Helping Hands

Helping Hands

Area volunteers make a difference at border orphanage

Posted on Nov. 28, 2016

The tiny boy has a problem. The compact five-year-old, in a faded blue t-shirt and shorts, stares at a battered green bicycle lying on its side on the brown barren ground. Its rear tire is flat and useless. One hand grips a rusty tire pump from a nearby dirt-floor shed. He stands completely alone under the blazing white Mexican sun. He can’t figure out how the two go together. He glances up as the yelps of other boys playing in the distance drift by. Sweat trickles down his little face. His large brown eyes look confused. He needs help.

The child is just one of about 50 boys who live at Rancho Nazareth Orphanage outside Tecate, Mexico. The boys are orphans or from families so poor they can’t afford to raise them. For 50 years, the Catholic religious sisters who run the facility have provided food, shelter, clothing, and a values-based education. One goal is to reunite boys with families when practical. The sisters depend on outside donations and help.

Outreach For Nazareth Orphanage (OFNO) provides some of that help. The San Diego-based nonprofit includes volunteers from St. Elizabeth Seton Church in La Costa, high school students, and other area organizations. Several times a year, a volunteer convoy crosses the border to rough-hewn Tecate. Leaving paved roads, they drive a window-rattling path just past the town garbage dump. Across from the cemetery sits the orphanage entrance. Once inside the gates, they get to work: building, repairing, painting, washing, and unloading donations.

Father Brian Kelly started the orphanage support program 20 years ago. Kelly is a retired U.S. Navy chaplain who now acts as president of OFNO. “Seeing the joy on the faces of the boys gives volunteers true satisfaction from their work,” says Kelly, who also worked as an educator at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego.

On volunteer workdays, cheerful barrel-chested men from Knights of Columbus, Valle del Oro council in Spring Valley, serve the boys, sisters, and volunteers a special lunch. Beyond the endless maintenance and improvements needed, orphanage supporters have more plans. They hope to raise enough to build a dormitory to serve girls, a community center, and a new chapel at the ten-acre facility.

Head hung low, the boy starts to walk away, feet dragging. A nearby adult sees this. Connecting the pump, the bike is quickly fixed. He beams a wide white smile. It’s a small victory in a tough life. Skinny legs pedal furiously to catch other boys riding endless loops around the property. 858.353.7325, ofno.org     JAMES FERRARO

Helping Hands