Saturday, September 26, 2009

Niños de la Luna

I've mentioned before the shelter where I volunteer on Saturday afternoons. It's a home for young kids whose mothers are prostitutes, hence the name of the place which means "Chidren of the Moon." (moms work at night...)

Unlike the children at Estancia Infantil where I work during the week on Tuesdays and Thursdays...these kids don't really have much of a home. Many live at the shelter, having been abandoned by their moms. That's not the case at Estancia Infantil (which is a state agency) and whose kids have homes. The kids at Niños de la Luna have had tough lives. Their stories make you cry. Here are two:

Eight-year-old Carlos was abandoned by his mom and now lives at the shelter. He calls the lady who runs the place, Coco, "Mom." I've heard that occasionally a relative comes and spends an hour or so with him. He is a smart little boy and learns quickly. A sweet personality, too. A couple of weeks ago we were working on a craft project. First we made valentine hearts out of red construction paper. Carlos said, "what do we do with THAT?" Placing it on his shirt, I said "It shows someone loves you." He said, "Really? Who? Do you think someone loves ME?" There's a question a child should NEVER have to ask. Later we were all making masks out of paper plates....always popular. Carlos carefully cut out the eyes, nose, and ears. I said "Let's make the mouth." So he cut out a U-shaped mouth and was ready to paste it on. I laid it on smile side up. He turned it upside down. I asked, "What's that, Carlos? A mustache?" He told me, "No, the mask is sad because he doesn't have a mother."

Today, we had a new kid at the shelter, Luis. Luis is about 5 and autistic. We suppose autistic, although none of us is a professional to diagnose it. He is very timid and doesn't speak. He has trouble interacting with the other kids and spending much time on any one activity. At the end of the afternoon, I could see he was warming to me just a bit. I want to work with him some more in the coming weeks and see if his condition is only situational and not permanent. I asked Janet, one of the ladies I work with, what Luis's story was. "When he came to the shelter, he had spent most of his life tied to a chair while his mother 'worked,'" she told me.

They make our own problems look pretty insignificant, don't they?