Sister Esperanza

 August 17, 2012

The highlight of this trip for me was our visit to a children’s nutrition center. 

The center is a small two story open air building in the wooded hills outside San Salvador.  It is run by a Catholic nun working outside the church (read as… on her own without church support.

Her name is Sister Esperenza…”Sister Hope”…fitting for a woman who is providing hope for children who otherwise could not even dream of something as simple as a full belly.

After welcoming us and giving us a tour Sister Esperenza modestly described to our group how during the civil war in El Salvador she found 12 small children alone in the woods.  They had been left behind in the chaos as their parents either scrambled to escape the fighting or were killed.  The children were starving and surely about to die themselves.

While she had little to eat herself she took them to her bullet riddled house and fed them. 

With a warm smile and a mother’s pride she told us how each one of “her” children survived.

Years later the center now serves to feed 112 children who represent the poorest most vulnerable children in a country plagued by devastating poverty and crime. 

The children come five days a week where they are fed nutritious meals, provided with pre school and kindergarten instruction as well as home work supervision. I shudder to think what IF they eat on the weekends but for a few hours each Monday through Friday the children are safe and their tummy’s are full.

In addition to the privilege of meeting Sister Esperenza we were permitted to meet the children there that day.  They were a group of twelve of the most beautiful and happy children I think I’ve ever seen. They ranged in age of perhaps 3 to 12 though none looked much older than about five or six; their stunted growth a result of the effects of malnourishment.

We took Polaroid pictures and gave each child a photo (this is a GREAT ice breaker with kids and we used this tact all week to help children past any fear they had when seeing our doctors.) The children quickly warmed to us and we interacted through smiles, high fives and a few sublime hugs.

Before we left we presented Sister Esperanza with several suitcases full of donations.  Our meager offering moved her to tears.  She hugged me and thanked our group for showing compassion for their efforts, which then left me in tears.  

I wished we had more.

(I am continually amazed that selfless people Sister Esperenza exist.  That such compassion exists.  Despite war, hunger and poverty there are people who see (and give) hope. )

Finally we gave a small stuffed animal to each child.  The new toys prompted squeals of joy from the thankful children. But as we turned to leave lunch was being set on the table…

And the toys were quickly set aside…

as 12 hungry children turned with urgency to their food.

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