Our most commonly used phrase as a family must be “Never a dull moment!" With 36 babies, 18 full time staff members, and any number of volunteers of any age at once, well—that’s a lot of people to be responsible for! Friday night was no exeption…
Let me begin by explaining that the family who manages CDA III was taking their weekend off. In fact this time, while we had volunteers available to help, we encouraged them to take a few days off for a trip (Friday--Sunday). On Friday, I began the day at 8am with a staff meeting at the Baby Home and was busy until 8pm. As my Dad pointed out, I’d just worked half a day by this point. Well if you put it THAT way…
At 9pm, we were just finishing a casual dinner on the couch as I caught my family up on the day. I hadn’t even had a chance to think about what I’d do next when my cell rang. It was one of the two sisters watching the 6 kids (ages 1 month—5 years) at CDA III. I expected anything but what she actually said: "Is it normal for people to burn their trees here?" To burn, yes, but TREES? She said yeah, and it's approaching the back property. I started noted the concern in her voice and sat up straight. At that moment she started almost yelling "Oh, no, it's getting really high and really close. We're just leaving with the kids, okay?"
We sprang into action, racing out the door and speeding to the home, some 20 minutes away. The trip had never seemed so long! While we drove I called the administrator and asked what we should do. She said she'd call the fire fighters, just in case. I called the girls back on their cell phone and they said they were still at the house, just monitoring it from the treehouse in the backyard. At intersections, Emma sounded our siren (her voice!).
As we approached km 11 I started trying to spot the fire--and did! There were high, shooting flames and lots of sparks. All that appeared to be on fire were trees. As we turned the corner to go to the house, Emma and I saw a fire truck (literally just a big truck with guys in the back) and lots of people in the road behind us.
All of a sudden it was frightening as we got closer to the house. People had just started to stream out of the convention center that's on the same country road, and there were other people running on the road--some to see the fire, some to head the opposite direction. About the time we realized the fire truck was right behind us and we needed to get out of the way, I noticed that Dad was about to run over a group of refugee children--ours! We pulled over and they threw the babies into my lap and started lifting in the others, if just to get them out of the way of the panicked people, bikes, trucks, cars, etc., suddenly on the road.
After a few minutes we decided to go inside and grab baby Victoria's new formula and some more valuable items. Observing the proximity of the fire to their home, I kept recalling the story a couple of lawyers had told me just two nights before. They had watched an apartment burn down in a nice building, right across from their office, as fire fighters watched helpless from the ground. We were relieved that the fire fighters had arrived, but I didn't know how much confidence to have in their efforts. Dad said they had leaked water all down the road on their way, and they didn't even have a siren. My second thought was "this can NOT be happening while both the owners AND renters are gone!!"
As I came out with the laptop and kids' files, I nearly ran into Rosa (CDA's administrator). She had come with her family to help! When she called and they said a fire truck was already on the way, they were concerned and came to help us.
Rosa went in to get a change of clothes for the kids and I started deciding how to divide the kids between the other two homes for the night. Dad and Emma were watching the progress of the fire fighters, along with a large group of neighbors. The kids had been asking questions or crying on and off, so I started reassuring them and calming them down in Spanish. As we kept kind of waiting around and seeing what would happen, the fire fighters got the fire out, yeah!
Charity and Chantelle, the volunteers on duty, asked if they had overreacted by calling us. We said absolutely not! The entire area had come out of their homes to watch and it was kind of hectic there for a minute, not knowing what would happen. The girls were troopers and said they preferred to stay there for the night, so we unloaded the kids and babies and started the process of getting them to bed. Of course, tiny Victoria had stayed asleep through the whole thing. Baby Alejandra went right to sleep without a peep. The older kids were another story: Mayra and Marcus have bad memories of fires, so we had to take them to the back windows and prove there was now no fire and then they were fine. Poor things! Luis was just wound up, although that's a rather common state for him now that I think about it. Rosa got Noemi to bed easily. The next day, the two volunteers were flying home to Canada (what a way to spend their last night in Bolivia!).
We're so grateful that nothing happened and that everyone pulled together to help on a definitely-not-dull-Friday-night.
Adios, Shana and Hillary - Thanks to Carla Booher for the blog! :) Wednesday night we had a "going away" party for two of our volunteers. Shana is from Texas and has been touring...
2 years ago