Current Child Count

  • HOGAR DE AMOR I: 11 babies
  • HOGAR DE AMOR II: 6 boys
  • HOGAR DE AMOR III: 8 girls

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sunday lunch

On Sunday after church, the Mitchells and I met up with the Holman family for lunch. (A treat for me since it's the first time I've gone out for lunch after church in MONTHS, it's been THAT busy!)

We had such a handsome bunch of kids with us I just had to take their picture. Actually there were more, but this is the younger set. We got to the restaurant, a little hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop that I've passed over all these years living here, and said we need ALL your tables outside!

Always in motion!

One of my favorite things about living in Cochabamba is all the interesting people I get to meet, and the many different cultures and backgrounds and nationalities!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

love these faces

Since I've been unable to get together an entire post on our annual April park outing....

Here are a few pictures!

First complete group picture of all three homes where no one is crying, and twins and triplets are fairly close to each other. Ah, the small things in life! :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

In Jail

Wow, it's been 4 whole days since I last posted!! Friday, Saturday, and Sunday just flew by, each day was so packed. I was often out from the first hours of the day until midnight.

A big reason for the long hours was due to prep for Kids Day, which is today! I've been in several different countries on April 12 and it's always huge for the kids, although it seems to pass by without notice in the US? So anyway, as part of the leadership team of the young people at Cochabamba International Church (CIC), we decided to visit the woman's jail and take a program for the children living there with their mothers. Luis, a lawyer and current leader of the young people at CIC, has contacts "inside" (and I also know the social workers, thanks to him), so he arranged all the details. Juan Jose and I worked more on gathering and sorting donations and all of those details. A Christian radio requested donations of clothes and toys, and how people responded!

This is my dear car packed to the gills with donations:

Saturday night after our service we were very grateful for all the willing hands to help sort clothes for 125 children. It was a huge, huge project that was nearly overwhelming, but amazingly once we got going, it just took 1 1/2 hours to get clothes sorted into boy/girl/adult and mas o menos by sizes.

We lugged huge bags full of clothes all over. From Viva Bolivia's office - my car - church - church office - storage room - two different cars - to jail entrance - to be sorted through by police - to inside the salon - to another place inside the salon. Ugh, no wonder my legs and arms are still sore!

And here's where this post does have something to do with YOU, our donors. This suitcase that Saul, actually guitarist on my praise team at CIC, is unpacking was our contribution to the outreach:

Elena, Casa de Amor II volunteer, helped me out by gathering all the clothes that are too big for our current children. Many times when people write me offering donations, I mention that if we are unable to use something, it will be passed on to a worthy cause in Bolivia. The clothes that we had to donate were BEAUTIFUL and much of it brand new.

Then our afternoon in jail went well. I was in charge of the sound system and setting it up - yeah, that would be a first! - but amazingly it went well and Tia Eli's group from church did a good job giving the kids a good time in a tight, hot space. It was my first time in the woman's jail, but it was very similar to other jails for men that I've been in in Cochabamba. Sorry that there are no pictures, but obviously they are not permitted and even if they were I couldn't post them here. Let me just say that in a place that might be fit for 50 or 60 people to live, 188 woman are packed in like sardines. As if that weren't bad enough, they have 207 children amongst them, ages newborn to 12. A good percentage of those children live in children's homes or outside, but approximately 80 are full time at the jail. While it's nice that they can be with their mothers, the living conditions are rotten.

I was able to talk with the mother of a group of three siblings at the Baby Home, ex-street. Although I was glad for the opportunity, it was so hard to not just sit her down and share that her three beautiful, much loved children live with me. It was heartbreaking to realize again how young she is, how beautiful...and so sad and defeated by life. However I know that much has been sown into her in previous years, and I can only pray that she can somehow recall that truth and seek God to start life anew. We also hope that she doesn't return to their father, who as rumor has it, will be released from another jail soon.

PS - Some pictures from a special delivery this evening for Dia del Nino, thanks to the triplet's godmother Nataly!

After 19 kids had opened oreo cookie packages, the room smelled like a chocolate factory. Sure beats the alternative, I'll say!

I tried to get someone to share, saying we tias were once children, but no such luck. :)

Princess F on her throne!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It Takes a Village...

We've dealt with a lot of very interesting, difficult, unusual things in the Baby Home, but these triplets...well, they have been a whole new experience! I guess it's something to do with having three preemies at once and all the attention surrounding them. We've had multiple newborns before, even ones with health issues, but it wasn't quite as intense as this. Or maybe it's the fact that we have more staff, kids, everything since the last time we had so many babies.

That said, it has been an honor to witness the response from friends both here and abroad as they provide us support in all sorts of ways!

Below are a few I'd like to mention.

The triplet's "madrina" Nataly (godmother)

Once the triplets hit the news here, the first person to really step forward and offer a substantial amount of assistance was Nataly Veizaga, a 25 year old Cochabambina. Her family owns the bus station here, the Break & Donuts chain (the closest thing to US donuts in Cochabamba!), is building a huge supermarket center in La Cancha, and perhaps more. As the donated diapers, wet wipes, and formula runs out, Nataly is helping us with this expense. She also generously covered half the amount of the extremely high NICU bill for Victoria. And of course, baby #3 is named for her!

(As a side note: The first time she changed a diaper was here changing a triplet!)

Volunteer Melanie with twins Gabriel & Gabriela in October 2008

I know I've showed this picture a time or two already, and there really are others of Melanie, but since we're talking about multiples... Melanie has continued to play a part in Casa de Amor from afar even as she studied nursing. Shortly after the triplet's arrival, she stepped forward to be their first sponsor - for all THREE!

Amber giving Edgar a bottle in 2005

Another former (and repeat) volunteer, Amber, begged me to let her pay Victoria's hospital bill. Since Nataly had already paid half, Amber paid the other half (which was still substantial, believe me). And now Amber will probably be mortified that I mentioned this, but it's just so neat how everyone is pulling together that hopefully she'll forgive me. :)

Heather admiring her "new baby" A (our first micro preemie) in November 2008, right after she was realeased from the hospital. Heather cared for her around the clock for the next month or so.

Next, my sister Heather emailed me. Here's part of what she wrote:

Mom told me this morning about Victoria's hospital bill. And that Amber had offered to pay it. I was thinking earlier (before I heard about this) that I should give something... I haven't in the past because I've thought, "I give my time!" (replying to volunteers, donation list, and the checking account) so I've sent my missions money elsewhere. But it would be sad in the museum some day to have no record of a monetary donation from your dear sister.

Thanks, dear sister! And I'm sure you'd get special mention in the museum for all your investment of time.

Marcus and Wendy, medical students and bright eyed HOH volunteers. Even though HOH wasn't on the schedule a couple nights ago, Marcus asked to come help his last night in Bolivia.

Those who know us from the first earllyyyy days know that Casa de Amor started off as a ministry of Hospitals of Hope. (Get it? Hope, love...yep, I chose the name after reading that verse in I Corinthians 13.) Even though we're not with HOH anymore, we continue to collaborate and work together here in Bolivia. I mentioned to Iris, their volunteer coordinator, that if anyone would like to take overnight shifts with the triplets they were more than welcome.

HOH has come through and two or three times a week they send over two excited medical volunteers to work the night shift. This is a huge blessing because as I made April's schedule, I was about to break down and hire someone to work every other night, but now that's not necessary!

Baby Nataly receiving her IV treatment from her special cushion :)

Savannah, our volunteer and a nurse, has also been crucial to make all this work. For well over a week now, there have been 5 meds/day via IV for either Victoria or Nataly, so that would be a lot of trips into the clinic if we were not able to do it here (even though we've still gone multiple times...but that's another story!). Sav has worked around the clock making sure that they get the meds on time. I had fun (if I can put it that way) giving the meds too once she taught me how.

Tia Adelaida gave the triplets their first bath at the home (I love how it's "her thing"! I have so many pictures of her bathing our babies through the years.)

The tias also pitch in as they can, around their busy days caring for 20 others....

Tia Rosa (CDA adminstrator & social worker) taking a turn feeding one of the babies

...and even office staff! You should see Tio David carrying one or two on the days when the housekeeper needs in to clean their room, and we bring them all up to the office with us. He's even been spotted working on his computer while holding one.

Special mention also to Elena and Katrina who took night shifts the first couple of weeks even though they were also on nights with the kids of CDA II, and nights with the triplets are pretty intense!

Thanks to the concerted effort of everyone, the babies are growing quicker than anyone imagined and are doing very well.

Thanks to all!!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

adoption week, yeah!

We're having an exciting week here at the Baby Home! At long last, our first adoption out of the Baby Home since Rudy's early last year.

This is Day 2 of the adoption and C and parents are doing well. As for more details, well, the only thing better than experiencing the joys of the "Casas de Amor" firsthand is experiencing them...secondhand! Volunteer Savannah summed up our feelings of adoptions beautifully in her post "Meet the Parents!"

And since I am falling asleep sitting up because I had the triplet shift last night have a ton of work, I'll let you enjoy her post and great pictures!

Go, Texas!

Nela, one of our terrific stateside volunteers, sent me details from 2009 donations a while back.
She put together a complete list of everyone who donated in 2009 and I just now got to really study it.
Here's what it shows:

There were 192 separate Casa de Amor donors (invidividuals, churches, non-profits, etc.)

95 of the donations were from Texas

88 of the donations were from other states in the US

9 of the donations were international (UK, Australia, Spain, New Zealand, Switzerland)

That means that 49% of donors are still from my home state, Texas! Then 46% are from other states and 5% from abroad.
Keep in mind, this is not AMOUNT of donation, simply donor statistics.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Monday

We had a delightful Easter yesterday! Even with no transportation and no church, it was a very rich day just being at the Baby Home, involved in things here.

Enjoy the pictures, of our garden springing up flowers! :)

Does anyone else find our US tradition strange, of dressing up kids in Easter finery and then giving them chocolate to eat?? Although this twin isn't minding it one bit, ha!

Thanks to volunteer Savannah and her family for their amazing generosity towards our kids!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Happy Happy Easter!

Seriously, so much cuteness here!!!

A special thanks to baby F for loaning her dresses to the trips :)

But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said." Matthew 28:5-6

Happy Easter! ...and Voting Day

For those of us in Bolivia, this year political elections overshadow Easter. Quite the bummer, since use of vehicles is prohibited on election days. Also meetings of over 10 people are normally outlawed, as well as the sale of alcohol for 72 hours before, although this year a concession was made and religious meetings are allowed. Still, my church is not close and it's a complicated day to get staff members to and from the homes on time and successfully, so I won't get to go.

Since the days when my Dad lived here, we get authorization for a vehicle which is VERY helpful, especially when a lot of medical things are going on...which is definitely the case once again! David will stay busy all morning taking tias to and from the homes and the polls, and possibly to the clinic depending on how Nataly's IV cooperates.

Here’s my to do list for the day:

Be with the kids/triplets more (started off my day with them, pictures coming!)
Bake!!! I don't know what, but it will be yummy whatever it is...and must use ingredients on hand
Iron clothes
Pick up room (I've been a chinese laundry for 24 hours by now...since I went two weeks in between washes for lack of time, everything is too close together and isn't drying)
Learn more Italian words (tomorrow an Italian couple meets our little girl C, yeah!!)
Start catching up in my read-through-the-Bible in a year plan
Finish the book “Mercy Moves Mountains” by Nancy Alcorn
Try to reach the triplet's godmother again (she doesn't know that her namesake Nataly also got sick)
Print more triplet schedules
Make a chronological list of bridge birthdays
Bake something for Tuesday night's volunteer fellowship
Finish C’s album for her new family (I have about a year's worth of pictures to hunt through)
Look over my March personal expenses
Choose songs and think through the next song list for the praise team at church bridge friends really want me to come even with no transportation. They will be bored with no cars to wash and (I imagine) no visitors. I wonder how long it would take to walk the 4 ½ kilometers? If I don’t go, it will be the first time since mid-February that I miss a day.

So yeah, just a few things on the list, but this will be a RESTFUL day whatever I do!! I seriously need a quieter day.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

good news!

So happy to report that Nataly turned the corner very quickly and is already back with us! My favorite phrase this week, heard three times: tu bebe esta de alta (discharged). Music to my ears!

Even though it's a Saturday, I was very busy with meetings and errands and hospital visits all day (got to carry Tia Sarin's new baby Josue to their car as they left the hospital!), so just a quick note. I need to prepare Nataly's IV med right now, plus she's going to be hungry because the hospital put her on a slightly different schedule...THAT will be fun to change around!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I wish this were an April Fool's Joke

(But it wouldn't be a very nice one!)

I had to take Nataly (Triplet #3 and the next to smallest) into the hospital tonight and now she's admitted. Yeah.......the three are separated again. :(

Here's what happened: I got back to the Baby Home at 7:20pm and went right to work learning from Savannah everything to do with Victoria's 2 IV meds, since Savannah and Elena are hiking/camping out tonight with two Baby Home tias, something they have been planning to do for weeks now (tomorrow is a holiday, Viernes Santo). I first thought something was up when at 7:50, triplets 1 & 2 couldn't hold off anymore and I went ahead and gave them their milk, but triplet 3 wouldn't wake up for hers. As she often "wins" and gulps her milk down in just a few minutes flat, I found it odd. Then I nearly gasped to compare her coloring to the other two! She was white as a ghost compared to their rosy, almost red, cheeks. Those were the first two signs last Friday that something was wrong with Victoria: she went off milk and became very pale. I was really upset but was glad to see that she had no fever, was not vomiting, and I did finally get half the bottle down her after 50 minutes of work. I called their doctor and HE is sick, and another one is traveling, so after a few more minutes of agonizing and realizing that she was "complaining" a lot and her breathing wasn't quite right, I hurriedly told the night tias to keep an eye on the other two and ran her to the hospital.

So to bring everyone up to speed, Victoria (Triplet #2) was in the NICU from Friday evening until Tuesday morning, no clear diagnosis. Gabriel was in the pediatric hospital from Monday afternoon till Wednesday morning with viral bronchopneumonia. At least neither was in for extended amounts of time, but still, this is REALLY nuts. And that many of the staff and kids would be struggling with's tough. I'm grateful for several good nights of sleep in a row (besides the daily calls at daybreak) so that I'm not exhausted, but tomorrow might be a different story since I'm "on" tonight. Then tomorrow is packed from early on as I give Victoria IV meds at 6am and 7am, then begin the rounds of hospital visits* and street kid appointments I already had set, plus a church activity...although who knows what will actually get done now.

Staff member David asked the pediatrician a good question tonight as Nataly was admitted: if there's some way to head off this happening with Valentina. Although she definitely seems the strongest, they are falling one by one. The doctor said we could do some tests, but the problem is tomorrow is a holiday, then it's Saturday, then Sunday is voting day which means no transportation (although we have authorization for David's car). By the way, Tio David, our accountant but total jack-of-all-trades, stepped in and saved me when I was drowning - trying to be with Nataly in the ER and yet needing to get back for an IV med for Victoria, and then a feeding, and I was just really hungry because normally I finally have time to eat late but today things just intensified. He brought another tia to the hospital, ran back and forth as they asked for things, used a lot of phone credit in calling me to ask me questions from the doctors and nurses, and then parked my car while I finished up a feeding. I almost felt like my Dad was back! :)

David's birthday is on Saturday and we really wanted to do something big for him today, thinking that our only male staff member deserves it, but I'm sad to say it was just too hectic. We will try again on Saturday, because he will be here before going with me to a meeting (prep work for a huge team coming in July).

Thanks for ALL of your prayers!!

*We are in all sorts of clinics and hospitals frequently here, but this week has been an exaggeration, seriously! I've been to Los Olivos (triplets), Albina Patino Pediatric Hospital (Gabriel), German Urquidi Pediatric (Ana Maria), Clinica ProSalud (street friends), Caja Nacional de Salud (pregnant Tia Silvia, and tomorrow to visit Tia Sarin and her new baby, born today!), all but one of those multiple times, and now tomorrow will go to a new one for me, Clinica Cubano, to visit a street friend with other street friends. I love all the medical stuff, but would like it more if it didn't mean someone I know and love is sick or injured!