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The Sunflower Orphanage, Peru Part 4

By Robyn Openshaw, MSW | Jan 08, 2010

I have much more to tell you about our trip to Peru and especially the Sunflower Orphanage. In the swings (THANK YOU to GSG reader Patti for these photos!) are Purfita, Dayana, Janina, and me.

Janina is so cute and sweet, but she is impish and lets you know EXACTLY how she wants things to be! Dayana makes beautiful jewelry and drives a hard bargain. But she also wrapped a set of earrings up with gobs of paper and tape, and she and Janina presented them to me as a gift.

When I think of how badly I would like to take one or more of these girls out of Peru, I have to turn my brain away from the thought before my heart shatters in a million pieces, as impossible as that is.

The day we finished building this swing set, it rained all afternoon. The kids, though, took turns swinging all day long and into the night. No swing ever stood still. Classmates stood above the orphanage looking in, jealously. Some of these kids have never been in a swing. (Don’t worry, they figured it out. It didn’t take them long to learn to yell, “Empujame!” Push me! And to jump out at the height of the motion.)

In this photo with Cristofer, who is 7 years old and new to The Sunflower, whom Emma and I adore, we are hauling grass and rocks away before we built an outdoor wash basin. Cristofer rode in my wheelbarrow over and over, and it’s easy to carry him since he’s the size of a 4-year old! Seventeen percent of kids in Latin America are malnourished and Cristofer came as one of them. Now he gets three meals a day thanks to the generosity of Americans who sponsor kids at the Sunflower, run by two of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.

I looked high and low for a humanitarian organization that is truly dedicated to the welfare of street children and orphans, where virtually all of your money reaches the intended cause. I already know the founders. But I wanted to go there to see it, touch it. And I asked the kids, the intern, everyone, lots of questions. This organization, and this amazing home, is the real deal. Let me tell you a couple of examples of why I love this place:

One day I was pushing kids in the swings and Gabriel saw one of the teenage girls get into a swing with a big handful of grapes. He stopped his swinging and walked over to her, to ask for some. She give him half. Then he went back to swinging but noticed 5-year old Janina standing nearby. He slowed his swing to a stop, silently reached over and gave her half of his grapes. Then he started swinging again.

He never even knew I saw this. I never saw a fight the whole time I was at the orphanage. I never heard an argument, never saw meanness or selfishness. (I wish I could say the same about my own kids.) These children were rescued from savage abuse. From hiding and trying to survive in the jungle. From begging on the streets. From alcoholic parents. Many of them don’t even know their own birthday, how old they are. Many have no memory prior to age 8 because of that magnificent ability the body has to protect us from horribly painful memories.

Nora is an MD and PhD cancer researcher at the famous Houston MD Anderson Clinic. She came with a GSG reader (and often translated for us, including letters to the kids as we left, since she is a native of Argentina). Nora decided during the trip to sponsor a beautiful, quiet girl named Margot. (That means she pays the $37/month that covers Margot’s meals, and Nora is going to skype with Margot and send her clothes and shoes.) Margot was confiding in Nora the gossip at the Sunflower. “Papi Leo,” she whispered, “might convert this place to be an orphanage!” Margot ran away from two previous orphanages. At the Sunflower, the gates are always open, but no one has ever run away. The kids seem very genuinely happy to me.

Margot has no idea the Sunflower IS an orphanage. To her, it’s just . . .


Here’s where you sponsor one of the kids:


Posted in: Parenting

25 thoughts on “The Sunflower Orphanage, Peru Part 4”

Leave a Comment
  1. Anonymous says:

    would love to contribute, although do sponsor a foster child under the World Vision Plan. Please let me know how I may be able to contribute. Love the photos and God Bless you for your humanitarian aspirations.



  2. Dear Robyn, I want to help out at the Sunflower Orphanage and I am already sponsoring a child in Honduras and cannot afford to do more right now. I am glad you are doing this work as I know of Sunflower from Richard Paul Evans. I am grateful for your good heart. Blessings! – Doc Meek, South Jordan, UT 84095, Jan 12, 2010. P.S. Do you mean URL above where you are stating URI?

  3. Robyn,

    What you are doing is so awesome and heartbreaking, at the same time. I admire your work and gumption. I can barely afford to fill up my car right now, otherwise I would have loved to have gone. It really piqued my interest when you originally said you were going there. Maybe next year, I can find a sponsor or something to help me get there. Keep up the great work!


  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi There

    I am from sydney australia,I applied to come with you to Peru,but never received any reply.Maybe this year if you are going there,i would like to come with my daugther too.

    What a wonderful person you are to of given your time and energy to these children,you are a special person.

    warmest regards wanda

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Oh Wanda, I don’t know how that got overlooked, I am so sorry!


  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Robyn. It is so inspiring to see all of the efforts that are being made throughout the world to improve the lives of others. I’m currently sponsoring a little girl in Honduras and it’s been a very rewarding experience. I hope to be able to sponsor more kids in the future. Thank you for providing this opportunity.

    Linda Gregersen

  6. Anonymous says:

    What a wonderful experience that must have been, and a great learning experience for your daughter. Thank you for all you do for these kids.


  7. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for sending me this information. I am truely touched. I would like more informatin on sporering a child. Or just helping in some way. I am glad you went and checked it out. I to always wondered just how much of what is sent really made a difference in the childs life. It is nice to know the doors are always open and especially nice to hear about the sharing from the heart without obligation and that the children call it home. Kind of like the old move of Boy’s Town.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Angie McCallumore

  8. Robin, heartwarming. Thank you for doing this, for reaching out and for sharing. Inspirational for all — on all levels.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like you are doing a great job…one of my passions…to help children…keep me posted…I’m interested…

  10. Anonymous says:

    I’m wondering where this orphanage is located and who to be in touch with for a humanitarian excursion. Thank you in advance for this information.

    Diane Stewart

  11. Dear Robyn,

    Thank you so much for your humanitarian work in Peru. I was also in Peru earlier this year where my fellow travel companions also made donations of our time, clothing and personal supplies to orphans.

    I am the Founder of The Global Association of Visionary Entrepreneurs http://www.GIVE-connect.com. We agree with your vision of effective giving, where we invest ourselves in ways that make the biggest impact on reducing inequities.

    I would love to extend a very sincere invitation to you to become an honorary member of GIVE. I would love to speak more with you to see how we can create an alliance and together make a lasting impact in the world. I would love to feature you and your work either in an article to our members or in a live teleconference. Please let me know what is best for you and spreading your mission.

    In joy and gratitude,

    Carrie Jacobs

  12. Anonymous says:

    This is great! – your time and effort helping children in Peru. The children look happy, healthy and loved! It’s good you’re in “prime” condition because wheel barrels can quickly whup ya! (voice of experience, as in, toting ingredients for concrete via wheel barrels, mixing it on a flat clean spot of packed soil, and wheeling it to / dumping it as new church flooring in Jamaica, 2001, UMC/VIM.

    Congratulations upon finding and pursuing so many ways to serve humanity; especially, children.

    Note: We are Facebook friends and I subscribe to your newsletter. Thanks!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Dear Robyn,

    I am so proud of you! As a mom of 3, I know how difficult it is to leave home and I think it took a lot of guts to do what you did. The orphanage was blessed to have you and your daughter and others helping out. You are an inspiration! Kim

  14. Wow! Robyn. You look different! Your descriptive words are beautiful, but I see something new in your pictures. You were touched and deeply. Thank you. I am channeling my envious thoughts into a search for something so life changing. WOW! This will be be fun.

    oh yes, and please avoid beginning your newsletter with “I am sorry”. I knew you were away. I am very happy to have missed you. You are back bearing gifts. All is well.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Thank you,

    Robin, Emma and all of the GSG crue !

    I am all AWE… and very deeply touched.

    I think you’ve subtly touched, and so magnificently experienced,

    a bit of what the genuine Christmas Magic (love) is all about…

  16. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Robyn for being a great exemplar of sharing.

    Your friend and reader in NC,

    Johnny Gregory

    Healthful Living Organic Farm

    Madison, NC

    (336) 275-6009

    P.S. If you are ever our way please visit our Triad Raw Foods Potluck, usually the 4rth Saturday at 5:30PM in Greensboro,NC. We’ll make you guest of honor and feed you well.

  17. Anonymous says:

    … all I can say after reading your blog today is wow..yea! and thank you..your an inspiration to my heart..the seed of your lead is planted.. now for it to grow:)

    Having grown up in the mid west it was a huge thing to go against the grain and eat real food especially in the 80’s when everyone was brought to you by Nabisco… I started the whole journey when I was 16 as a way to stay slim..I had won the Look of the Year contest in North America along with Cindy Crawford and Stephanie Seymour when I was 14 and super thin… 5′ 9” and 125lbs…so by 16 puberty was ruling and I had gained 10 pounds and refused to eat popcorn,smoke and drink diet coke…I ended up coming home after an awesome year in europe and going to highschool. I went back in the summers to model and quit at 18 for philosophical reasons.

    I never stopped absorbing and learning about healthy eating and have experimented with everything under the sun and have come to the same conclusion you did..just eat the food God put on the planet and you will feel great!.. go figure..:) I always say He dropped Adam and Eve off on the planet batteries included :)…

    I went to nanny school at age 19 and love children so much..so reading your blog today really touched my heart to tears…the ironic thing is that so many of our well fed children here in the states are just as malnourished which breaks my heart as well..I want to do something to help them..I had thought of creating a green smoothie wagon..to go to highschools at lunch.. along with this Super raw recipe I created that would be dessert like and help everyone from Alzheimer patients to little non breast fed toddlers that they would love….and haven’t seen anything like it out on the market ..just not sure where even to start…

    well..:) wasn’t planning on sharing all of that when I first started writing but just wanted to connect with you and let you know that with all my heart I am with you and living vicariously through you at the moment… hope to go on one of your adventures soon!..

    ..all for you sister friend! and again thank you!


  18. Hi,

    I am very glad you did this!

    Going to Peru and see the real life.

    I am proud to be a subscriber.

    Please go on doing this.

    Have a blessed new year.

    Gert jan

  19. Hi Robyn,

    What an inspiration you are to me, both in improving my diet and strengthening my goals.

    One goal is and has been to support (financially) my daughter working in the Amazon in Ecuador where she rescues wild animals and protects wild flora while educating indigenous communities, and seeking opportunities for upliftment for them.

    Thanks! Di

  20. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful… Thank you for letting me share in this experience.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I would really like to go help a the Sunflower how do I get more information on going there. I have been reading a lot about things like this and want to do something but don’t know where to start.


    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Brooke, please contact Generations Humanitarian, or find Van Evans on Facebook (he’s the founder of the orphanage and the GenHu foundation).

  22. Anonymous says:

    my heart and prayers goes out to each and every child .what does it cost to sponsor a child..how could someone possible choose as each child touches the heart

  23. Anonymous says:

    I went there a little over 2 years ago. I love every single kid and wanted to take them all home. The 3 weeks I was there it flew by. It was the best time of my life. Hope untouched enjoed your trip as much as I did!!

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