By: Tina Qu (Grade 11) and Juliette McLevy (Grade 8)
Come learn more about one of the most loving clubs at WPGA!
Have you noticed the recent llama craze going on around the school, or bought caf cookies from concession stands at basketball games, or passed by classrooms at lunch filled with senior school students talking, laughing, stuffing stockings, making signs in Spanish, and Skyping? What you’ve seen is the Hogar de Gina club at work!
Hogar de Gina is a girls’ shelter located just outside of Lima, Peru, where Ms. Rosen used to live and work. It’s home to girls of all ages whose families are unable to take care of them for a multitude of reasons. When Ms. Rosen came to WPGA, she gathered a group of 25 students here, and matched them one to one to correspond with the girls there. Now, they exchange pen pal letters, send small trinkets and gifts, and hold concession stands to raise money to provide the girls with various fun experiences. Their latest fundraiser allowed them to send the girls to the beach for Valentine’s Day, which was, according to club member Julia Soeller, “very exciting because it was some of the girls’ first time going to the beach!” With this article, we’d like to raise awareness around our school about our Hogar de Gina club and its generosity towards the girls in Peru.
Hogar de Gina was given its current name to commemorate a young girl. Gina was five years old and living at a government-run orphanage when she passed away in an accident while fetching water from a well. The death of this sweet girl shocked everyone, and two Dutch tourist-volunteers decided to open a family-style home named to honour her; Hogar de Gina means “Home of Gina.”
The current house mom, Rocio, came to Hogar de Gina as a short-term translator. After visiting the shelter (which was not Hogar de Gina at the time) and seeing the conditions the girls were living in, she felt an urge to help. At first, she was only a volunteer involved in translation, but soon she requested a full-time position in the home to provide aid to the girls in any way she could.
When it comes to the day to day life of these young girls, it is fascinating to get an inside view of their standard daily schedule. To start, they wake up at 5:30 AM every morning to get ready for school. Routinely, one of the older girls prepares breakfast for over 20 girls, before they all walk to school. Luckily, the school they attend is walking distance from their home. After school, they come home, put their uniforms in the wash, and proceed to do their chores. In the home, they divide up the chores so that the older girls complete the more labor-intensive tasks such as laundry and cleaning the bathroom, while the younger girls receive easier jobs. For instance, the youngest girl in Hogar de Gina, a four-year-old named Dulce, is in charge of setting the table. “Even the young ones try their best to do their chores on their own,” recounts Rocio. Finally, when they are done with their chores, they go to the classroom in Hogar de Gina to do their homework. Rocio tells us that in school, “all the girls have really good grades!” They are all exceptionally proud of two students who were top of their class recently and received honours certificates. Another girl received a scholarship from an American university, and all of the younger ones look up to her.
Fortunately, we had the chance to interview some of the girls in the Hogar de Gina club and their penpals, all of whom are extremely sweet. Rosario, Julia Soeller’s friend, is about six years old and has been at the shelter for a year and three months. She’s considered new to Hogar de Gina since many have been there their whole lives. According to Julia, Rosario is “such a sweet kid.” Rosario is deaf, which means that she and Julia have had to come up with a different way to communicate. “Whenever we’re talking, we just smile and hold up the “love” sign in sign language,” says Julia. “And we do that for minutes on end.” Julia would love to learn sign language, but “it’s a little more difficult because the Spanish sign language is different from the American one.” Julia says that it’s important to keep an open mind due to the language barrier. Nevertheless, it’s clear to say that their relationship is adorable!
Brithany, Natassia Wong’s buddy, is eight years old. She likes to dance and play volleyball, and her favourite colour is pretty much any colour but pink, which Natassia learned through her letters. According to her, “the letters are always in Spanish and it’s a lot of work trying to understand, but it’s worth it.”
Finally, Katy, Maya Singhal’s friend, is one of the older girls of the group. She’s 18 years old, and has been at the home since she was 7. She’s currently at university studying psychology. Katy and Maya have an extremely close relationship, and Maya’s support and love has helped get Katy through some difficult moments, including when their previous house mom, an incredible woman named Judith whom the older girls considered like a real mother, passed away unexpectedly last year after a heart attack.
Hogar de Gina’s most recent initiative involves selling llama keychains for $5-10 in order to help buy the girls new school uniforms, a huge expense for them but a mandatory requirement at the poorest public schools in Peru. The girls worked incredibly hard on sewing the llamas and even the younger ones, who were at first afraid of pricking themselves, contributed. Although the embroidery isn’t perfect, and some of the faces look adorably goofy, the llamas clearly embody a lot of love. If you’re interested in supporting the girls, feel free to contact Ms. Rosen or come to the llama keychain sale on March 30th at break in the lobby!
Lastly, with the arrival of new girls and the upcoming graduation of our senior students, the Hogar de Gina club is open to accepting members! Keep in mind that you will be making a firm commitment to a young girl, but you will also be joining a very warm and accepting community. Please get in touch with Ms. Rosen or any other club member if you have any questions, or if you would like to join!