I didn´t come to Bolivia to work with orphans, I came to Bolivia to work with deaf students. But through the unpredictable nature of life, I ended up with a month of swine flu vacation and no deaf students. So in comes Alalay and Nayely (pronounced Nah-yell-e).
Nayely is the youngest at Alalay. She and her brother had been living with their drug addicted mother on the streets only a month ago. There is no way to know her age, or birthday, or even last name. I would guess that she is 3 or 4 years old, but it´s hard to tell because she is so small.
When I started at Alalay I was surprised at how much the kids wanted to be held. But not Nayely. Nayely hid behind the other adults, quickly looking away if we made eye contact and cringing if I touched her hair or brushed her arm.
It took me 2 weeks to finally break through to her. Although, I doubt I can claim victory for it. I think that Nayely, just changed her mind about me.
Now, I can´t get her off of me. We play all morning long. I hold her tiny body up in the air as she giggles and screams. I brush her hair and tickle her arms to which she says in a very mature yet high-pitched voice, ¨Hermana!¨. I help her hand-wash her clothes and encourage her to keep eating at lunch. I love that girl so much.
The cruelty of life breaks my heart. I was given the desire and ability and opportunity to visit her. I was given the power to step into her broken life for a month and then walk right out of it again.
Leaving behind Nayely, Jon, Rebeca, Noemi, Lorena, and sweet Rosalia might be the meanest most self-centered thing I´ve ever done.