After about two months in Quito, I was tired of the city and the crowds and the pollution, so I rather spontaneously got on a bus to Cuenca last week, hoping to find an orphanage I had heard about in Azogues, Casa Hogar Para Todos, run by one Nancy who has a heart of gold and the soul of an archangel (do angels have souls? I met some missionaries in Cuenca on my last night passing through before coming back to Quito, and we had a long theological sparring match). I had a great time in Cuenca and met a lot of new people, made new friends, and the traveling certainly helped my Spanish a lot, although I’m quite comfortable now and it seems to be easier every day.
I spent one day wandering around Cuenca and that was quite enough to see most everything interesting. I lit a candle for you, Alyssa, on Holy Thursday in the cathedral and left it at the foot of one of the idols of Mary. There are some vibrant markets in Cuenca, and the city itself has a interesting vibe, but slightly off-putting is the huge number of expat retirees from the West that seem to overrun the town. The whole place is quite touristy. However, I met some really amazing people, and the last day I was in Cuenca we had a fantastic night together.
Hogar Para Todos is in Azogues, about an hour from Cuenca, and it did not use to have its own orphanage. Nancy inherited her parent’s house and decided to open it’s doors to children in need – she had previously worked for an organization that facilitated adoptions in Belgium. She welcomed my unexpected arrival (though I had tried to get in touch with her before) and immediately gave me some food and some tea. She took me on a tour of the house, and offered me a room so I could spend some more time with the children. We spoke at length – or at least she spoke at length, for some hours – about the situation for children in Azogues and for those children who return to their families (usually taken by the state because of drug addiction, abuse, parents in prison, etc) and those who find a new family through adoption. It was exciting to have such a thorough and personal account, and it was also thrilling to have such a long and meaningful conversation in Spanish.
The children at HPT were wonderful although many of them had an overwhelming amount of energy. They all wanted to play with my camera – none of the pictures came out quite as well as when the children in Uganda played with my camera – but weren’t as interested in having their pictures taken. The house is very ‘homey’ and the children there are really cared for and loved. Nancy is a mother to them all, and their adoration of her is evident, as is her devotion to them. This is definitely a place that could use more funding, however, and I should like to try and help connect HPT to some kind of sponsoring organization – all the places I’ve been in Quito have fairly reliable European or North American donors, and even a small amount of money each month could make a lot of difference for these children.
Azogues was a nice town – I didn’t see any other gringos when I was there, so it’s not at all like Cuenca in that regard – but like Cuenca there really was not too much to do. It was a beautiful sunny day when I first arrived in Azogues, so I wandered around for a bit to get to know the small town. And after visiting HPT, I headed even further south to Vilcabamba…