By Julia Bohnen (’24)
Though Vancouver, Canada and Chosica, Peru are over 5000 miles apart, the connections made through the Hogar de Gina club know no boundaries. One mile for every one of the lives Hogar de Gina has touched.
Hogar de Gina is a girls’ shelter found just outside of Lima, Peru, where Ms. Rosen used to live and work. Hogar de Gina, meaning “Gina’s Place,” is home to girls of all ages whose families are unable to take care of them and who often come from difficult pasts. While most of the girls aren’t related by blood, they consider each other sisters. WPGA’s Hogar de Gina club was started by Ms. Rosen when she came to the school, and since then, has had an amazing impact on our members and on the girls at the shelter.
When asked about how the club began, Ms. Rosen recounts, “I started the club the year I arrived at the school. That year for Thanksgiving, we had an assembly with the theme of ‘gratitude’ and I was invited to be one of the speakers. My claim was that I have gratitude for heartbreak and I shared stories about the foster children we raised in China and how I swore when we left that I would never let my heart be shattered the way it was for leaving our last little boy. And then I met the girls at Hogar de Gina… and I realized with a shock that my heart would be broken again… But I also came to accept that it was worth paying the price if I got to love so much and so hard along the way. Many students approached me after that assembly to say how honored they were to hear my stories and they wondered if there was any way they could become a part of that experience. And the club was born!”
To begin with, a group of 25 WPGA students were matched as pen pals from Hogar de Gina. In past years, members have exchanged letters, sent small trinkets and gifts and held concession stands to raise money to send the girls on various fun outings. This year, even with COVID, we’ve still managed to send them photos of our letters through email, we’ve held various Zoom calls to do everything from play Bingo to simply say hi, and, through a generous donation from a club member, we were able to send each of them a Christmas gift through Amazon (delivered by our Peruvian Santa Clause, of course)!
Since June, we have also been hosting weekly English lessons with the girls at HdG. We work on games and grammar concepts depending on the English abilities of the girls we are teaching that week. English lessons have brought us closer than ever and we feel a tremendous connection beyond just that between tutors and students. Many of our club members even connect with girls from the home outside of the weekly lessons because their relationships are so strong.
Especially this year, our weekly English lessons have provided us with a sense of normalcy, an uncommon and welcome feeling during the pandemic. The lessons help the girls learn, and they also help us. Despite all the uncertainty we face right now, smiles and love are always guaranteed from our special friends at Hogar de Gina. No hour of English lessons ends without countless refrains of “We love you!”, “Does the class have to be over?”, “It’s too short!” and “More time please!”
Working with the girls at HdG reminds us of what we all already know. What we give brings us much more joy than anything we could get. The friendship and sense of community we have created is priceless. What an amazing experience it is to have friends across the world.