During our stay in La Antigua Guatemala we visited the Santa Madre homeless shelter where we served a meal and washed dishes. We also visited a malnutrition center in San Juan, where malnourished children are sent for treatment. Both experiences were difficult. The little we could do to help did not seem enough.
The malnutrition center was a more positive experience, in that we were able to give the children individual attention. It was a great feeling to make one of them smile or laugh. The center was also a more hopeful place because the children were getting better, and several of them would eventually be reunited with their families.
While we were there, we held, fed and played with infants and young children. There were also opportunities to help out by giving baths and changing diapers.
With the older children, we played outside on the swings and shared bubbles and balloons with them. Some of the children filled balloons with water. Their mischievous expressions made me laugh and their eyes sparkled with delight. Some children, though, were more serious. They would watch us, but didn't interact. I just wanted to pick them up and give them everything they needed to be able to run and laugh like the others.
The saddest part was finding out the baby you thought was 2-3 months old was actually 1 year old or the child you thought was 2 years old was actually 4 or 5. Some of the children had been in the center for several months.
KVLY TV in Fargo, North Dakota, has a video clip of the malnutrition center and homeless shelter in part three of its series on God's Child Project.