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Niños del Lago – When we pause and give attention

We walked into Niños del Lago’s office upon seeing “Inspiring the Dreams of Guatemalan Children” on a banner inside the office. How apt – we thought. And we were hoping we could co-organise a sharing session for the children they work with.

The staff in the office, Armando, spent some time with us to explain the work of Niños del Lago. We found out from him that it is actually a campsite for the underprivileged children in Guatemala; that it is still work-in-progress and would only be ready in December 2011.

In turn, we shared our project with Armando. And even though we were “too early” for a sharing session with the children, we were glad we stopped our tracks and connected with Armando. For he used to be “one of those kids”, who was fortunate enough to receive aide and is now paying it forward by working in Niños del Lago now.

“I want to show the children my example.” Armando told us in his fluent English. After our experience with the street children in Pana, his sentence made our day.

Armando left a comment on our website after we left

Armando left a comment on our website after we left

The following day, we engrossed with work on our computers when we heard a voice, “May I sit down with you?” It was Arlaine, “I going to leave when something told me – you need to speak with these girls. So I stopped and came back.”

Being story-tellers, we have always made it a point to honour the people who pause in their lives and take time to share their stories with us. So we stopped our work, put away our computers and gave our attention.

Over the next hour, Arlaine shared with us, her story of Niños del Lago – how she had her share of difficulties as a child, and how several mentors paused in their lives and gave her their attention… how those few moments of attention changed her life and guided her to become who she is today. “They stopped, looked me in my eyes – and I saw who I really was. I wasn’t someone hateful. I was only a child.” That is the intention of Niños del Lago.

“Every kid wants to feel special. Every one deserves to feel special…and loved.” Arlaine envisioned Niños del Lago to be a space for Guatemalan mentors to help children to nourish and grow – through Cultural Appreciation Activities, Environmental Education, Outdoor Sports Activities, Arts, Dance, Theatre, Poetry, Awards and Recognition.

“I am bringing a group of young people to visit the campsite tomorrow morning. And I would love for you to come. Please say yes.” Arlaine said, just before she got up to leave.

We did.

9AM in the morning we found ourselves walking through a beautiful and untouched piece of forest

9AM in the morning we found ourselves walking through a beautiful and untouched piece of forest

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
— Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist)

When Arlaine had the idea to create Niños del Lago, her Bed and Breakfast business was barely surviving. There was no way she could have afforded a piece of land big enough to build the campsite.

Yet, within one week of making the decision to commit to the project, Arlaine found a lump sum of money in her bank account. Her ex-husband had sold the property they had inherited many years before, and had wired her share over. It was just the right amount to buy the land and get started on the foundations.

Standing amidst her dream, Arlaine was radiating joy from within

Standing amidst her dream, Arlaine was radiating joy from within

In fact, her joy was so contagious, it could be felt by everyone on the tour.

As we walked through the campsite, Arlaine shared with us one story after another, about how things “simply flow” and “come together” and eventually built this place up. “The entire process took 7 years; we started in 2004… but it’s all going to be worth it. We will receive our first batch of Niños del Lago this year.”

“There was something magical about Niños del Lago. It felt like a safe safe abode gently embraced by Mother Nature. When you run your hands across the walls, you could feel that every single block was placed in their exact perfect position – ever so lovingly. The entire campsite is empty. Yet…so full of life. Only the grandest of hearts filled with the purest of intentions could have created a place like this. I am awestruck and humbled to be a witness to Arlaine’s dream coming alive.”Val

Before we left the campsite, we asked Arlaine if we could gift some form of “offering” to the land, to the campsite, to Niños del Lago. We wanted to form a blessing circle and sing a prayer for the many children entering the camp:

Hand in hand. Heart to heart. With Love and Light.

Hand in hand. Heart to heart. With Love and Light.

“Inspiring the Dreams of Guatemalan Children”
Words on a banner that grabbed our attention
And drew us into the office of Niños del Lago

Niños del Lago
A campsite for underprivileged children in Guatemala
A safe space to hold these children in a gentle, loving embrace

A dream to pay forward the kindness of mentors in our lives
Those who paused… and gave their attention
So that we too, can pause…and give our attention

Because everyone deserves to feel special, everyone deserves to feel loved
Because beyond the layers of defiance and rebellion
Is only a child – waiting and wanting…to nourish and grow

“Many of us bulldoze through life as if in a trance.  In that trance, nothing is more important than satisfying ourselves, meeting deadlines, achieving our goals…me, me and more me.  In rare moments, we break out from this trance, pause to breathe and then witness the many miracles in life, happening right in front of our very eyes.  Meeting Auntie Arlaine and touring Niños del Lago were miracles that reminded us – we need to pause, pay attention and honor the moments in life.”Tay

We will post the video of the story of Niños del Lago when it’s done. Meanwhile, to find out more about the organisation, please click here.

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