It’s as nice as the botanical garden

On Friday we drove out to Casa Hogar Nacer. It’s a home in the country for boys who have been living on the streets of Santa Cruz. It is simply one of the most amazing places ever, and each time we visit I come away amazed.

There are usually around 60 to 70 boys at the home at any given time. They are free to come and go. In fact, Miguel (the founder of the home) never goes out and invites boys to come… The word simply spreads on the street and curious boys come on their own.

There are many amazing things at Hogar Nacer. The most amazing of all are the lives changed. At Hogar Nacer these boys leave behind lives of addiction, stealing, sickness, and other problems. Instead they learn responsibility, they get an education, they eat healthy, and they have a big “family” that loves them.

Equally amazing is the setting in which all this happens. As I said before, Hogar Nacer is in the country, connected to Santa Cruz by highway. So many of the city’s temptations are out of easy reach. When the home began, it was mostly an empty piece of land. Today it is replete with beautiful gardens, shady huts, orange groves, soccer fields, and much more. The boys did almost all the construction and planting work themselves.

St. Louis has a magnificent Botanical Garden. The Santa Cruz Jardin Botanico is not even close to matching it. But when I’m at Casa Hogar Nacer, I feel like they have made it into something almost as beautiful as the garden in St. Louis.

We spent a good deal of time going from place to place around Hogar Nacer filming and snapping photos of the boys as they worked and played and ate. When we get back to St. Louis, we’ll try to edit together a short video that gives a better perspective of what the place looks like than I can describe here in words. We also plan to update the Hogar Nacer website with information about 3 other homes that Miguel is now operating.

Among the improvements we saw there: the library is now finished and open. It has a small supply of books (they would welcome donations of more), a computer lab, and an open space for desks. They are currently using the open space to give musical instrument lessons. We also saw that the pig farm has expanded from the 3 pigs we saw last year to nearly 40 this year. They sell the meat from the pigs as a source of income for the home (and of course caring for the pigs provides responsibilities for several boys). The tilapia pools also seemed larger than the ones we saw last year, though they are wrestling with some problems in properly aerating them. The dentist/doctor’s office has moved from a modular trailer into another building on the campus. They still don’t have a “true” dentist’s chair (they make do with a folding patio-style chair), but it appears they have all the other equipment they need.

Also, we did take some video of traffic along the way… We hope to do some filming on a bus before we come back. If we’re lucky the footage we get will let us make a fun short video about travel in Santa Cruz.