Giving Back: Christmas-style

Foreign Service LifeInspirationPeruVolunteering
November 30, 2012

Yesterday I had the amazing good fortune of joining the Canadian International Society (Not just for Canadians!) for a morning of volunteering at Casa Hogar, a home for single mothers under the age of 18.  Knowing from personal experience just how challenging parenting is, it was mind-blowing to think of these 40+ teenagers raising children while trying to finish school and eventually gain employment.

I have to say, I was WAY impressed with the organization though.  The kids looked healthy, well-cared for and had relatively nice facilities.  The organization has a team of staff that teach the girls how to care for their child, make sure the child is getting proper nutrition and watch the child while the teen goes to school each day.

The teens have the opportunity to stay here until they’re 18 years old.  The kids range between newborn and 5 years old, so if you do the math, the girls start arriving from age 12 on.  We spent about 2 hours in total there, first playing with the children and then throwing a Christmas Party for the Moms & Kids.  The Canadian Intl Society had been collecting donations all year, so we came with car-fuls of gifts, food and diapers.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to provide each of those Mamas with a custom-made care package full of goodies for she and her little one!  Honestly, you could see thee gratitude in their faces.

My Swell Idea

As usual, I had my camera out to capture the fun.  I had snapped a photo of a 17 year old Mama with her 2 twins when all of a sudden I had several other requests for Mom & Baby photos.

That’s when it dawned on me – these Moms don’t have many, if any, pics of their babies!  I did some fast thinking and coordinated with a staff member to send the pics via email and then announced to the Mamas that I’d happily take their photo with their babes if they’d like.  We set up a make-shift photo booth in the corner and off we went!  Needless to say, it was quite popular.

This is the first time I have volunteered in Peru.  I’m not sure why I waited so long, probably because I felt uncomfortable with my limited Spanish.  I was reminded though that language is irrelevant – a smile easily bridges the language gap!

I hope you too can find a unique way to spread some love & joy this holiday season!

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  1. Nomads By Nature says:

    What a fabulous gift!

  2. Sarah Novak says:

    It was beyond delightful! I sure hope we go back soon…

  3. Chris says:

    As always, you rock the moment! Awesome gift for those young mothers and their babies. Happy Holidays to the Peruvian Novaks. Xoxo

  4. Lawrence Go says:

    You can even make a calendar out of the several picutres, and sell them for charity; proceeds of which go back to the shelter. Just hope the teen-moms don’t fight over whose pics get chosen :-)

  5. Mom & Dad Novak says:

    You’re doing everything right as far as being a FS person. I think that’s why every one of us retirees goes on to share and volunteer and give. What a great idea taking picturestoo. Do what you do best. Love you lots. Did Baby Nia get to go to?

  6. Suzanne says:

    That gave me goosebumps Sarah. What a gift you gave. It is so easy for us to take photos for granted, but having worked with kids who went through the foster care system and ended up in residential treatment, I know that not all kids in America are able to have photos of their childhood. The same can be said for any child across the world who is starting life facing the challenges you mentioned. Thanks for finding opportunities to give and then sharing the blessing you recieved with us.

  7. Sarah Novak says:

    Thanks for that perspective Suzanne. I was really touched by the women and their babies and decided to take it one step further by printing out the photos and dropping them off around Xmas.

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