Every year the student organization SALSA (Spanish and Latino Student Awareness) at SPU visits El Sauzal orphanage in San Antonio De Las Minas, Baja California, Mexico. This year I had the opportunity to go on the trip after being involved with SALSA for two years. I was excited to have the chance to get to know the orphans, learn about the lives of the children of the orphanage and practice speaking Spanish.
We arrived in a small town just outside of Ensenada after spending a day and a half of driving in a 12 passenger van. Even though we were tired from the long journey we were eager to meet the children. The students that were returning to the orphanage were excited to reconnect with the children and hoped that they would be remembered.
During our first couple of days at the orphanage the children attended school until lunchtime. While the children were at school we worked on various projects such as cleaning, painting and weeding. By the time lunchtime came around we were definitely ready to eat and spend time with the children. Each day we bought their favorite foods — pizza, Chinese, and lasagna.
Our last full day at the orphanage was both joyful and sad. We were sad to be leaving after such a short time. That last day the children did not have school so we were able to spend more time with them. Each year SALSA plans a party for the children on the last day. This year we decided to give the nanny a break for an hour and take the “bebes” (the children in the nursery) to the playground and play with bubbles. Later, with the older kids, we did a relay race—consisting of hopping through tires, eating donuts hanging from string, and a sack race.
El Sauzal is operated by the Espinoza family. Since 1967 three generations of Espinozas have been providing a loving home for children in need. There are currently 40 orphans living at El Sauzal ranging in age from 15 months to 22 years old. During our first day the orphanage’s director (Erika Espinoza) took us on a tour that introduced us to the children and showed us the rooms in which they slept.
Erika Espinoza told us that the orphanage staff knows each of the children personally and that they know the last name of each of the children. I was most impressed with the fact that there were older orphans. She explained to us that El Sauzal is like a traditional Mexican family and they support children even after they turn 18. This loving support is an example of two of the three aspects of their mission listed on their Facebook page — family and the chance for a successful future.
According to El Sauzal’s website, most of the children who come to the orphanage were abandoned or abused. The orphans that we encountered at El Sauzal may not have everything that we have but they are surrounded by people who love them and take care of their basic needs. Many of the orphans at El Sauzal have siblings at the orphanage but those who don’t still have a surrogate family in the other children and staff at the orphanage.
El Sauzal is committed to the futures of its orphans and it ensures that the children receive a complete education. The elementary children are sent to school and they pay for the older children to go to high school. The two oldest orphans are currently in college.
Both Global Visionaries and El Sauzal change the lives of young people; Global Visionaries through its leadership programs and El Sauzal through providing a loving home and supportive education. Working at Global Visionaries will give me the opportunity to be a part of an organization that impacts the lives of young people locally and globally.