Khadija Harsolia is one of our long time supporters who is also one of our team leads for our GiveLight SoCal chapter. Khadija and eleven other team members of GiveLight and Dian visited an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico for our Books of Light project in October of 2018. Last year, when we did our Warm Hugs campaign, she and two volunteers went to hand deliver the jackets. Below is her account.
This past December, before fears of the Coronavirus would halt us, we were already very familiar with the Trump administration’s divisive rallies for a US-Mexico border wall, its criminalization of illegal immigrants as well as its infamous ICE offensives targeting US Latino communities. Considering all this, Nadia R., Naila S. and I were fortunate to move freely across the border, able to visit and deliver much-needed coats to the Morada de Niño Jesus orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico. That we were delivering these kids coats in the dead of winter was especially significant. It reminded me that the reality for much of Mexico, even middle-class Mexico, is that homes do not generally have any central heating. This was a realization that hadn’t dawned upon me while a foreign study student in Mérida, Mexico several years earlier. Unlike Mérida’s tropical Caribbean climate Tijuana’s climate was no different than ours in SoCal. And this had been an especially cold, wet winter for SoCal! The coats would make a huge difference in these kids’ lives, insha’Allah.
Needless to say, this was a much-anticipated trip which required coordination from different groups and individuals across SoCal. To begin with, Girl Scouts of Orange County Troop 3119, of the Anaheim area, raised enough money and even personally shopped for coats for each child residing at the Morada de Niño Jesus orphanage in Tijuana. The Girl Scouts individually labeled the jackets and included handwritten notes for each of the children. The visit itself was coordinated with George Perez of Corazón de Vida, with whom GiveLight Foundation has partnered to sponsor the care of several of the orphanage’s youngest children. We met George in San Diego at a Starbucks near the Otay border and planned to be at the home/orphanage by the time most of the children would have returned home from school. After meeting George, we quickly loaded his van with the bags full of jackets for the kids. Since he has a Global Entry Card we were able to enter Mexico by car with no delay. After crossing the border, it was a quick half-hour drive to get to the home. The orphanage is actually a modestly outfitted 2-story home in Tijuana accessible by dirt road. This home, which for most Americans would seem fitting for a nuclear family was brimming with children, 31 in all, and of all ages. Every room had multiple beds, mainly bunkbeds, to accommodate all the children living there. The closets, meant for the multiple children sharing a room, were visibly sparse.
Holding down the fort, the lady whom these kids affectionately called “Mami” was Laura Palafox, the director of the home. To call this lady “supermom” is an understatement. She’s simply amazing, considering all the roles she plays with a lot of love—administratively, domestically, emotionally, and did I mention she is the kids’ driver too? In addition to performing household chores, the older children help care for the younger ones, and you couldn’t help but notice the affection and comfort they found in each other. One particular young lady residing in the home had returned to the home after having been raised in it, this time though with her daughter. Laura, was especially encouraging of this young mother and was planning to babysit her daughter while she was set to begin a new job that Monday morning.
After the children had eaten lunch, we were able to call out their individual names and give them the coats intended for them. Their anticipation and demeanor was perhaps the most memorable part of the trip. The kids as a whole were grateful, affectionate and so polite! Most of them had never received a brand new coat before and were excited! I imagine they’d be wearing them throughout the cold winter days.
Later, we learnt that the home’s dryer had broken beyond repair and this was evident with one glimpse of the backyard area covered with clothes laid out to dry. With seemingly unceasing winter rains, however, it was hard to say when these clothes would actually dry. Upon returning to the US, reaching out to the network of the SoCal Givelight team, within minutes literally the total amount for the dryer was raised. Since then it’s been installed and drying the homes’ clothes. The memory of our trip to visit the loving kids of Morada de Niño Jesus continues to warm our hearts up north. I am so grateful to have an organization like GiveLight that reaches dear children like this who deserve the best opportunities like our own!