For many years the voice of the children was almost silent. Today things are changing. When I visited Baja Sur fourteen years ago there was only one orphanage or casa hogar (a care home) in the entire state to care for children who cannot live with their parents. A Catholic home for children in La Paz has been caring for children for almost 60 years, Ciudad de los Niños. This home primarily serves children from poor families and occasionally children coming through the doors of DIF.
DIF, which is short for the National Agency for Family Development, provides social and medical services to the poor, disabled, those neglected and abused, both children and adults throughout Mexico. Sonya Agundez, the wife of the former Baja Sur Governor Narcisco Agundez Montaño, was until recently the president of the state DIF. Sonya has personally helped many children in her own home and even adopted a young boy. When meeting with Sonya about four years ago, we discussed the need for more casa hogars.
Most of the children living in these residential homes are not actual orphans but are in need of care because their parents have drug addictions, are imprisoned, or have severe health or mental health issues hindering their ability to parent children. The majority of children living in casa hogars have experienced some form of abuse; some have been prostituted. Many of these children need short-term care but more frequently they are in need of long-term care or adoption.
Seeing the need, my team and I prepared to open a home near Santa Rosalia while two larger casa hogars were under construction in the southern end of BCS, one in La Paz and the other in Cabo San Lucas. Sonya and her team worked diligently to open a DIF casa cuna / casa hogar in August of 2007 for 100 children. Our doors opened for 20 children in San Lucas, just south of Santa Rosalia in September of 2007. And a casa hogar for 60 boys was opened in Cabo San Lucas in February of 2008 with the help of the Rotary Club. Suddenly there were three new facilities in BCS to care for Baja’s most vulnerable children!
After being operational for three years, we sadly closed our doors in August of 2010. Donations fell sharply from the financial crisis in the U.S. and fund raising was difficult for our home as it was located in a little fishing village. Also worth mentioning, Loreto has a casa hogar to help children but only on a short-term basis. Clearly a new home is needed for the long term care of children in the north end of BCS.
We cannot allow more homes to close. Your help is needed. Unlike the U.S., Mexico has very little money in its budget for social services. The Catholic home in La Paz, Ciudad de los Niños, receives funding from the Catholic Church and runs an onsite print shop. The DIF casa hogar in La Paz receives its funding from the state government. However the other homes for children rely solely on donations from the local community and from visitors such as those from the U.S. and Canada.
The DIF casa hogar in La Paz currently serves 80 infants to teen girls. Ciudad de los Niños also has 80 children and teens, both boys and girls. The casa hogar in Cabo San Lucas cares for about 30 boys ages 7 – 16 years. In addition to these facilities, Alberto and Alma Asuna have been helping children and teens with drug addictions for close to a decade. Their home just south of La Paz also serves children whose parents are drug involved. The Asuna’s Albergue Infantil Nueva Creacion is serving 20 children ranging from 2 – 17 years. The most recent casa hogar opened this summer in Todos Santos run by Joel and Alicia Hernandez. The Hogar del Niño is located on a mini ranch by the new Pemex. Currently 22 children ranging from 6 – 13 years are living with the Hernandez’ family and a staff of volunteers.
I discovered during a recent visit to all of these homes that Southern Baja’s “at risk” children are receiving loving care from committed volunteers. Some staff receive a salary but largely volunteers are utilized. The casa hogar appearing to need the most attention is the one in Todos Santos. It is new and has not yet developed a regular support base. This home for children is in need of food, bunk beds, and shoes. Hogar del Niño also needs the materials and skilled volunteers to build additional dormitories and a new kitchen and dining hall. For more information their web address is www.hogardelnino.org.mx, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Joel at 612 145-0584 as his English is good. Donating online is easy on their web site. And, cash donations can be made at the Banorte Bank – acct. #0666456418 (pesos) and dollar account 0662765028.
The Osuna’s Albergue Infantil Nueva Creacion currently needs the finances and skilled help to build a new kitchen and dining hall, and they could use a new van. You can reach Alberto at (612) 105-6052 or 151-5632 and he speaks English. His email address is
email@example.com. You can donate at a Bancomer Bank – acct. #1196234283.
The casa hogar in Cabo San Lucas needs a stronger financial base as well. Currently the boys need underclothes – boxers, socks and t-shirts. In addition, this home is looking for volunteers to spend time with the children. Javier Aguirre, a psychologist, is the director and as well has good English. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and the web site is www.casahogarcsl.org. Donating is available online.
The DIF casa hogar in La Paz would appreciate volunteers to help them provide activities for the children in the community. They currently have a need for shoes, underclothes, uniform blouses, school supplies, and a glucose testing kit for their diabetic children. The web address is www.casacunalapaz.org.mx. They can be located on Facebook as well. Donations can be brought to the facility located on the highway approximately one mile south of the Soriana Plaza. Their phone # is 612 124-3858. Cash donations are not accepted, as this is a facility supported by the state.
The Ciudad de Los Niños, not unlike the other homes for children need ongoing financial support and volunteers. The children there said they would like to have a swimming pool and someone to teach them dance. Their phone number is 612 122-0327 and web site is ciudadninoslapaz.org. You can support the children by ordering your printing at their print shop located at 5 de Febrero and Cuauhtemoc and Serdan in La Paz. Or you can make cash donations at the HSBC Bank – acct. #0977315000. eel: +52(612) 1220327, 1229595l: +52(612) 1220327, 1229595
It takes special people who make great personal sacrifices to give the love and care needed to these broken children. Today hundreds of wounded children are receiving loving care in these homes. The caregivers are heroes and need to be celebrated as they are healing children who learn to love and to trust again. Please give your encouragement and praise to these caregivers when you meet them. And thank you for what you can do to help Southern Baja’s most vulnerable children.