'Helping' at Hogar Belen

Trip Start Sep 21, 2009
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Trip End Apr 10, 2010


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Where I stayed
Hogar Belen

Flag of Argentina  , Buenos Aires,
Friday, October 23, 2009

Well after a couple more days in Buenos Aires we caught an overnight bus to Benito Juárez, a little town about 5-6 hours south. On arrival we were greeted at the bus station by Julia, who, with her husband, run a home for boys. We'd been given her contact details by Mr. Patrick and Mrs Ali who'd visited on a previous occasion. From her greeting you would have thought that we were long lost friends and instantly we were made to feel incredibly welcome. We were whisked off to the home and bedroom of her daughter and son-in-law where we caught up on the sleep we'd missed on the bus (they weren't in the bedroom at the time - so nothing to worry about). That afternoon she took us to the boys home where we were introduced to a few of the boys and shown around. From that moment on we were made to feel like family and are deeply grateful for their welcome and hospitality.

We spent the next few days helping out as much as our limited spanish would allow. We were moved from the house in town to a bedroom in the home where we stayed for the rest of our visit. One thing that we were very grateful of was the opportunity to talk with people who were willing to spend time trying to work out what on earth we were trying to say. Chirades was turned into a finely crafted art! We taught a few of the boys card games, half of the fun of which was trying to explain the rules, and they absolutely loved the 1-100 dice game - we are now official exporters! When possible we helped out with the gardening project they had on site, and on Sunday went to their church meeting which was also an exercise in Spanish comprehension. On the Monday after we arrived Julia, Roberto (her husband), and one of their daughters took us to Tandil, Benito Juárez's nearest town located about 70km away. We bought them a hearty and very filling lunch including steak which amounted to a whopping grand total of about 30 pounds for all of us! They also took us to this nature reserve type thingy which had these huge balancing rocks. We returned to the home that evening after being introduced to yet more of Julia's family (she has 7 children in all).

The home itself houses about 30 or so boys who either have no parents or whose parents are abusive or considered unsuitable. They range in age from about 6-18yrs. One of the boys, Cristian, reminded us so much of Larry it was ridiculous. I think I can safely say that Julia and her family, who help out a lot at the home, have truly been inspirational. They have sacrificed so much and in many ways are working against the odds. They're in desperate need of more help, particularly with the older boys, and yet we got a real sense of hope from them. They are even thinking of setting up a girls home nearby that can be run with a similar, Christ centred philosophy that believes that people can change - the damage done to innocent children by a broken world can be reversed, destructive cycles can be broken, redemption is possible. Anyway ... I could write a lot more about the family but will refrain.

One evening, while we were sat in the kitchen feeding a couple of the youngest children, the serenity was harshly interupted by frenzied knocking on the door. The door was opened and then quickly slammed shut as one of the older boys bundled inside in a state of terror. He was being chased by another one of the boys weilding what appeared to be a knife. The chaser soon appeared at the window and in a fit of rage managed to kick a hole in the door. The young children were hurriedly escorted from the kitchen and Roberto exited the back door to try to calm the chaser down. Several moments of tension passed but as it turned out, the chasers alcohol fuelled frenzy had blinded him to the fact that he was merely weilding a blunt piece of kitchen equipment - not a knife. The row between him and the boy he had pursued to the kitchen apparently found it's root in a dispute over drugs. We had very abruptly been brought face to face with yet another struggle facing the boys home. More admiration for Julia, Roberto and family. Anyway ...  

We were sad to have to leave them and would love the opportunity to return at another time - maybe with some extra help - we'll see.

We returned to Buenos Aires via overnight bus and caught a plane, after a 6 hour wait at the airport, to Calafate, right to the south of Argentina. See you there ...
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