Lessons From El Rancho Santa Fe

I have returned several times to a very special place  in Honduras. In the midst of the extreme poverty that  continues to haunt Honduras there is a refuge for children  called El Rancho Santa Fe. It is an orphanage for children  who have lost their parents run by the organization  Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos – Our Little Brothers and  Sisters. What makes this place so special is the love,  joy, caring and sharing that comes from these orphaned  children and those around them.

The orphanage is set up with the philosophy that these  children have suffered one great loss in their lives so the  orphanage will not let them have another. No child is  given up for adoption. They can have faith that the  orphanage is their home. They come to the orphanage to be  accepted into a family of 600 children. The orphanage is  run by Honduran staff and foreign volunteers. The ranch  takes these children from a period of abandonment to a life  of love.

The children are the story for this orphanage. Every  function is to improve the lives of the children. The  children have clean homes, clothes, good food, a school,  and access to health care. They are kept safe. They are  taught a work ethic that helps them value what they  contribute to the greater society. Even six and seven year  olds can be seen sweeping or cleaning without complaint.  They see around them a community where everyone  contributes.

The children are alive. Their eyes sparkle with joy  when they take your hand. They want to know your name and  want you to know theirs. You are immediately accepted into  their community. You cannot avoid being drawn into their  life by the affection they show.

They are thriving at this place. Many children  complete high school. They all learn a trade. Many go  onto university. Two are currently in medical school.  Such a success rate cannot be matched in many American  communities much less other impoverished Honduran  communities.

I have been to this orphanage three times to  volunteer. But my contributions pale in comparison to what  I receive from these orphans. The lessons are many. But  the biggest most obvious lesson is that when children are  provided with clothes, food, housing, a safe environment,  health care and education, they thrive. Of course they  need love and care. But when provided with those basic  needs, by loving people they find the love they need and  share it.

Each time I leave El Rancho Santa Fe, I leave with  sadness because of the love I feel there. Every visit  brings momentous sentimental memories that I cherish. I  wish more people could experience this and learn the  lessons about contribution to a greater social good. That  frame of mind is a much needed commodity in our society.  The changes needed in medicine today will only come when  people learn the lessons of El Rancho Santa Fe.