Shelly Fitzgerald has been a supporter of Orphan Helpers for many years. A few months ago, she decided she wanted to see firsthand the work in El Salvador. She recruited friends from her church (Calvary Chapel Newport News in Virginia) to go with her. In July, Shelly, three of her friends, and a teen granddaughter of one the friends made the trip. The following is Shelly’s report on her experience:
Our small group, comprising of four women and one teen, touched down in El Salvador with suitcases full of hygienic supplies. We had a vague notion of what we would be doing during the week. Little did we know the treat that was in store for us with these amazing teens at the four centers we visited.
God had laid on our hearts to provide some food for the children in the juvenile detention centers. We thought we would order some food. Instead, we found out we were going to be cooking the meal alongside them in the center’s new kitchen!
We started at the girl’s center where we cooked and ate pizza with them, taught a Bible lesson, and then listened to their amazing life stories. We heard their testimonies about the way the Success Academy is making a difference in their lives. We saw how they were learning to sew and how they were making beautiful flower postcards and foil images.
Each day for the next three days we visited a different boy’s center. What a blessed experience! The fellowship with these kind, friendly, warm, welcoming, courteous boys and their teachers was phenomenal! We were in awe as they taught the Word in their very own church services, played music and sang at the top of their lungs like a heavenly choir.
The boys at one of the centers cooked a delicious chicken and rice meal with mouth-watering desert. They are learning life skills in many areas in preparation for the future. We helped teach their Bible and finance lessons, gave testimonies, prayed with them, ate with them, while listening to their heart-breaking life stories and amazing testimonies of how their lives have been changed since their involvement in the Success Academy.
Some of them gave their life to the Lord while we were there. Our hearts were filled to overflowing every day. We stayed up late every night packing toiletries gift bags, but it was the best “tired”. We wanted to bless them, but they blessed us more! They became like sons and daughters to us.
Early in the week, one of our translators saw our women’s group for the first time.He was puzzled and curiously asked,“WHAT are these women going to DO?!”We laughed. He later apologized and said he now understood why we needed to be there. One of the many reasons? Because hundreds of boys and girls at the detention centers need a mother’s touch, a mother’s hug, a mother’s love. Very touching! But every day we came away with far more than we gave.
This trip made me reflect on a time about 10 years ago when I visited similar centers in Honduras with Orphan Helpers before the Success Academy. What a difference the Success Academy has made! The classes provide a future and a hope for the youth. You can see it in their attitude, in their demeanor, in their willingness to learn and to grow, in their smiles and in their hugs. There is now light in their eyes where life had cast a shadow of darkness.
Lord willing, we plan to continue to visit and support these sons and daughters in any way we can.