A life-changing summer vacation

 

2011 Gladney Service Trip“Mom, I need some cool summer plans,” I had said. Only much later would I realize the true impact that these plans could have on my life.
 
I had heard about the Gladney trip to Costa Rica, where Gladney teenagers would repaint a San Jose orphanage, spend time with the children there and donate  humanitarian aid. I was determined to go.
 
At the Arthur Gough Orphanage, the grass was tall, the air was muggy and the houses where the children stayed were less than comfortable. I was nervous to start
painting, it was such an important task, but I knew the reward of helping these kids would be more than worth it.
 
I didn’t know much Spanish, but communicating was surprisingly easy. The beautiful children just wanted to be hugged, to play soccer, be pushed on the swings and have someone hold their hand. I met a boy with severe autism, Alejandro, who held my hand throughout the day, every single day. Though he did not speak much, he communicated with everyone through touch, and he wore a smile that never left his face.
 
The last day of our visit to the orphanage was bittersweet. With the money we had raised, we were able to give them a refrigerator, computers, printers, paper, microwaves, blenders and a washing machine. The joy of giving all these gifts to the orphanage was mixed with the sadness of having to say goodbye forever to the kids that we had grown to love.
 
Before departing, I found Alejandro, explained that I had to go, and that I wouldn’t be back the next day. He looked confused, but I told him, “Te amo,” and he smiled and said, “Si.” Then, I cried the entire drive back to our hotel.
 
My “cool summer plans” were a life experience I’ll never forget.
 
Find out more about the 2012 Service Trip to Bogota, Colombia! 
 
 

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