“Inspired” at a Venezuelan orphanage, Hogar Bambi

I’ve always wanted to adopt. As a child, I have always felt adopted, being the black sheep amongst my siblings. The urge to give a child the opportunity of a better life with love was the goal. This was the closest I had ever been to almost adopting twenty kids!

HOGAR BAMBI SARAH BEGUM LEONARDO CALVO

I was invited by Hogar Bambi, an orphanage in the heart of Caracas, Venezuela to deliver a two day workshop I designed to inspire young orphans to perform their future selves through exciting role play activities. Obviously I had a local presenter, Leonardo Calvo, who helped me deliver the sessions in the children’s native language, Spanish.  From Super Hero charade games, improvisation acting and prop making, the children aged 7-12 years old, were equipped with the skills they needed to perform their final and most important task – “Who I’m going to be when I grow up”. From no knowledge of acting whatsoever to enjoyable performances, these talented twenty portrayed a lot of potential to go far in life and the hunger to be loved and cared about.

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Abused physically, sexually, tortured, abandoned or born into extreme poverty, the children are referred to this orphanage specifically from another organisation. They have endured much in their young lives but this place is designed to completely transform them into decent human beings. Within the house, they offer doctors, teachers, mothers, aunties, volunteers, cooks and even psychologists to the 100 youngsters they currently raise there. They have everything they need to grow up in a healthy environment. Walking through the girls bedroom, I felt like they had more toys than I did when I was little and felt like sitting inside the little castle wearing the little crown… The girl’s toys definitely outweighed the boy’s toys!

The children here range from new born babies to young adults in their twenties. Each age group have dorms and the older ones have their own apartments if they are unable to find places of their own from the age of 18. As a baby, they are assigned to a woman who becomes their “mother”, raising the child as her own. There are co-workers who assist as “aunties”. The entire concept of this place is to be the official “home” of that child and everyone within that home is their family. Adoption policies adhere to government laws and if an individual wanted to adopt a child, then they would have to adopt the siblings of that child as well, if any, since the orphanage cannot separate them from each other.

Hogar Bambi provides everything they need with gratitude from godmothers and godfathers who donate as often or as little as they can, with the minimum donation being 500bs per month for each child. This is one of the struggles the orphanage encounters due to the economic restraints and the constant devaluing of their currency, the bolivar. If that is not enough, the shortages of essential products such as diapers, toilet roll, shampoo and other necessities that the entire country faces is just another hammer on their heads.

Watching the children on the first day, I became nervous about the entire task. They were very shy, felt embarrassed performing in front of others and needed a lot of encouragement to deliver. Some were, as expected, more timid than others. It was the games and exciting activities that got them to relax, have fun and help support one another to do their best. They were very curious about me and even made an effort to learn English overnight so they could communicate with me. Cute. One activity touched me very deeply.

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I taught them the meaning of the word, “inspiration” and asked them to give me an example of someone who was inspirational to them in their lives. Most of the children mentioned their mothers, fathers, aunties or best friends. Then it dawned on me that they were not as aware of the outside world as the average person since most of what they know exists within the walls of their home so these answers were only expected. One girl even cried after saying, “My auntie Yvonne, because she combs my hair, loves me and takes care of me…” I was then told by one of the co-ordinators, Lorena, that this was the first time they shared such thoughts in a group. Usually, these questions were asked by the psychologist, privately.

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On the morning of the second day, my expectations were soared and the children seemed much happier, confident and excited about everything. That barrier was broken and they were having fun with the role plays, supporting each other to perform, learned new skills and were using them the best they could. I was proud. And surprised. It was the first time I designed something like this and it made me very happy that it was an extremely successful event. They kept asking for us to come back. They seemed seriously transformed and integrated with each other than before the workshop. They even knew what they wanted to be when they grew up and why. From lawyers, doctors, babysitters, cowgirls, a mother, teachers and footballers, they seem like a bright bunch.

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As the day came to an end, the children prepared a surprise for me and each child made me a drawing with a very touching message as a leaving present. Another co-ordinator approached me and said, “They have never opened up so fast to anyone before. Because of you, they are very curious, want to learn English, want to know about travelling, and feel they are loved and that someone really cares about them. You are like an angel that came into their lives.” Tears fell from my face.

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One little girl, aged 12, hugged me very tight as I was leaving and asked me to be her godmother. Another little boy, Anthony fell in love with me. His message was deeply touching. I will never forget these children. They have created a beautiful experience in my life and made it more beautiful. I look forward to adopting in the future.

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For more information about the orphanage or to donate as a godmother or godfather, please visit http://hogarbambi.org/

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Sarah Begum

Adventurer. Filmmaker. Explorer. Presenter.

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