My name is Isabel Coughlin and I have had the wonderful privilege of volunteering at Salomon Klein every year since 2013. During my August 2019 volunteering visit, I saw that the kids learn many different skills in their Montessori classes and afternoon activities. One of those activities is making friendship bracelets. The kids get to choose their own colors and beads and they work with remarkable focus on perfecting their bracelets, only stopping to teach each other a new technique. When I visited with the kids, they were so proud to share their bracelets with me, especially bracelets that were red, yellow, and green, Bolivia's colors. Many of the children at SK have developmental delays or neurological challenges. Children who otherwise have delays or challenges gather around the table with their counterparts and work on their bracelets together. This activity gives the children opportunities to teach each other and take pride in their work. On my last day at SK this August, I told the kids I would be taking their bracelets to share with people in the United States. They all picked out their bracelet they were most proud of and told me to make sure someone would wear it. I hope you all will consider buying a bracelet at our October 5th fundraiser so you can have a constant reminder on your wrist of the hard work, pride, and resilience of the beautiful children of Salomon Klein.
Thanks to the many generous donations to the Salomon Klein Kids' Fund, and to the matching grant from the Hammonds/Sandalow family, construction of the first-ever library for the children at Salomon Klein has begun. We broke ground in August and expect to have the children enjoying their new reading and learning space within months. Your contributions continue to enrich the lives of these beautiful kids in so many ways and we thank you for your generosity. Stay tuned for more construction updates.
Laura McJilton travelled to Cochabamba last summer for her bar exam trip to volunteer and study Spanish. The Maryknoll Institute there put her in touch with Emma Rojas, Salomon Klein’s director. Lauravolunteered in the infant room from mid-August through September. She said it was one of the most personally impactful things she has ever done. “Although with my current job it may be some time before I can make it back to be physically present in Cochabamba, I will always carry the children in my heart.” Here are Laura’s personal reflections on her experience at Salomon Klein.
“Out of the fires of desperation burn hope and solidarity.” ~Sharon Burrow.
This post was a long time in coming. In part it was because Cochabamba itself is difficult to process and in part it was because in the hustle and bustle of life Boston finding space to process is difficult. As I sit here tonight, as we approach the darkest day of the year, gale winds and driving rain lash at the windows. And yet I am safe, and dry, and warm, both physically and metaphorically. And I think with some amazement that it should be so.
The first day I arrived in Cochabamba I saw a small girl, maybe 5 years old, standing in the center of a busy street, hand outstretched. She became a common sight, and although I couldn’t speak her language, I found the language of ice cream universal. My first day of class I asked about her and was told the story of the Quechua, how for many years they were denied voting, property, and education. I was told how they struggle in poverty with little opportunity for education and advancement. And so they beg, and their children beg, and sometimes they leave their children in places where they know they will be found.
Perhaps this was the story of newly arrived baby John, named for saint under whose statue he was found. It’s almost certainly true for several children who arrived while I was volunteering. The fastest way to calm them was to wear them in a blanket on your back, as is the indigenous way. But although their past is shrouded in darkness, their future glows with the collective fires of those who stand in solidarity with him – the volunteers that come and hold him, those who give gifts to children in places they may never see, the staff who work tirelessly for what a nonprofit can afford, to the nun whose daily entrance makes the children radiate joy on her arrival, and to Emma, the director, who lit the torch long ago from the embers of her own heart and carries it faithfully.
As the Advent season approaches, the children will be sheltered from a dark world by arms of grace and a nativity play. And although it is summer there, perhaps they will sing with us about Orien, the Morning Star, the Rising Sun. The fire that burns in hope and solidarity through the darkest day, as it always has. A reflection of a cold manager, a dark night, and light incarnate come to bring hope to those with none.
The kids at Salomon Klein give a huge thanks to these 4 restaurants for their generous and delicious food donations to our Foundation’s annual fundraiser dinner. Thanks to the kindness of these establishments, the event was a huge success!
Sibarita Bolivian Restaurant – 2716 Washington Blvd., Arlington, VA
El Tío Tex-Mex Grill – 1433 Center St., McLean, VA
Fanny’s Bolivian Restaurant – 436 S. Washington St., Falls Church, VA
Indique Indian Restaurant – 3512 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC
Emma and the Salomon Klein staff recently received a newborn girl who arrived under very difficult circumstances. Baby G. was found abandoned by the side of a highway. A woman who just happened to stop her car for a rest break was startled by rustling noise next to her, and when she looked down, she saw badly sunburned infant. After Baby G. was turned over to the authorities, she was brought to Salomon Klein, which is one of the only orphanages in Cochabamba that accepts newborns. After many weeks of intensive medical treatment at Salomon Klein and a local hospital, Baby G. began to thrive. The caretakers in the baby room, along with many support staff, were able to nurse her to health and give her the love and care that she so desperately needed. Today, Baby G. is a beautiful, healthy, smiley, three-month old delight of a baby who will mercifully have no memory of her tragic beginnings. It took a large, loving effort to get Baby G. to this point, and she will continue to progress under Salomon Klein’s care until one day she could hopefully find a loving family.