Our days at La Maison

Morning comes early at La Maison D’Enfant Espoir. This is all thanks to the children. At the crack of 6 am, the sound of children’s laughter and shouts explodes the house without fail. With 57 little ones all under one roof not only are the mornings an early event but they are full with activity and chores. Cleaning rooms, mopping floors and folding clothes keep the kids busy before playtime begins while us two twenty-something girls can roll ourselves out of bed.

Our days kick off with a little breakfast, which is usually interrupted by the two very bright, smiling faces of Jonas and Lancely. After locating us at the breakfast table, the eager pair of toddlers fight their way onto our laps to inspect our plates and determine if we left any treats for them. From there we head downstairs (toddlers in tow) to be greeted by a pack of children who are done with their chores and ready to entertain. As we take our seats on the front verandah, the party kicks off. Dolls are brought out by the girls, while the boys wrestle for our attention and giggle when they notice us watching.

Lancely gives Danielson a bear hug, while some older boys try their best to escape our smiles

One of the older shows off his eye-lid-flipping-inside-out skills

It’s at this hour of the day that we are bombarded by an onslaught of questions pertaining to our awkward French (which tends to be mixed with Spanish after 8 months of it) and general Canadian weirdness.

“Why don’t you speak French, are you not from Montreal?”

“Why is your belly button pierced? It is very ugly!”

“Let me see your watch? Why don’t you give it to me?”

Our answers are always the same and always received with a somewhat skeptical roll of the eyes as if to say “Hmm, how odd are these Canadian girls…”

Leah looks on as Lancely gives Daniella a big smooch

At this point of the morning the youngest of the children, Jonas, Lancely and the twins, Daniella and Danielson, begin what they like to call the “Ready, Set, GO!!” game. We take our places at one side of the verandah as they run full tilt and hurl their bodies into our laps. Endless giggles and laughing fits are the only audible noises besides the children’s screams of “Ready, Set, GO!!”

The three musketeers getting rowdy: Danielson, Jonas, and Lancely

As noon rolls around, the two of us “volunteers” are completely exhausted. For the last four hours we have been poked, prodded, inspected, cuddled and climbed upon. We’ve hauled excited children through the house as they wrap themselves around our ankles, we’ve braided Barbie’s hair only to have it unbraided a moment later only for us to braid it again. We’ve colored with crayons. We’ve pulled brawling children apart. We’ve wiped away tears and shared in laughter. We’ve balanced two kids in our arms, while holding the hands of three more. We’ve tried almost every imaginable activity possible in order to exhaust these children and yet it is us who make a silent escape to our room for a moment of peace and quiet.

Gill with her stylish new leg-warmers

By lunchtime, we sit across from one another wordlessly eating our food and hoping to regain whatever strength and every last morsel of energy we can muster. As afternoon rolls around, we’ve eaten, done some writing and feel rested enough to venture back downstairs for what is to be Part Two of the morning’s events.

When the sun begins its slow decent behind the mountains in the distant, the children drop their games and activities to meet in the main foyer and arrange themselves on the ground to sing their evening songs and say their nighttime prayer. Their sleepy eyes tell of a day full of fun and laughter. By 8 pm everyone is tucked into bed, including the two Canadians who thought volunteering at an orphanage would be easy.