I am trying to write a bit of a guideline for the other volunteers to use when they get here because I felt so lost when I arrived:


Routine at Hogar de las Estrellas

In general, go with a lot of enthusiasm and initiative, because you may or may not have guidance, depending on how many women are working each day.  Cezar is the wonderful young man, who was once a resident of the orphanage, and now is the official cook for the main meal of the day, lunch.  He is usually in the kitchen preparing lunch when we get there.  He cannot hear at all, but reads lips and uses sign and body language to communicate with the women and children. He’s super good with the kids and plays and jokes with them frequently.  Dani, Serena, and Tanira apparently do not attend school, and are home when we get there.  Tanira is the little “mother” for them all as she watches each of them closely and lets you know if something is not right.  The majority of the children come home at about 1:30 from school, and the routine goes something like this:
1.  CHANGE OUT OF SCHOOL CLOTHES:   Many of the girls in the downstairs bedroom (watch your head as you go in and out of doorways) need physical or at least verbal assistance with this task.  And so did I, because I never seemed to be able to figure out which clothes to put on whom.  Your best bet is to ask, but if you are not given guidance, find something that looks like it fits and try.  Socks and unders are in the little drawers outside the downstairs bedroom door.
Katy and Candy can pretty much dress themselves, and will choose their own clothes, and will also give occasional pointers regarding which “chompa” or sweater goes on whom.  Teo, Yessica, Yenni, and Pilar are capable, but need lots of verbal cues and encouragement to get the correct clothing item on the correct part of the body and going the right direction.  Yenni is actually injured at the time of this writing, and is needing full assist for everything right now.  Mayde, Betsy, and Tiki need full assist, and will frequently be the first ones to have showers when they get home from school. Mayde wears a diaper to school, but not at home.  Paloma, Marilia, Carmen Luz, and Yolanda (when she gets home a bit later with Joel) all go upstairs and get themselves dressed and ready for the next step in the structured chaos.
The boys are supervised by one of the women who work there, and Edwin and Leo frequently get showers immediately upon returning home from school.  Pablo is pretty self-sufficient, but easily distractable, needs frequent redirection and verbal cues, and lots of hugs.  :-).  Fabio has not been at the orphanage regularly since I was there, and is currently staying with his mother, I am told.
2.  WASH HANDS:   Everybody, except those getting their baths that morning or when they arrive home from school, has to wash hands and face before lunch.  The trick is to corral one or two at a time and take them to the big wash basin near the laundry and to use soap to wash hands and faces, and grab an almost-dry towel off the clothes line for drying.  Then each child knows that they are to go to the dining area to sit and wait for lunch.  They are so amazing and will wait patiently in their respective places for quite a while during preparation of the food and Cezar bringing it in and dishing up.  You can help Cezar to bring the dishes, cups, and spoons, and sometimes the food.  Or you can help with keeping the children occupied and entertained in the dining area, while they are waiting for their lunch.  And sometimes help is needed in corralling a few reluctant stragglers to the dinner tables.
Dani is ambulatory and does best when left to be independent in getting himself to the lunch table if you let him know it’s lunchtime.  He has figured out how to negotiate the stairs and usually is able to get himself around well, when he wants to.  He unfortunately can be quite combative and/or self destructive and will bang his head on the stone floor or walls when frustrated, as he is basically non-verbal.  He uses an apron as a bib, and may need some encouragement to remain seated when he gets bored with his food, but is pretty self-sufficient with a spoon.  He is the first one to the toilet following the meal.
3.   EAT LUNCH:   One of the children will say a prayer blessing the food, the caregivers, and volunteers, and many other things, and then it is time to eat.  Cezar dishes up and the plates need to be distributed to the children.  Dani and Serena both get a bowl and spoon vs fork, as they are unable to use forks well.  Edwin also gets a bowl frequently.  If there is a question about who gets a bowl vs plate, ask Cezar.  He will provide guidance, and usually watches the kids to see who needs what, and gives seconds to some of them too.  The caregivers and volunteers are invited to eat too.  When the food is nearly gone, it’s time to pour the “juice” or tea or whatever the liquid in the pitcher happens to be that day, and distribute to the kids.
All of the children are instructed to stay seated until everyone is finished eating, and then they are to clear their own plates, if they are able to do so.  Volunteers can help with clearing the plates that are left, helping Cezar take the large pots back to the kitchen, and with the toothbrushing line-up.  Also, all tables and chairs need to be wiped down, and the floors swept and mopped.  The line-up of which children have which duties following the meal is written on the exterior wall near the kitchen.  Betsy, Mayde, Pilar, Tanira, Yenni, Tiki, and Yesica head straight to the restroom following their meal.  And several others will follow after brushing their teeth.
4.  BRUSH TEETH:   Everyone needs to brush their teeth following the meal, and they frequently know which toothbrush is theirs;  frequently, not all the time.  Names are scratched into the plastic on the “sepios”, or toothbrushes. And you can assist by finding correct toothbrushes, and putting toothpaste on them, as well as providing maximum encouragement and guidance for the toothbrushing process.  Mayde, Betsy, Tiki, Marilia, and Yenni all need physical help with the brushing and getting their faces cleaned afterward.  They all frequently could use some physical assist to ensure thoroughness.
After teeth are all brushed and toileting, and possibly more bathing, are complete, usually by the caregivers, then it’s time for the activity stations and homework.  Yolanda and Joel almost always have homework that they need quite a bit of assist with and monitoring for.  Several of the other kids will have homework too, and then sometimes others just want to be involved in the writing or drawing, or the projects that are going on at the homework tables.  Yolanda, Candy, Katy, and Paloma are high functioning with their homework and most frequently just need close monitoring for distractions.  Joel has a lot of writing tasks, and is so easily distractable, he needs quite a lot of assistance, sometimes hand-over-hand.

The other activity “stations” may include, but are not limited to:  drawing, painting, play dough, puzzles, jewelry making (that they sell at special functions in the town), and a few of the kids do their own thing, either sitting quietly on one of the sofas in the dining area, or playing outside.  Dani
can usually be found sitting quietly with a toy or container, and frequently gets himself up and around to observe what the other children are doing.  Tiki and Edwin are similar with autistic traits and are able to sit somewhat quietly with a self initiated repetitive activity.
The kids love music, love dancing, and really love individual attention.  They are generally healthy and very affectionate, with much hugging throughout the day.  Yesterday I was given a bracelet and some earrings that they have made as a token of their gratitude for me being there for just these three weeks.  They are so appreciative of all of the help from volunteers, and we are always named in their before-meal prayers.  It will be tough to leave them for the last time on Friday.

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