June 9, 2011

A home where there once was none

Our service opportunity this week led us to Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II, an orphanage south of Lima that is home to 73 children between the ages of 4 and 17.

Casa Hogar’s website tells the story of how Joseph Walijewski, a priest from Wisconsin, was moved to start the home 25 years ago:

One day, while walking through the slums of Lima, Father Joe noticed what appeared to be a pile of old newspapers begin to move.  Then, the heads of a little girl and boy popped out.  These children, like so many street kids of Lima, had spent the night with only the newspapers to protect them from the cold. He thought to himself, “How can I go home to a warm bed, when so many children are living in these conditions?”

A mission of the Catholic Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Casa Hogar is funded by U.S. donors and staffed by “family teachers,” individuals and couples who serve as families for the children. The orphanage follows the Boys Town Model, which has five main elements: teaching children and families life-changing skills; helping children and families build healthy relationships; empowering children and families to make good decisions; caring for children in a family-style environment; and supporting children and families in religious practices and values.

The volunteer coordinator gave us a tour of the impressive campus, and we spent the afternoon helping out in the big garden. We also enjoyed time with some of the children, especially the chance to play soccer with them.

While we were in Lurín, we visited a traditional market that’s just a five-minute walk from Casa Hogar, and full of interesting sights, sounds, and smells. We also took a short hike up to an overlook that gave us a view of the Pacific Ocean.

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