Home Away from Home

By: Daniel Rosen (grade 11)

Daniel Rosen writes about his travels around the world, along with all of the volunteer work he has done. 

When you move to a new country, one of your main goals is just this: finding a purpose. Three simple words that are incredibly difficult to truly accomplish. When I moved to China, it might have been easier, seeing as I was only two years old and could not have cared less about the big picture. However, when I moved to Peru at fourteen, that was not the case. I happened to be lucky, because within a couple of months of moving to Lima, I had made a great group of amiable and supportive friends. Most aspects of my day were comfortable, and I did not have any of the “new student” jitters that I had expected. I began to settle into my new life, and started seeking out extracurricular activities.

When I think about activities outside of school, two areas come to mind: sports and community service. Since I was already participating in track and swimming, what I needed to do was to find a service group I could join. This should have been easy. The school offered dozens of clubs ranging from building houses and teaching english to environmental groups and clubs whose mission was to better the lives of senior citizens. At my old school in China, I created my own service organization, “Technovation Generation”,  which raised money to build a computer lab in a rural school. However, at my new school, I was not interested in any of the service options.

Once we had settled into our new life in Lima, my brother became obsessed with a very underfunded orphanage called Hogar de Gina. Unbeknownst to me, this girls’ home would soon become a major part of my life in Peru. I started by simply tagging along for weekend visits with my brother who decided that he was going to teach volleyball to the 18 young girls living in the home. I was extremely interested in this. Initially, I thought that the weekly visits were too much of a commitment for me, but as I spent more time at the orphanage, I realized that I wanted to become much more involved. With that decision, I began going to the home, or “hogar”, and helping out with every aspect of our trips; teaching volleyball, serving lunch and bringing friendship.

After a couple of months, the home received a new arrival. She was a two year-old girl who was rescued from the jungle after her mother died. When she arrived, she was severely malnourished, making her even smaller than a two year-old should be. The first time I saw her at the home, she raised her little arms up to me, as her tiny legs wobbled under her own weight. I was in love. Every time I visited after that, she would be waiting at the door to jump into my arms.

This was not my first experience with orphans. When my family and I lived in Shanghai, we fostered babies until they could find a forever home. During the last year of our time there, a one year-old baby arrived straight from the orphanage. He had severe physical handicaps: his elbow bones were fused together, he had half-thumbs, and a throat issue that made complex speech near impossible. We were only supposed to have him for three weeks. At the end of those three weeks, giving him up sounded crazy. By the time we left for Peru, we had him for over a year and a half. I expected the move to be hard, but I had no idea of the immense and overwhelming feeling of loss that would envelop me for months after we left.

Whether it was in China or Peru, I knew the emotional risk that I was putting on myself by being vulnerable. With that vulnerability sometimes came pain, heartbreak, and sadness. Through that pain, I got to experience a second family, and although it hurt to leave, it was worth it.  

 

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