Away in Ahuchapan, April 5 and 6, 2008

"¿Qué ganaba con darle el número y la calle a Luciano, si no sabía leer?" (What do you gain from giving Luciano the number and the street when he doesn't know how to read?)
-from Mi Planta de Naranja-Lima by Vasconcelos
*gathering pieces*

By: Victoria Cavanaugh

This weekend, as I headed back on the bus after visiting two hogares in Ahuchapan, I spent the two hour ride reading a novel for a class for my masters. The novel, Mi Planta de Naranja-Lima, by the Brazialian author, Vasconcelos, tells the story of Zezé, a poor boy who grows up in a broken family in a miserable world. As one of the youngest in his family, he too often becomes the scapegoat, enduring the effects of his family's struggles and misfortunes. It's a fictional account, but one that probably all too closely mirrors the very real reality of all too many children growing up in Latin America. Zezé's story no doubt is the story of countless children in El Salvador. Zezé outlives his world's misery thanks to his powerful ability to imagine and hope and due to a friendship he forms with the Portuga, a wealthy, but nonetheless truly kind, old man.


Over the weekend, we visited two hogares in the capital of the eastern department of Ahuachapan, Hogar de la Niña San Jose and Hogar del Niño Doctor Gustavo Magaña. El hogar de la Niña San Jose serves girls ages 4-14 and el Hogar del Niño Doctor Gustavo Magaña serves boys of a similar age range. Much of the vision in visiting the hogares of El Salvador is to give the Program a chance to look for potential candidates for scholarships for upcoming years. Nonetheless, we are often met with a certain sense of disbelief. Many believe that the children who grow up in such hogares will, in fact, simply never make it to university. Certainly, the odds seem very much against the possibility. The majority of children enter the hogares with no prior formal education, many of them well past the traditional age to start schooling, and thus, when the time comes for the kids to "move on" (due to age), making it to fifth or sixth grade as a fourteen year old becomes a tremendous feat in itself.

*hand in hand: the girls of San Jose*

So as I read, Vasconcelos' words, I was reminded of the kids we met over the weekend. As I visited with them Saturday evening, as I walked to mass with them Sunday morning, and then played with them a bit afterwards, I couldn't help but wonder at their futures. They are kids with such an incredible amount of potential, but kids who need very badly for someone to give them "the street and number" so that they can indeed realize their potential.

*The Girls of "Group 3" from Hogar de la Niña San Jose with Vickie*

As we talked with the nuns who currently are running the orphanages, they voiced their concern for educational support for the kids after they turn too old to remain in the hogares. There is a very great gap between fifth and sixth grade and university, and hence much support, on every level, is needed for these kids. They need to learn to read; but I believe very much they need even more that expectations are set higher than just learning to read. As a Program, we need to look at how to respond to that need. In the coming months, we'll be developing "El Caminito," a part of the Program focused on working with high school students in preparing for graduation and "life" thereafter. . .We welcome your ideas and suggestions. . .do contact us.

tradition: walking together into the city for mass on Sunday morning

the boys of Hogar del Niño and the girls of Hogar de la Niña coming together to celebrate mass

the choir, girls of el Hogar de la Niña San Jose

entrance to Hogar de la Niña San Jose and the school there

Sister Maria Teresa Lang, who founded el Hogar de la Niña in 1928

the patio of Hogar de la Niña


the beds of the older girls aged 10-14, "Group 3"

Group 2's (ages 6-9) uniforms, the dress of 30-something scholars

entrance to El Hogar del Niño Doctor Gustavo Magaña