Local tots reach out to Honduran orphanage
After a recent trip to a shabby and sullied Honduran orphanage, Susan Bruno decided more must be done to help the 22 little faces she met there. For that help, she turned to 80 Truckee preschoolers.Bruno, former director of Truckee State Preschool, said she was drawn to the life and work of Mother Teresa nine years ago. It’s a philanthropic interest that has since taken her to the most impoverished areas of Mexico and Central America on a quest to learn and give.”I wake up in the morning and ask her if she needs me,” Bruno said.Last January, Bruno traveled to the Hogar San Jose orphanage in Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras, and said that within five minutes of arriving it became obvious why she was there.”There was a flu epidemic, all the children had diarrhea, everything was in complete chaos,” she said. “The weather was miserable, the children were sleeping in jeans, and they weren’t washing their hands, so nothing could break the cycle.”For three weeks Bruno aided the sisters of Mother Teresa’s Order in hand washing clothing and sheets, stitching the finishing touches on 50 pairs of flannel pajamas, and scrubbing the hands of two dozen sick-but-smiling tots.”They are happy,” Bruno said of the children, many of whom are not orphans, but have been placed temporarily in the care of the sisters by parents who cannot afford to feed another mouth or clothe another body. “They come into a world where they are very cared for. There is no agenda or hidden motive.”Upon returning to Truckee, Bruno said she couldn’t let go of the sisters and their orphanage, so she began a local project to benefit the children she left behind.With the help of 80 families associated with Club Amiguitos, a multicultural mix of families from Truckee State Preschool, Lengua Viva, and the Truckee Donner Recreation & Park District preschool, Bruno hopes to raise money to help fund the installation of a heated water system at the orphanage. Over the past weeks, parents have been making papier-mâché piggy banks for their preschoolers to fill with money from people in the community. Last year, a similar Club Amiguitos coin drive brought in $500, plus another $600 in individual contributions, that went to feeding and clothing families living in a destitute Honduran barrio.”The Hispanic families who have touched poverty, the ones who get it, are the most generous,” Bruno said.To complement the efforts of Truckee’s youngest philanthropists and share with them the value of kindness and giving, Bruno also wrote her first children’s story, “Apples from the Other Side,” which will be published as a bilingual book, the story printed side-by-side in English and Spanish.The tale, which is told to a boy by his grandfather, recounts the friendship established between a fortunate American boy and an orphaned Honduran boy, and focuses on a lesson of gratitude and caring for others.”For years I have been trying to understand poverty. And the deeper I get into it, the more joy I find,” Bruno said. “The tenderness of having so little, and appreciating so much sends my soul back full. So the book is about the joy of being able to give and being able to receive.”On Jan. 3, Bruno will board a Honduras-bound plane piloted by Incline resident Rob Lober, who, along with Bruno, is a member of the High Sierra Chapter of Flying Doctors, a nonprofit organization that flies more than a dozen missions a year to Baja and Sonora, Mexico, and to Central America to administer free medical and dental care.The two will also be joined by members from the Flying Doctor’s Auburn chapter, Dr. Ed Weiss, a dentist who will be the hot-water project’s plumber, and Dr. Judi Foy .”Susan has a way of attracting people to follow her,” Lober said. “We’ve all done enough of this to realize that you get back far more than you put in.”Anyone interested in purchasing a book, which will be available after Jan. 6, or who would like their own piggy-bank or to make a donation to help with the coin drive to benefit the Hogar San Jose orphanage, should contact Susan Bruno at 583-5766.