Monday, January 1, 2018

Christmas at the Orphanage in Olon, Ecuador, the Happiest Place on Earth

This blog has a guest writer today for the first time ever!

Erwin Musper lives with his wife Danielle near the orphanage in Olon, Ecuador. He spends most of his days at the orphanage - teaching guitar and providing a positive male role model for the kids. When not at the orphanage, he is fundraising to benefit it (click here for the current project). He is an internationally acclaimed music producer, mixer and engineer who worked with acts like Metallica, Elton John, Anouk, and Van Halen. See the full list here. Take it away, Erwin!
-------------------------------------------------------------

One two three FOUR!  Just like the famous first Beatles album, the YOKO band counted off their annual concert for the guests and donors at the orphanage in Olon, Ecuador. (YOKO - Young Orphanage Kids Orchestra). The guitar and piano students proudly played their donated instruments and got the crowd going from the get-go.  The first of many performances by the children that day. Self-made costumes and stage props and increasingly more difficult choreography with the different age groups. Rehearsed for weeks, the twinkle in their eyes while twirling dresses made for a great show. This was my fourth pageant at this place and my third one collaborating.

YOKO (Young Orphanage Kids Orchestra), Erwin on the mike with guitar
2017 Christmas Eve | Photo courtesy of Erwin Musper


I walked into their courtyard for the first time on Christmas Eve 2014 and it has turned my life upside down. Coming to Ecuador to enjoy retirement  leisure, I now find myself volunteering at this orphanage almost every day. Surrounded by 67 beautiful kids is giving me more energy and satisfaction than I have ever experienced. And my life up until then was actually pretty great and rewarding by any standard. I know every child by name and personality. I also now know most of their history, and it broke my heart. I am a rational person and thrive on efficiency and productivity, but that first day I had to put my camera down a few times to wipe away the tears in my eyes. I’m a different man now.

This orphanage - the word Sanctuary is actually more fitting - is a tiny world of miracles in itself. Kids are being dropped off, abandoned by their families, severely malnourished and their eyes staring into a big nothing. But within a couple of months, the nightmares and fears are gone and I see the joy coming back in their daily lives. Not occasionally, but with every one without fail. The staff makes it look easy, but I’ve seen the inner workings of the daily routines and it is beyond perfect.

All kids attend school, either across the street or with trained homeschool teachers. Some kids have never been to school before arriving at this place. They have child psychologists on staff to constantly monitor the kids. Bottom line: the kids can be kids again and enjoy interaction with their new brothers and sisters.

Kids and mamitas who live at the orphanage
2017 Christmas Eve | Photo courtesy of Erwin Musper

How about this oxymoron: Our orphanage, the happiest place on earth! Every birthday is celebrated with a party. For many, their first time ever. Every occasion is used to set up a show with music and dancing. Just like this Christmas event last weekend.  Even if they don’t realize yet that their presents are made possible because of local and international donors (organized by a committee of local expats under the banner of FOSMO), they immensely enjoy performing for their guests. No one goes home without an overdose of hugs and kisses. Come see for yourself. Consider yourself invited.

Some kids could not hide their excitement when receiving gifts from Papa Noel
2017 Christmas Eve, Photo courtesy of Erwin Musper


Some wanted to carry their own gifts, which were almost as tall as them
2017 Christmas Eve, Photo courtesy of Erwin Musper

When Santa called out ‘mamita’ Fatima’s name at this year’s Christmas pageant, she was walking to the stage engulfed by a roaring and screaming bunch of her little boys. And every mamita after her also received this loud and loving gesture from their respective flock of kids. It is obvious that these children adore their caregivers. And for good reason. They literally live with their kids day and night, occupying a tiny room in the dorm. Never more than a few feet away.

Fatima (striped dress) with five of her 'shepherds'
2017 Christmas Eve | Photo courtesy of Erwin Musper

This is what the true spirit of Christmas was meant to be. The true spirit of caring. Not just once but for life.  Merry Christmas.

Erwin Musper.

If you want to help : https://www.youcaring.com/fundraiser-852208
If you want more info : https://www.facebook.com/erwin.musper

Maria and Joseph searching for an inn
2017 Christmas Eve | Photo courtesy of Erwin Musper


Nativity reenactment followed by dancers
2017 Christmas Eve | Photo courtesy of Erwin Musper


Getting the moves just right
2017 Christmas Eve | Photo courtesy of Erwin Musper


Enjoying the performance
2017 Christmas Eve | Photo courtesy of Erwin Musper


Isabel, the founder of the orphanage, and one of the girls who lives there
2017 Christmas Eve | Photo courtesy of Erwin Musper

---------------------------------------------------------------
Thank you, Erwin, for sharing your orphanage journey with us as well as your 2017 Christmas Eve at the happiest place on earth!

Regular readers may remember Erwin's name from the following posts (click to open each):


If you want to read more about the orphanage, click these links to previous posts:

2 comments:

  1. Hi Emily and Erwin - thank you so much for sharing the Orphanage's news and stories about their Christmas celebrations ... looks to be amazing and what a wonderful place to be involved in ... giving us all an outlook to what we can be doing ...

    Loved reading about the stories ... thank you so much - and here's to health and happiness for all associated with the Orphanage during 2018 and beyond - cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Hilary - Thank you once again for your kind and thoughtful comments. The orphanage really is an amazing place and I am so glad Erwin shared with us. Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2018.

      Delete