After our visit to Casa Hogar Santa Inés in Mexico City, Children Incorporated Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet and I were off to San Miguel de Allende to meet with Sister Isabel, our volunteer coordinator at Hogar Santa Julia.
Remembering Santa Julia
I had fond memories of Santa Julia from my visit six years prior – the beautiful grounds of the home, with its well-maintained gardens and bright colorful murals, stood out to me as such as a wonderful place for destitute young girls to grow up in, away from the harsh conditions that they lived in before.
Even through all the challenges of the pandemic, the staff at Santa Julia always maintained and focused on their goals for the children there.
At Santa Julia, each girl is at the home because social services in Mexico has deemed their home life to be unfit — and in fact, once the children are enrolled at the home, they are there until they are 18 years old and can determine for themselves as adults if they want to have contact with their families again. When they are removed from their homes, the situation is often so horrific that the parents don’t know where their children are being taken for their children’s protection.
Getting to know the home again
When we arrive at Santa Julia, we are greeted by Lily, who is the Director of Development at the home, and Sister Isabel. It was great to meet Lily for the first time; she is energetic and enthusiastic about the Children Incorporated program. It was equally wonderful to see Sister Isabel again who had grown into her role as the head of the home since the last time we saw her, busily running around with many daily tasks to take care of.
We start the morning with a tour of the facilities, and Lily tells us about how the last few years have been for them. During the COVID-19 lockdown, the children stayed at Santa Julia and were out of school and learning virtually for nearly two years. During that time, the staff worked hard to creatively engage the girls in activities including art and online English classes. The girls took swimming lessons over the summer of 2021 and showed off artwork that they created at a local restaurant. They also participated in a Christmas Bizarre where they sold small crafts that they made by hand.
Including family in the present and future
Lily continued to explain that even through all the challenges of the pandemic, the staff at Santa Julia always stayed focused on their goals for the children — to learn good habits and values, especially respect for one another, to achieve consistency with their education, and to achieve comprehensive development through physical activity and proper nutrition.
Beyond all this, the girls also receive medical services, dental services, psychological services and ophthalmological services throughout the year. Additionally, Santa Julia managed to expand its programs in 2021 and began including brothers of the young girls during their intake process. Lily expressed that over the years, the staff of Santa Julia noticed that they had several cases in which girls who were separated from their home were not only having a difficult time adjusting, but were distressed over no longer being with their siblings and feeling alone and abandoned.
To mitigate this issue, Santa Julia started offering temporary housing for siblings during the adjustment period, during which the brothers and sisters can stay together until the boys can be relocated and can continue to have regular contact with one another.
A truly incredible place
Before leaving the home for the day, we had a chance to meet with some of the girls, some of whom I remember from six years ago. They all looked so healthy and happy, sitting closely together on the couches in Sister Isabel’s office, obviously bonded together from their time at the home. I showed them old photos of themselves on my phone but refrained from taking any new pictures at Lily’s request. Because of the sensitivity of their situations, she preferred that we help to keep the girls’ anonymous, and I understood completely after hearing more about how hard Santa Julia is working to give these girls, and their brothers, a safe place to grow up in.
For now, I have the memories of the children in my mind from our visit and a comfort in my heart knowing that they are safe and sound among truly incredible people in a truly incredible home.
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You can sponsor a child in Mexico in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org; or go online to our sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in Mexico that is available for sponsorship.