you, and a clean set of clothes for each day.
I now want you to open your eyes.
You are at an IHNFA orphanage, where you might share a rusty iron bed with 2 other dirty children who haven’t bathed in days. Your skin might have infected cuts, and you probably have lice and a rash. These afflictions will go untreated for days as you sit around on tile floors with nothing to do, no toys.
No parents. No love.
I had the pleasure of getting to know an IHNFA orphan runaway while living in Villa Soleada.
His name is Juan, and he often runs away, and even ran away from his adoptive situation, which wasn’t good.
He came to many projects with us, keeping us entertained as we built soccer fields or painted schools.
He was cuddly, sassy and very intelligent.
However, Juan often slipped into bad moods suddenly, where he would just be quiet and sort of cranky.
I have to wonder if Juan was psychologically affected by living in IHNFA.
Children who live in the IHNFA system have to fight to survive, and often come out angry and violent because of their survivalist lives.
Please do one more thing for me right now.
Realize—no matter how bad your life may seem to be, and I do understand that people in the states have problems too—that you are very lucky.
Tell someone you love them today, tell your parents thank you if you have them, and do something to give back what life has given you.