‘Planting seeds of thought’
Columbus Catholic students visit Peruvian orphanage
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — “The night we returned from the orphanage, we were told that we changed those kids’ lives, and they can never forget us,” said Marshfield Columbus Catholic student Sophia Mauney. “I really think that it’s them that we will never forget because they completely changed our outlook on everything and our life. We are really grateful for everything because of them.”
This week, as Columbus Spanish students return from a trip to Casa Hogar Juan Pablo in Lurin, Peru, they are re-evaluating their lives.
Casa Hogar was established by the Rev. Joseph Wilijewski in the 1980s to provide for the abandoned children of Peru. The orphanage is sponsored by the Diocese of La Crosse, and its organization was inspired by the film “Boys Town.”
“You have eight family apartments. They hired married couples with their own children to come in,” explained Deb Kennedy. “There are four boy families and four girl families. They give each couple eight of the orphans, ranging in age.”
“I had more than one objective,” said Kennedy. “One was to give my students a real world experience using their Spanish. The second was to go down to share a service experience with the kids. Of all the trips I had taken (with other classes), the most important and special one had been the mission trip I took to Guatemala with my students, and I wanted to provide that kind of experience with these kids again.”
During their 10-day trip, the 14 students and five adults worked on landscaping, completed painting projects, made crafts, provided entertainment, and formed friendships with the children.
The group’s trip included a visit to a second orphanage, which provided a true insight to the plight of the area and what it had to offer.
“It was a poorer orphanage,” said Ella Schultz. “Their orphanage definitely wasn’t as kept up. A bunch of girls all slept in the same room on bunk beds. One girl that I connected with only had two rosaries, and she decided to give me one to remember her. That was very touching.”
“Seeing the difference between the two orphanages really opened our eyes,” said Tia Schlagenhaft. “It’s really cool to see, though, how they have an association of orphanages, and they all help each other out.”
The help is not only material. Interaction between the orphanages and visiting missionaries provides other valuable gifts.
“It’s teaching the Casa Hogar kids to share and give to others,” Kennedy said. “They’re planting seeds of thought in the kids. They are tossing a pebble in the river and watching the ripples go out.”
The seeds that are being planting are not confined to the orphanages as the Columbus students return to Marshfield with goals to help others and a new perspective on their own lives.
“I feel like if we share our story with the people, they would understand and want to help,” said Melanie Lang. “We experienced a lot of emotion there.”
“One of the hardest parts of trip was leaving them. All of us formed relationships with the girls,” said Zoe Stratman. “A bunch of them gave us presents, and we saw how little they had, and to see that they were willing to give what little they had to us was incredible. It was so eye-opening and humbling as well.”