Pay It Forward

One year ago, I went to visit an orphanage in Peru. There are 140 boys at the orphanage with only 7 adults to care for them. The boys range from five to seventeen years old.

Seeing poverty on television and reading about hunger is different from confronting the effects in real life. Whenever I feel unhappy, I remember how the orphan boys yearned for love and hugs when we visited them.  They would say “I love you for being here.” I still recall the tight grasps and hugs from the boys, and the tears of joy.  It mattered to them, that we had come all the way from the U.S. just to see them.

When I open my refrigerator and think, “I have nothing to eat,” or “I don’t want to eat leftovers,” I think how the boys devoured the mangoes we bought them; including the skin. They ate the skin off the fruit and sucked on the seeds, leaving nothing to throw away but the seeds.

Imprinted in my mind is the image of young boys, fearful of theft, tightly guarding their new treats and gifts. Chocolate was a real TREAT to the boys. We brought them cakes and chocolate and played a game with them by hiding the chocolate and candies.

This took me back to when I was sitting alone on a cot at a refugee camp in Guam and a young soldier, about 20 years old, came to me and gave me a Hershey chocolate bar. I looked up and smiled and he smiled back. I ate the chocolate bar and to this day I think that is the best piece of candy I have ever devoured in my life.  A small gift can mean so much to the recipient.

Whenever I cannot decide what to wear from my walk-in closet, I remember that the orphan boys do not even own the clothes they wear. Rather, they get in line before showering and then an outfit is handed to them. They forced their shoes to fit, afraid that we did not bring enough for everyone. I remember the gritting of teeth and the panicked look on faces, because each wanted his shoes to fit so badly. The orphans eagerly waited while we sorted the donated clothes we brought. They acted as if the apparel were toys.

I have taken many vacations to beautiful resorts over the years.  Yet, I think when one visits an orphanage, it is something that stays with you forever and the life lessons you get from the experience are so much more rewarding.

I would definitely recommend going to South America, not just on a pleasure trip but as part of a trip involving volunteer work, for a very meaningful experience.  There are lots of organizations organizing volunteer in South America.  Here are just a few you can look into:

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23 Replies to “Pay It Forward

  1. Hello Ann,

    This article was a reminder of a similar experience i had at an orphanage in manila. It really makes you more humble in life to have these kinds of experiences, and i would recommend it to anyone!

  2. Wow, marvelous blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is great, as well as the content!

  3. I’m impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

  4. Ann,
    This article really hits home for a volunteer with Global Village Champions Foundation I know first hand the feeling of helping orphan children..Our foundation has adopted and financially supports an orphanage in Port-au-Prince Haiti…we also travel all over the globe and have delivered over 417 million meals to needy children…such an honour to be your cyber friend and to share in a passion to help children. You can follow our efforts on Twitter @gogvm..thanks for this great post.

  5. I`m traveling through Peru right now so this post is particularly touching. Reminds me that I really need to look into volunteer organizations while I`m here.

  6. Seeing children to crave for anything is touching experience;their innocent eyes dance with great joys while looking at you and receiving gifts.But the most they receive,comes from a given attention and love.
    I know that you had an amazing experience and we only can pray for more people feel that way,by thinking about many in the world who suffer and about properer way of allocating foods and supplies.
    There is a part of your memories deserved for your affection for them,being a child experience is unforgotten.
    If i were closer to Peru and South America i’ll be a volunteer,i think of that but what stops me now is shortage of finance, for volunteers need to pay for their stays.

  7. What an inspiring article Ann. What a great way to pay it forward. Definitely gets me to thinking I can do more.

    Thank you!

  8. This story is so rich and potent…
    Thanks so much for writing and sharing!

    It makes me reflect to realize how much I should share the countless experiences I’ve had myself overseas while traveling this globe, solo as a young woman long before the internet or ease of traveling today. I forget how much SOOOOO many people have not seen these things… and I think also, I forget how MUCH impact all those times had on making me the woman of deep heart, that I am today.

    I can see that THIS is what I saw in you when yesterday, I merely glanced at your blog but had not yet read… It is so strong, that I could FEEL the depth of who you are! Please please… keep sharing!

    Bless you ~ and thank you!

  9. Nice post Ann. My sister does a lot of work like this. She has been to Peru, Romania, India and now lives in Tanzania after spending time in Swaziland. Helping children receive medical care. Very altruistic and hard work. Thanks for sharing. TW

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