MPH Panama Practicum 2013: Hogar Divino Nino

Verenice Torres

July 15, 2013

What a beautiful day!!! I woke up with no expectations for the day but by this time already a bit tired and feeling like I have been in Panama for a week or so. Valerie and I were told we were going to go to an orphanage today to conduct some screenings, and like every other day we just went with the flow. We went to a place called Hogar Divino Ni?o wearing our Oir es Vivir vest and feeling like part of the staff. At first look you would never imagined that the place is an orphanage it just looks like a little school. When we went in the location was not too nice looking so I did not know what to make out of the place. The entrance room was sad looking but I did manage to see a lot of religious figures and images. Later we learned that the place was founded by a priest which explained the images. There was one image that called my attention as soon as we walked in, it was an image of a hand that read ?Ayudame a Vivir? or help me live. I thought about it and said to myself if Oir es Vivir (hearing is living) then helping someone live is helping someone hear and that made me smile. A woman then greeted us an took us to what they call ?enfermeria? which is simply a room were the kids are taken care of if they are sick and always has a nurse on call. Unlike the entrance room the enfermeria was a nice little place that looked like a medical exam room, well-conditioned, and with many Winnie the Pooh pictures on the walls. I automatically felt as if I was entering a children zone. The lady in charge of the place gave us a bit of background to the place and explained to us that they take any child 0-5 years of age after that if they are not adopted they have to go to another orphanage which was often a hard thing to do.

Hogar Divino Nino (outside)

Hearing screening on a baby while sleeping

Once Aixa and Ivis got the equipment going, the magic started happening. One by one the nurse brought down the babies first for their screenings. They were the most adorable little beings I could ever imagine!!! So little and innocent, I could not believe they were abandoned or mistreated. A feeling I cannot explain came over me and only felt like protecting them. Screening the little ones was a challenge because they would move or cry so the girls said it would be best to do the screenings when they were asleep. So we then asked for the older children to come down. As they came down in small groups I can only say my heart broke little by little just hearing each of their stories. One of the boys came in with a scar in his forehead and when one the girls from the foundation asked ?What happened to you?? and he responded in a nonchalant tone ?My mom hit me.? What to respond to that??? I can?t say that this didn’t affect me but I will say that this was a memorable experience for me. I learned to love life through these children?s faces. Each one of them had a smile and were so happy despite the adversities they have encountered in their short little lives that it made me feel horrible thinking about my life and my complaints. Today I understood that no matter the circumstance the sun WILL always come out tomorrow. The innocence and joy I witnessed today is the proof to that.

About the MPH Panama Practicum

A group of University of Southern California graduate students are researching public health in Panama City, Panama, for a two-week international practicum, organized by the USC Master of Public Health (MPH) program. This post was excerpted from panama.usc.eduView all posts in this series »