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.