Every child in the Santa Lucia Children’s Home has a heartbreaking past. They come from unfortunate situations and broken homes. Arriving under the age of 8, many of these children witnessed abuse, neglect, alcoholism, drug addiction or prostitution before being placed in a new environment. Fortunately, these children arrive at the welcoming door of tender caregivers who can help them.
While the Santa Lucía Children’s Home may only be a temporary home for these children, it offers something they desperately need—a second chance at a carefree childhood unmarred by hunger, worry and sorrow. It’s a place where smiles flourish and hope is restored.
When 4-year-old Luis and 9-month-old Josue Angel arrived at Santa Lucia last September, their troubled past was painfully obvious. These brothers were distrustful of the world, scared of people and withdrawn. The usual sparkle so easily found in children’s eyes was all but extinguished.
Luis had already spent a lot of time living on the streets to survive. His skin was sunburnt and he was in constant pain. He was terrified of the other children and refused his housemother’s hugs. His social and intellectual development had stalled.
Baby Josué also showed signs of trauma. He was withdrawn and quiet—he had learned that crying was useless and nothing he did could summon loving care. He had none of the curiosity inherent in babies that age. He didn’t reach for toys, he wouldn’t respond to his name and he wouldn’t raise his arms for someone to pick him up.
While he occasionally flapped his arms, he didn’t sit up or move his legs. He devoured bottle after bottle, a tragic sign of food insecurity; even a baby that young will overeat at any opportunity when he has missed too many meals in his short life.
After settling into their new family unit at the Santa Lucia Children’s Home, the brothers were seen by a pediatrician and a psychologist, who ascertained their current situation and needs. Then each determined how they could improve the brothers’ health and development. While the pediatrician developed nutrition plans for the housemother to follow, the psychologist taught the housemother how to connect with the children and rebuild their trust in adults.
Shortly thereafter, Luis began school. He started working on listening to his teacher and socializing with the other children. For Josué, he’s been playing with special toys that stimulate his curiosity and encourage him to use his legs. They both receive extra nurturing from their housemother to help them form bonds with others.
It has only been a few months since Luis and Josué came to Santa Lucia. According to the orphanage’s head nun, Sur Maria de Cisne, “You wouldn’t believe they are the same children as when they first arrived. Luis has blossomed under the patient care of his housemother. He is enjoying school, while learning how to communicate and reach out to others. He’s made friends for the first time in his life.”
When it comes to school, his favorite subject is art—drawing, painting, and coloring. Like most young boys, Luis has begun to play sports. He is discovering a passion for soccer.
Since September, baby Josue has learned to crawl. His growth and development are now on track, and Sur Maria suspects it won’t be long before he begins to walk. With regular care and nurturing, his anxiety about food has subsided and he eats as he should. Josué is beginning to explore the loving new world around him as he plays with toys, interacts with other children and snuggles with his housemother.
The bond between these two young brothers has never been stronger. This is a critical point in their lives while their parents decide if they will get the necessary help to eventually create a secure, loving home for their sons. Someday, the nuns hope, Luis and Josue will look back on this time with happy memories and know that Santa Lucia gave them something they couldn’t find anywhere else: hope.