This is my second trip to the Liberty Children's Home in Belize. The last time I visited was in 2013, but it was only for a few hours. This time I stayed at the children's home for 5 days. During those 5 days, I got the chance to play, talk and eat with the children. It was a privilege for me to get the opportunity to go to Belize and hang out with these wonderful kids. Despite what they've been through, they are happy kids and they're so polite and friendly. They like our company and they enjoy spending time with us as much as I enjoy spending time with them.
Not much has changed since my first trip to Belize. The orphanage was just as I remember it with the exception of the new transitional dorm that was built by the MaidProCares team during their 2015 trip. I was excited to see the kids and nervous at the same time. My favorite part of the trip is that I got to spend a lot of time with them; to get to know the kids more and to create a deep bond with some of them. To see their eyes light up and their smiles when they talk to you is a type of feeling you can't describe in words. It was delightful and sad at the same time because I knew in a few days I had to go home, and to leave them.
One of my fondest memories of the trip is when we celebrated Kelsy's birthday; a girl with a beautiful voice. She was surprised; touched and happy. Our group was touched to see her overwhelmed with happiness that brought her to tears. It was just a simple happy birthday song accompanied with a small piece of cake with one candle but it still felt like a big party and celebration for me. It was a lovely & memorable moment for all of us.
A funny memory from the trip was when one of the girls, Kaylan, said: "You were here before, weren't you?!" "Yes, you remember me?" I replied. "You were smaller when you were here before," she commented. I laughed hard after her comment and was touched at the same time. It is a fact that I gained some weight since my last visit which means that she truly remembers me from 3 years ago.
This trip was not an easy trip. The heat that almost made me faint. The humidity. The insect bites that were so itchy for days. The limited food was definitely a big adjustment for all of the volunteers. Without hesitation, I would do it all over again, just to see the kids again.
The hardest part for me is when I had to say good bye to the children. Prior to my arrival to the orphanage, I warned myself to not get too attached. But in the end, I couldn't help but let my guard down around them. I thought I did so well hiding my emotions in front of these kids until I had to say goodbye on the last day. As soon as I hugged one of them, tears ran down my face. I remember seeing this lovely girl's face, Jahrefa, looking back at me with a "why are you crying?" look. I looked at her trying to communicate back with my sad eyes, "I don't know why I am crying and I'm supposed to be the strong one here." I had to walk away to wash my face so that the other kids wouldn't see me cry. I told myself that they need to see me smiling instead of crying. Smile as if I will see you again soon instead of tears as if this is a goodbye forever.
Prior to this trip I always told people we go to Belize to help the kids and to build things around the orphanage. After this trip, I now know those kids are actually the ones helping me. They boosted my spirit to new levels and have helped me gain perspective about my own life. It was hard for me to say goodbye to them. I didn't want to leave them, but I was ready to come home too; to come home to my sons to hug them so tight and tell them that I love them so much. Meeting these kids makes me appreciate what I have so much more than before. They taught me that life has so much to offer if we remember to look beyond ourselves. Help others who need help and they will help you in ways you couldn't even imagine.