Birthday festivities have always been a big thing for me as a mom. I build it up for a couple weeks and get them excited for their special day. I try to get them presents they’ll be excited about, plan out a big treasure hunt with clues and then make their favorite foods. I figure everyone deserves a day each year to feel special and get a heavy dose of attention and adoration from the people who care about them.
Everyone deserves it, but not everybody gets it. The reality of this hit home when we participated in a birthday party for Talita Cumi, an orphanage in Santa Cruz de la Sierra giving a loving home to children from 4 to 18 years of age. This event is orchestrated each month by the staff and volunteers to give the children celebrating birthdays an actual party with gifts, games, cake and ice cream. The whole nine yards.
Before coming to the Talita Cumi home, many of these children had never had any kind of birthday celebration or even been given a gift before. One of the two boys we sponsored for this event had been living on the streets and had only recently come to live in the orphanage. The concept of a birthday celebration was a new one for him.
Helping out with this event was definitely a fun service project for us. I got to go shopping for two little boys ages 8 and 10. It was fun to be looking for “boy stuff” like trucks, model planes and soccer jerseys for a change. The party was held at the home of a local family and had been decorated for the big day. Four other children at Talita Cumi were also celebrating their birthdays at this party so we had quite a crew. When we arrived our girls immediately started making friends through a few games of Uno, a game transcending language barriers. Then we grouped into teams and went on a photo scavenger hunt around the neighborhood getting pictures with everything from stop signs to slides to tortoises. Scoring the teams’ photo collections back at the house on the television was almost as fun as taking the photos.
A few days after the party I was able to take a tour of the Talita Cumi children’s home. The facility has houses for both boys and girls, allowing siblings to be together at the same orphanage. Separating brothers and sisters is not uncommon in Santa Cruz because many orphanages only accept children of one gender. However, this is one of the homes we visited which works hard to make sure children still have the support of their siblings after the loss of their parents.
The orphanage receives a small amount of government funding, but it’s primarily supported through a child sponsorship program. Donors make a monthly contribution allowing the organization to pay for a child’s food, housing, clothing, healthcare and other needs. Talita Cumi is making a true difference in the lives of the children who call this place home. We had a lot of fun helping out with the birthday event and our family plans to support this organization into the future.
Photo credit: Talita Cumi Children’s Home