Me And Maria

Volunteering At Hogar de Pan Orphanage In Cartago, Costa Rica

From the outside, Hogar de Pan looks like a normal house. There is no sign and nothing remarkable about it. But inside, it is a remarkable story.

Me And Melba

Me And Melba

The orphanage was started by inspirational couple Victor and Melba. Their son was extremely sick 30 years ago and the doctor told them that he wouldn’t make it. While Melba was taking care of her sick child, there was also an orphaned child battling the same infirmity. Melba and Victor adopted the orphaned child. Miraculously, both children survived and Hogar de Pan was born!

Victor Miguel Senior And Junior

Victor Miguel Senior And Junior

Hogar de Pan = Home of Bread. I asked if it was a play on words since Peter Pan was also an orphan, but no, it’s just a coincidence.

The house has an astounding 40 children of all ages and abilities disabilities. Many children come from heartbreaking circumstances such as abuse, sexual assault, and more. Melba is “mama” and Victor is “papa” to all the children. A concerted effort is made to provide a family-like structure despite the quantity of children.

Unfortunately, I was only able to volunteer for a couple days as my world got turned upside on Thanksgiving, then I was given the run around at another orphanage, and then on my first day of volunteering here my plans for December and January changed completely as I decided to add Venezuela to The Happy Nomad Tour.

Still, it was a wonderful experience.

As I’ve said before, kids are kind of alien to me. I didn’t grow up around many little kids and they still intimidate me a bit. Thus, being around them is definitely a way of challenging myself. Plus, if I ever want to have my own kids someday, I should learn the basics! :)

Me And Maria

Me And Maria

I helped out with random tasks. The scarcest resource in the house is attention, thus the best thing a volunteer can do there is offer his or her attention. Luckily, they partner with several European organizations and there are always volunteers in the house. The volunteers often stay with in the houses of Victor and Melba’s grown up children.

Helping Out In The Kitchen

Helping Out In The Kitchen

I helped cook lunch with Melba’s daughter-in-law one day. What a process! They made mondongo soup – a soup made of vegetables and the stomach of a cow. I tried it in El Salvador. I live by the motto of trying everything in life at least once. I already tried this once and I didn’t go back for seconds..

Camote And Choyote

Camote And Choyote

But yes, for 40 children, we peeled and chopped vegetables for what seemed like hours! And interesting vegetables too. The pink vegetable is called camote and the green one is called choyote.

Cooking For 40 Kids

Cooking For 40 Kids

It takes a couple hours to prepare each meal and it would be impossible without the help of volunteers.

Some the kids seemed to get attached to me. I was very surprised since this almost never happens normally. But then again, my life is not normal anymore and I’ve changed a lot. Maybe one of the consequences of that is a better connection with kids!

Luis And I Out On A Walk

Luis And I Out On A Walk

One of these kids was Luis. I don’t know what his disability was exactly, but he couldn’t speak or communicate. But he and I share a similar passion – walking. He came up to me, grabbed my hand, and pointed at the front door. So we went out for a walk in the neighborhood. Most of the time he was running in place because he was so excited to be outside.

He has a fascination with things in motion, so a bridge with water passing below is heavenly for him.

Below is a video of him enjoying the site of the running water in the river.

As I watched him express his joy, I wondered if, despite his disability, he could see things more clearly than I could. I saw nothing fascinating with the river nor the scenery. Maybe Luis sees something I can neither see nor appreciate. It makes you wonder.

Below are some more pictures of the orphanage.

Play Area

Play Area

Laundry Room

Laundry Room

A Room

A Room

Vincente And Jorge

Vincente And Jorge

Laura And Jorge

Laura And Jorge

Some Kids Watching Cartoons

Some Kids Watching Cartoons

It was a short but great volunteering experience. I wish I could have spent more time there, but so goes the life of a wandering nomad with last-minute plan changes.

If you have any interest in volunteering at an orphanage, I found this list of many orphanages located all over the world.

June 2013 Update

More than anywhere else I’ve volunteered, Hogar de Pan has elicited lots of interest and emails from others who would like to share their time, energy, and love with these wonderful children. Until now I had no contact info or address to share. Now I do.

First, they have moved to San Jose, so they are no longer in Cartago.

They have a facebook page you can see here: https://www.facebook.com/hogar.casadepan

Their phone number is +506-22407529 and they only speak Spanish.
Their address is: 100 metros norte, 100 metros este y 250 norte del supermercado Palí, que está cercano a la estación de bomberos, en la Florida de Tibás, San José, Costa Rica. Portón Azul, a la par de la casetilla del guarda.
If you don’t speak Spanish (and didn’t realize that addresses don’t exist in Central America) it is: 100 meters east and 250 meters north of Pali Supermarket approaching the fire department station in Florida de Tibas in San Jose. Blue gate.
Good luck!
26 replies
  1. Jinisha Bhatt
    Jinisha Bhatt says:

    This reminds of my volunteering experience at orphanages in Asia. To me, the highlight of your story is when you admit having changed because of a connection you felt with these kids. It is so empowering to see kids being kids despite all their miseries. 

    You inspire me Adam! I always look forward to your weekly notifications :)

    Jinisha

    Reply
  2. Jessica Coulter
    Jessica Coulter says:

    Hi Adam, I’m interested in volunteering here.  I have just entered the second of 8 weeks in San Jose and would like to volunteer in addition to my spanish classes.  I also left my cushy corporate job in January 2011.  I spent almost 8 months in Tanzania, followed by an EMT course and now 2 months in Costa Rica.  Finally, I travel from San Diego, CA to Washington DC April – June, riding for Ride for World Health and raising over $3,000 for the cause… and then medical school in the fall of this year.  I would love for you to send me an email with information.  [email protected]  Muchas gracias!

    Reply
  3. chris
    chris says:

    hey Adam.. this is Chris.. I have been traveling to Costa Rica for the past 16 years.  I have a gringo face.. but a Tico heart.. lol.. Love it there..  and hope to make it my home one day.
    I do sign language for deaf people.  I know that American missionaries taught sign mag. there.  I have been able to talk to many deaf Ticos in my travels.  I would like to do something to help the kids.  what supplies do they need?  what can I do?  waiting on your reply..

    Reply
    • Adam Pervez
      Adam Pervez says:

      Hi Chris, how awesome! What a great story :)

      As for the orphanage, from what I saw and understand they are well stocked and taken care of. I don’t think they “need” anything, but some toys would always be welcome, I’m sure. Otherwise, showing up and offering hugs would probably be the best thing you could give as affection is in short supply given the children:adult ratio.

      Let me know if you make it there!

      Reply
  4. Alicia
    Alicia says:

    Hi Adam,

    Thank you for making this wonderful website! I was wondering if you can just show up at this orphanage and volunteer, or do you need to sign up with a program and pay to volunteer? My husband and I already have tickets to Costa Rica in August and would like to volunteer in some way while we are there for a few days. We do not have thousands of dollars to join the programs that I have seen to volunteer; so any way we can serve for free, would be fantastic. Thank you for your help!

    Alicia :)

    Reply
    • Adam Pervez
      Adam Pervez says:

      Hi Alicia,

      Yes, you can just show up and volunteer! No fee or anything. When you get to Cartago, just ask around and everyone knows this place.

      Have fun and good luck!

      Reply
  5. Alicia
    Alicia says:

    Hello, Adam :)

    Thank you for responding to my previous message awhile ago. We are leaving next week and I thought of another question for you; so if you could respond soon, I would really appreciate it. I was wondering if you have any suggestions of hotels or places to stay near the orphanage. Any advice would be fantastic! Thank you!!!

    Alicia

    Reply
    • Adam Pervez
      Adam Pervez says:

      Hi Alicia,

      Great to hear you’ll head to Cartago! I didn’t stay in a hotel/hostel while there, so I have no idea. I can’t remember any places there, but I’m sure a google search or using hostelworld.com will yield results. Cartago is only about 25 minutes from San Jose by bus, so you could even stay in the capital and bus in and out every day if you wanted.

      Reply
  6. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Hello Adam, I would like to donate my daughter’s old clothes and toys to an orphanage in Costa Rica. Can you tell me where I can send them. Is there an orphanage close to Perez Zeledon? My husband’s family is from Perez and I would love to volunteer the next time we go for a visit. Thank You!!!!!

    Kelly

    Reply
  7. Marissa Leal
    Marissa Leal says:

    Hi Adam!
    I’m spending the summer in Costa Rica with my family and definitely want to volunteer! Did you just show up at Hogar de Pan or did you ask them if you could volunteer? Do they always need volunteers?

    Thanks!

    Marissa

    Reply
  8. Nikki C
    Nikki C says:

    Hey Adam,
    I would love to get more information on this family/orphanage. My husband and I are both educators and are traveling to Costa Rica in July looking for ways to lend a helping hand. I have looked at many MANY organizations that are asking for high fees and our local church is on a trip in Jaco but also have outside costs that were putting our fees over $2,000 each. As two people who have lived abroad (China), we both know volunteering doesn’t have to work that way. We are young, educated, and more than willing to sleep in hostels and eat local food. Any information that can help connect us with Hogar de Pan or evn the geographic location would be much appreciated.

    Reply
  9. Huzy
    Huzy says:

    Hola Adam!

    Ah so the address issue is a Costa Rica thing as well! I thought it only happens in small towns in Nicaragua. I was in this village called El Cebolla (right next to a town called Estelli) for some volunteer work. Had a fantastic time there and made some friends. They don’t have internet at home, so whenever they want to log on they have to go to an internet cafe. That just sounds an awful lot of inconvenient to me, so I asked them, “What’s your address? We can write letters to each other.” And then they gave me really funny looks, like “Address? You mean directions? Just say it’s next to the school.” I remembered thinking to myself, “Sure I’ll just put [Cristiany, Right next to school, Estelli, Nicaragua] on the envelop. DHL will know exactly where that is.” That was 3 years ago. I have yet to find ways to deliver something there without having to buy a plane ticket to hand deliver it myself.

    I just discovered your website. Your travel journey sounds amazing.

    Pura Vida!
    Huzy

    Reply
    • Adam Pervez
      Adam Pervez says:

      Thanks! Yes, I think the whole no-address thing is a Central American thing. Colombia has a fantastic address system, better than any I’ve seen in “Developed” countries. I hope you can stay in touch by internet with your friends in Nicaragua! :)

      Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] aliens. But I’ve put myself in contact with kids a lot during this trip. From the orphanage in Costa Rica to the one in Ecuador to the Mother Teresa home in The Philippines, to staying with wonderful […]

  2. […] when I volunteered at the orphanage in Costa Rica and the one in Ecuador, the power of touch could not have been more […]

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