Hogar de Refugio Infantil
OUR VISIT to a MEXICAN ORPHANAGE in NAVOJOA, SONORA
One of Rancho Vignola’s beneficiaries of our donation program for many years has been Refugio de Infantil, an orphanage in the north-west Mexican state of Sonora. It was therefore a delight to finally make a personal visit to the orphanage this winter and meet with Okanagan residents Bob and Annette Mason who have been the guiding light for the orphanage during the past seventeen years.
Driven by a desire to be of service to disadvantaged children, and having sold Bob’s business, Bob and Annette’s original destination back in the late ’80s was an orphanage in Thailand for mentally-challenged children. Annette's background working in this particular realm seemed at first to indicate a good fit but the language barrier and other issues proved a major hindrance. Their travels then took them to Mexico where they met a young Mexican who had recently started a small orphanage and was in need of help. With financial backing from their Seventh Day Adventist Church, Bob and Annette took over operating the orphanage in 1993, spending several months each year in Mexico, then returning home to fundraise through Bob’s presentations at churches and businesses throughout British Columbia.
Our visit took place at the new location, currently under construction, as the original orphanage was badly damaged a few years ago by a severe hurricane. The new orphanage is being built on five acres donated by the University of Navojoa and located on the campus of the Seventh Day Adventist College, approximately 11 kilometres southwest of Navojoa, Sonora. The new 16,000-square-foot facility is designed like a Mexican colonial hacienda with suites and rooms facing a central courtyard. Initially accommodating thirty-two children and their house parents, the building also has a suite for the directors and the cook, as well as three volunteer apartments to house up to ten workers.
Bob and Annette gave us a tour of the new building where we dodged electric cables and the dust from the adobe blocks that are produced on site. A small group of dedicated Canadian volunteers live on site in their RVs and show tireless enthusiasm for the very physically demanding labour involved in the construction. With several full-time Mexican labourers on staff, the labour force is supplemented by volunteers from the US and Canada who stay for a week or many months to help on the project.
We were introduced to the orphanage’s new directors, a Mexican couple who will live in the new building, and whom Bob is mentoring to take over the daily running of the orphanage. Bob and Annette will continue to visit the children and to fundraise on behalf of the orphanage but their time will be more equally divided between Canada and Mexico.
It was exciting to meet the children who are currently being housed in temporary accommodations on campus. When told we were the “nut” people, the older teenagers sincerely thanked us for our donations, at the same time wanting us to know which were their favourite products! We handed out t-shirts and played with the smaller children while trying to converse in Spanish with their house parents. From tiny tots to teenagers, it was obvious the love and respect shown to Bob and Annette is more than reward enough for their devotion to these deprived children of Mexico’s poorest citizens.
To visit the orphanage, donate funds or to volunteer, please go to the following websites: