A few weeks ago, Love & Hope Children’s Home was visited for the first time by a group of students from the University of Akron (UA). We had a great time getting to know and interacting with this great group of young people. Matt, a Spanish professor at The University of Akron, led the team, which consisted of students who had all taken a Spanish class designed for those entering a medical profession. Matt, Amrita, Isabella, Travis, Lisa and Miranda really engaged our children in conversation, activities and games. They even taught us about music and good hygiene! We asked the group to write a short summary of their trip to El Salvador, where they not only spent time at Love & Hope, but also in the community and a local hospital.
“As soon as we arrived in El Salvador, the staff and children at Love and Hope immediately made us feel like a part of their family. Helping out at the home and getting to spend time with the kids made our stay worthwhile. The children were very patient with us as we tried to improve our Spanish speaking skills and I ended up learning a lot from them. Love and Hope was very organized and helped our group experience many aspects of El Salvadoran culture and Rachel was great with organizing trips to other communities and the local hospital. I did not know what to expect when coming here, but I’m glad I did, and I hope I get to come back and visit again someday!”
“In the process of learning Spanish, I found myself constantly asking, “Que significa?” which translates to, “What does this mean?” Striving for authenticity, I also found myself wanting to know which word is better to use in certain situations.
“Language is something that can help to transcend cultural barriers. So of course word-choice is important. Upon arriving at Love & Hope, what I first noticed was that they used the word “home” or “hogar” to describe themselves.
“The beauty in Love & Hope is that anyone who comes to visit, regardless of race, skin-color, or ineptitude with Spanish is instantly treated as a member of this large family. The staff, children, and volunteers of Love & Hope each, with their distinctive personalities, bring a different color to the table which adds to the beautiful mural that is this home.
“Additionally, Rachel, the founder and director of the home, is called “Mami” by all of the children. There is no better way to describe her. Not only is she a caring, kind, and passionate mother, but she is also the warmest of hostesses, going the extra mile to ensure a visiting group’s comfort and complete cultural experience.
“Because of this and the group’s interest in the medical field, we were given the opportunity to visit the local hospital and travel to impoverished communities. During our visits to communities, we brought donations and gave simple presentations on hygiene and health. When we went to the hospital, we had the chance to shadow doctors and also go on home visits. As a future doctor, I really appreciated the opportunity to see first-hand the way medicine is practiced in El Salvador and compare their practices to my medical experiences from the United States.
“Love & Hope could have chosen “house”, “refuge”, or any other number of words to describe themselves, but what struck me most was the fact that they chose to use “home”. It implies that in Love & Hope, these children, volunteers, and staff are a part of a family. “Home” implies that they will always have a place to go back to, where they will be accepted and cherished for who they are. And I think they chose the perfect word.”
“The entire staff has dedicated a great deal of time to create both an inviting and nourishing environment for the children in the Love and Hope Children’s Home. As an outsider, I did not expect to find a niche in the home’s well-established system or the children’s lives, but was surprised to find that I had become a member of the twenty person family shortly after my arrival. I found common interests with the kids, helped develop and practice both English and Spanish communication skills, and even gave the occasional piggy-back ride. Although this family was comprised of twenty unique individuals, the quality of care and the standard of living was not at all compromised. As a whole, my group witnessed the harsh living conditions some Salvadoran children face, while offering health care to some rural communities. We saw children who had no real potential for improving their conditions aside from the possibility of a gang affiliation which so often affects the lives of the young people in El Salvador. From what I experienced, this home is a vital step in the intervention and betterment of these children’s lives and I consider myself privileged to have been associated with its children, staff, and mission.”
Thank you, UA, for your presence a few weeks ago. We enjoyed learning and sharing with you all, and hope you come to visit soon!