Back in March, I reached out to my Facebook network and asked everyone to donate whatever they could to a trip that I was taking to Mexico. Instead of using the $1200+ that you graciously donated and hitting up the resorts of Cabo or entering a wet t-shirt contest at Papas and Beer, I took my talents South to Baja where I spent two days with three different orphanages.
The first of these orphanages was Casa Eben-Ezer in Tijuana. I went on this trip as Change Fire’s photographer, the non-profit that organizes these trips. It was extremely touching for me to see such a huge group of kids filled with so much genuine love and respect for one another. These kids have next to nothing in terms of material possessions but you’d never know it considering how happy they all were.
As I paid close attention, never once did I notice any bickering, yelling, or fighting. If one kid got his or her hands on your iPhone, you wouldn’t see it again until the end of the day but you knew that it’d be safe and that it’d get returned. They took turns playing with it. They understood what it meant to share with one another! They laughed, they smiled, they loved each other. When it was lunch time, they all lined up to go wash their hands before eating. They all bowed their hands and prayed before even touching their utensils. When you visited their rooms which housed upwards of 10 kids, everything seemed to have its place. Nothing was out of order, from the decorations on their walls to their expertly folded shirts that rivaled that of any department store. These kids who had next to nothing were well-behaved, respectful, and disciplined… more so than any group of kids I’ve met here in the good ol’ US of A who literally have and are given nearly anything and everything they want. Makes you wonder sometimes…
I listened to heart-wrenching stories about how the kids ended up at the orphanage but by the smiles and excitement on their faces, you’d never know what they each went through. Girls who were sold into prostitution before reaching their teens. Drugs. Violence. Poverty. None of these things surprised me but I was taken aback nonetheless because we all hear and read stories like that all the time but to laugh and hug and eat and play with these kids who actually experienced such hardships… it really puts you in check.
The second orphanage we visited that day was Casa de Paz. This particular orphanage tugged on my heart strings a little more than the last because there were a lot of special needs kids who lived there. And again, nothing but happiness when we arrived! The people who run Casa de Paz are seeking to raise funds to further develop their organic farm where all the produce is sold to help feed and maintain the orphanage. I hope y’all know that all the money you donated is going to legit and worthy causes. By helping Casa de Paz cultivate a program where they are generating their own money, we are empowering them by teaching them “how to fish”.
The last of the three orphanages we visited was Sion. If I had to choose a favorite of the three, Sion would be it merely for the fact that there was a room full of the cutest newborn babies. Due to my camera breaking the night before as I was enjoying some amazing guacamole and chips while being serenaded by a super legit Mexican cover band at the La Fonda Hotel, I had to resort to shooting all these photos with an iPhone.
The non-profit that organized this trip, Change Fire, plans trips to these orphanages all the time. Their next trip is this weekend and though it’s probably too late for you to join them, there will undoubtedly be more trips in the future so I encourage you to “Like” their page on Facebook to keep yourself in the loop with their next trip. Over the course of two days, you’ll visit three orphanages and spend one amazing night eating and dancing at the La Fonda Hotel. You’ll be doing a good deed and you will meet amazing volunteers but more importantly, you will be spending time with beautiful children who will truly show you how to appreciate life, love, and laughter. We often complain about the most petty of things here in America when we have so much more than these kids will ever have in their lifetime. I definitely came back with a renewed mindset and I wish everyone could have experienced what I did that weekend.
I want to thank everyone who donated funds to this trip. There were so many of you who graciously donated money to me who I haven’t seen in many, many years! I cannot thank you enough and I can only promise you that all the money is going to a good cause. I said that I would raffle off a photoshoot to one person who donated to my trip. Using random.org, the winner is Brandon Kamigaki! I’ll have to fly out to Hawaii for you to collect on your shoot brotha!