La Mano of Hope

ECUADOR: …Torn, old shoes

The sun was shining brightly. It was approximately 11:30 in the morning there in the community of South Quito called “la Ciudadela del Ejercito” and the earth continued on its course there on the equator spinning as well as the 100 plus children running around me at the time

8 year old Cristy Haro came up to me and said, “look, I won a prize! And I want to choose a pair of shoes, but I already have a pair. Can I still get my prize but give them to my brother Patrick (9 years old), because the pair of shoes that he has are torn and old.”

A group of 16 volunteers, 8 North Americans joined by 8 more Ecuadorian nationals, were hosting and directing a soccer camp in Ecuador this past July, 2013 partnering together with La Mano of Hope, located in Hagerstown, Maryland, U.S.A. As is customary at a soccer camp, the children competed to win prizes while the program was also designed to teach and train the more than 200 participants between the ages of 3 to 16 years old.

The moment I encountered Cristy is a bit difficult to explain. We had divided the boys and the girls into separate groups. I paused the soccer practice with the boys that I was directing to speak with the little girl seeking my assistance. I could have never imagined that the young girl approaching me would have a heart seemingly as big as the Pacific Ocean or the Great Wall of China or even bigger than the two combined.

ECUADOR Torn, old shoes 01

As I gave this young girl my attention, I didn’t know what to do, as she began saying to me…. “Look at my brother. His shoes are no good and he can’t play like that. I just want him to have a pair of shoes so he can play soccer.”

Hopefully the little girl couldn’t see tears well up in my eyes, making my vision a bit blurred. I had my sunglasses on, thankfully, avoiding all of the kids seeing their coach getting so emotional. I became emotional after what I heard her say as it left me perplexed. As the tears came, I said to myself, “coaches can’t cry!”

The sun was shining brightly. It was approximately 11:30 in the morning there in the community of South Quito called “la Ciudadela del Ejercito” and the earth continued on its course there on the equator spinning as well as the 100 plus children running around me at the time.

I immediately got the attention of the director of the organization, Melissa Linn, so she would attend to things and address the need presented to us by this little angel of God that had just taught me a powerful life lesson and reminded me that there are still humans beings with enormous hearts interested in the good of others, even if at the expense of forgetting their own need or condition.

The moment in time that I have shared with you serves to reinforce the principle that I learned from this little girl…. “it is better to give than to receive”. This was the message that the almighty sent to me through a small child.

I couldn’t do anything else at that moment except make a cutting sign with my hand across my throat signaling that I couldn’t speak any more nor could I continue handling this situation without falling apart.

The other kids were just standing around waiting for their next instructions, never imagining that it was a moment in time for me that challenged me – challenged me to be better, every day for others.

ECUADOR Torn, old shoes 02This moment left me speechless with a huge knot in my throat that nearly choked me, and taught me compassion and love for others in need. Cristy, at such a young age, with her capacity of reasoning and kindness toward her brother, personally left me bewildered.

These words of compassion and the request by one child for another sounded like bells ringing out love, hope and kindness. This little girl gave us a great example by giving her brother the very thing that she herself needed and had dreamed of receiving.

That little girl received the shoes for her brother, thanks to God and to the donations received from many churches and good willed people who supported the outreach.

Just as little Cristy, the other children have many needs. And for them, winning a prize at the camp is their chance to obtain a possession that they are lacking in their lives.

By her actions, the little girl in the midst of all of the activity, lived out the message that we ourselves intended to demonstrate and through the gifts that many of our supporters and co-laborers wished to offer, “give to those in need”, just as Jesus taught us.

99 percent of the children that attend the program presented through La Iglesia Fraternidad Cristiana, led by pastor Erick Pinto, are very poor and with great economic needs. Many of them walk with their old, torn shoes and for many their parents are not even able to send them to school because working to help out the family, even at the age of 10 or 11 is a necessity.

This program takes place every year in the south of Quito offering the children candy, personal hygiene products, school backpacks with school supplies, clothing and soccer equipment including sneakers, socks and shin guards, as well as brand new soccer balls. All of the items are donated or purchased in the United States by the generous individuals and churches that so faithfully support LA MANO OF HOPE and its outreaches.

However, with the amounts of children that come out by the end of the week of camp, we still aren’t able to send every child home with school supplies and/or shoes.

We hear the same stories over and again. Cristy’s story is just one example of the kindness of the children, as they would win prizes only to give them away to their siblings, neighbors or friends who they felt had a greater need.

Being with these kids made me think of the many beautiful things that we could do. It also caused me to stop and reflect at the simple contentment a hug brings to these children. It is always a powerful time with these children that is impacting on the soul and inspires such admiration observing the hearts of the kids.

On behalf of each of the team members that were represented from churches in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, and each individual that financially supports the outreaches, THANK YOU for your kindness and generosity! It enables us to continue offering programs such as this and by doing so extending Hope that is only found through Jesus and demonstrating love as Christ has modeled for us.

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