Hogar Para Todos


Location: Neighboring city of Azogues


Hogar Para Todos “A Home for All” is the name of this orphanage but we call it HPT.  This orphanage is for children generally ages from infant to early teens.  This home was started by the sweetest women, Nancy.  She opened her own home up to a few children who needed one and her home grew and grew until it became this “home for all”.


What your journal entry may read like after a shift here: Dear Diary, we were a little worried when we arrived because we saw the tias (the workers) picking lice out of the girls’ hair, but the directors said that as long as we keep our hair up and avoid playing with their hair, we’d be fine.  Most the volunteers were pretty worried about it, but I tried really hard not to.  First, we tried to play outside with a big beach ball and the clothing wire as a net.  It started sprinkling so we figured that was a good time to go inside.  We all split up.  It was a little crazy because of how small the main room is and how many kids, but everyone was busy doing something.  Some volunteers brought Phase 10, Set and Uno cards.  The kids love playing cards.  Some of the old girls just wanted to paint nails.  I helped for a little while but the other volunteers can paint nails better than me so I went and started a craft that I brought.  Since it’s Halloween next week I brought things to make little spiders with foam, googly eyes and pipe cleaners.  Maybe I should have watched the hot glue gun because they used up like a million sticks of hot glue.  They loved it though.  Throughout the 2 hours, different kids kept coming up to make spiders and a lot of the kids started getting super creative and making their own little creatures and guys.  Even though my craft seemed a little too simple for the older kids, they seemed to still like it.  I think they just enjoy the entertainment and the company.  I’m so glad we get to come here and spend time with these kids even though they’re a little crazy.

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Location: Neighboring city of Azogues

Remar is an orphanage run by a Christian group. There are various young adults that live there and work there taking care of the children.  They call them tias and tios (aunts & uncles). There are 20-40 children who live here. Remar’s other missions include providing drug and alcohol rehabilitation to poorer people in the area and providing a home for young single mothers. As a result, many of the children living at Remar have alcoholic or drug-addicted parents and some of the older girls have children of their own.

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All of the children have responsibilities and chores that they help out with to keep the house running smoothly. Every other Saturday morning we have the opportunity to visit these kids and sometimes we help them with chores, projects around the house or homework.


What your journal entry may read like after a shift here: Dear Diary, usually we play cards or make a craft with the little kids, but today they were finishing their Saturday chores.  We brought some donations including new dust pans and brooms to help out.  The place seems kind of dirty, but the kids seem content.  Just before we left, they started making crepes with jam.  The girls cooking and the tias there brought us each a crepe.  It was really sweet.  Next week, hopefully it’s not raining so we can go outside and play volleyball or frisbee or something in the yard.


Hogar Miguel Leon


Location: Near the center of Cuenca


Hogar Miguel León (HML) is an orphanage run by Catholic nuns for about 30-50 girls (and many of their brothers too!). You have to remember that instead of a foster care system, when children are removed from their homes and families, they go into orphanages. Therefore, every child has a different story and most have difficult backgrounds. Many of the kids have the opportunity to visit parents, aunts and uncles or grandparents during holidays and vacation times.  Most volunteers find that HML is one of the most rewarding places to serve.  Luckily we get to come here twice a week during the evenings.  It’s near the center of Cuenca about 30 minutes from OSSO and as soon as you walk in the children gather around you and holler your name if they’ve met you before.

The orphanage itself includes various buildings including an orphanage for the children, a rest home for older individuals and an old hospital. The ages of the children range from four to eighteen years old. Most of them attend school; this includes Primaria (Kindergarten, Middle School, Junior High) or Colegio (High School).


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What your journal entry may read like after a shift here: Dear Diary, HML never fails to improve my day.  Mondays and Thursdays are always long, but during the 30min ride home from HML I never regret having gone.  Those girls are so sweet and loving.  I think it may be my favorite place to go.  Today was a craft night.  One of the other volunteers was in charge of the activity.  I’m in charge of Thursday’s activity which are outdoor activities.  I’m thinking maybe musical chairs? Today instead of making a craft, we made chocolate banana smoothies.  We split into stations to do it.  The kids loved it! They soaked it up and they then ate it up.  After making smoothies we had some time.  I tried to chat with some of the girls.  They kept asking me if I had a boyfriend.  They try to say it in English.  At first, I had no idea what they were trying to say and then I understood them.  I’m going to miss these girls.  I wish we could somehow stay in touch or get a picture with them, but I don’t think that’s possible.  Can’t wait till Thursday to go to HML again!


Los Pequenitos de OSSO


Location: Home

Los Pequeñitos de OSSO which means OSSO’s Little Ones is the only orphanage actually owned by OSSO.  We call it OSSO for short. It’s currently the home of 21 children although some of the “children” range to 28 years old.  Because some of the children here at OSSO are severely handicapped, they live their entire lives here. This is the main site that we work at in Cuenca and we live here too!



There are currently 2 casas (houses) at OSSO: Casa Alegría (House of Joy) and Casa Milagros (House of Miracles).  Casa Milagros is downstairs and is a mix of older children with special needs and one younger child that goes to school each day.  Casa Alegria has younger children and some older children, all with special needs. Each casa has six bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen/dining area. Here at OSSO we have a large outdoor space to play soccer, go on walks around the orphanage and a balcony where the kids in Casa Alegría like to hang out.  We also have a room called Sala Girasol (The Sunflower Room) where we do activities when it’s raining, have movie nights and other activities.



Volunteers sometimes find it difficult to find meaningful activities for these kids here at OSSO because of their severe handicaps.  Remember that almost every activity can be modified for children in wheelchairs.  Just being with them, singing to them, reading to them and hold their hand can make a difference.



What your journal entry may read like after a shift here: Dear Diary, the weather is so bipolar here.  This morning it was sunny and beautiful and then just before my afternoon shift at Casa Milagros it got supper dark and just started dumping rain.  Hence the movie in the afternoon shift.  We’re only allowed 2 movies a week so I’m glad we saved it for today’s rainy day.  The directors say it’s the rainy season so I guess it’ll be like this the entire time I’m here.  At least it’s sunny in the morning.  The boys in OSSO M absolutely loved watching Thor.  I swear they’ve seen it like 3 times in the last month, but they still jump at the loud moments and love it!  After the movie we headed in for dinner.  We put bibs on a bunch of them and I asked if E’s food was ready.  Although sometimes he’ll spit up food on me suddenly and he knocked the entire bowl of food on me my first day here, I think he’s the easiest to feed and he loves eating.  At least he doesn’t sneeze it all over me like R does sometimes, haha.  When I first got here, feeding the kids was one of the grossest things to me.  To be honest, it used to make me gag, but it’s so normal now and I’m used to it.  Now it’s just another daily thing that we help the tias with (we call all the workers tias like auntie in Spanish, I think it’s endearing).  After dinner we just got some of them into their beds after brushing their teeth.  Speaking of brushing their teeth, this morning I had the lovely opportunity of brushing C’s teeth.  I literally had to ask my friend to come over and help me hold his arms down and his head still.  I still feel awkward having to hold him down and force a toothbrush into his month, but I guess it gets the job done.  This morning was in OSSO A.  I helped shower the kids by taking their socks off and putting them in the laundry sink, then carrying them to the bathroom with the tia.  They did the bathing but I helped put on deodorant and dress the kids afterwards.  It’s become pretty second nature now that I’ve been here so long, but at first it was hard to know what the tias wanted me to do.    After showering, I decided to work on physical therapy with some of the kids.  I brought the binder down from the volunteer house and I worked with Little B on his sign language.  He’s doing really well.  I also did S’s therapy which always seems awkward because of how contorted his body and bones are.  It’s nice to spend one-on-one time with the kids doing therapies though.  We had some activity time so we painted trees with dot paints outside.  Lunch came faster than normal I feel like and we brought them back upstairs and feed them soup and juice.  Just when you think you’re done, they hand you a glass of juice to feed to them with a spoon.  After that we headed back up to the volunteer house and ate lunch.  Catalina (our cook) made us delicious potato soup, chicken and of course more rice.  For dinner we all went out to town.  I think we’re a little tired of meat and rice so we went to Fabianos and got pizza instead.


Tadeo Torres


Location: OSSO's Neighbor


Tadeo Torres is a large orphanage administered by Catholic nuns. We call it Tadeo, Casas or Cunas. It is at OSSO’s orphanage and here that you will serve the most. This orphanage is split into two sections: Casas and Cunas. Casas (houses) is for children 2 to 8 years old. When they reach about 8 years old, they are moved to another orphanage. Cunas (cribs/nursery) is for children under about 2 1/2 years of age.  Tadeo Torres is the only orphanage in Cuenca for babies.




What your journal entry may read like after a shift here: Dear Diary, I just had an amazing (but really long) shift at Casas.  Those children have SO much energy.  I’m so glad that I know some Spanish like párate, siéntate, no más, compártalo, no pegue, solo uno & déjalo. I wish I knew more though.  I love these kids.  They are so willing to love you and they love to play with anyone and everyone.  Today when I walked in, they all yelled my name.  It really made me realize how long I’ve been here and how much I’m going to miss them when I leave in a few weeks.  I wish I could just take every one of them home with me.  I was assigned the activity for today so I brought popsicle sticks, hot glue guns, markers and lots of goodies like pompoms, googly eyes, feathers and tissue paper to decorate little funny characters and animals on the sticks.  They turned out great but I had to make sure to keep the glue guns away from the kids.  I’m so glad that there are so many craft supplies here at OSSO to choose from.  I got my craft idea off of Pintrest.  Having to come up with so many crafts and activities every single day is challenging but thank goodness we have internet.  After the activity, we ate a snack and then went and watched a movie all together in the commons.  Around 5:30pm we headed to their little rooms to wash their hands before dinner.  I don’t know how the tias get these kids to all listen to them.  They all have to line up and hold onto one another as they walk up to the commons again for dinner.  We waited quietly until they finished as to not distract them and then we did my favorite part, we helped them get ready for bed.  The tias already set out their PJs so I just tried to help them get ready and tucked them into bed.  They begged for a bedtime story.  Some of the other volunteers brought books to read to them but I just made up some story for them.  They listened so intently, and even though I’m pretty sure my story was awful considering my broken Spanish, they begged for another one.  It was almost 6:30pm though so I had to go.  I hugged them and said a million goodnights and finally made it out the door.  We waved goodnight to the nun at the door and all walked back next door to OSSO. Although shifts at Casas can seem sooo long, they’re always so satisfying at the end of the day.




What your journal entry may read like after a shift here: Dear Diary, these have to be the cutest children on the planet.  The Cunas’s kids are so precious.  The hours kind of go by slowly as you play with the babies.  I have to keep myself going and not look at my watch.  The main play room has a bunch of toys.  I love the bouncy toys and balls.  The tias (the workers are called aunties) come in sometimes and sit with the babies or come and turn on the tv. The babies just stare at it and it’s hard to get their attention on other things. One of my favorite things is trying to get them to make animal sounds.  They also love to climb into your lap when you grab a book and read it to them.  A nun walked in today too and the babies totally perked up and were so excited to see her. It was so cute.  We played for like 3 hours and then the tia came in and told us to walk them into the kitchen.  She had prepared dinner for them.  We grabbed a chair and sat in front of a baby and fed them a huge bowl of soup.  The spoon I had was so big I didn’t think it would fit into this babe’s mouth!  But it did and she ate all of the soup.  When I was done, the tia gave me a cup of some sort of milk drink that was pink.  After the adventure of trying to feed that big bowl of soup to a crying obstinate baby, I wasn’t super excited, but I did it.  After all the babies were fed we took them into their changing room.  The tia showed us who’s PJ’s were who’s and she left us to change the babies’ diapers and clothes.  They wear so many layers of clothes.  It’s a wonder how they don’t get hot during the night but I guess they don’t have heating. They have tights, a onesie, a PJ onesie and a big sweater on each kid.  My favorite part of afternoon shifts at Cunas is probably putting them to bed like the Casa kids.  You put them in bed, sing them a little song and put these cute little mosquito nets that hang from the ceiling around their beds.  Afterwards we put the aprons that we have to put on in the beginning of shift away and put our shoes back on since we have to just be in socks all shift and then we headed back to OSSO.