OSSO stands for Orphanage Support Services Organization and we do everything possible to help children living in orphanages in third world countries. Help orphans worldwide reach their potential. Travel, go on adventures, and give your time to children in orphanages.
We are not your typical volunteers. I am a parent of an adopted child from Quito. When we adopted our son in 2011 we briefly met these really nice young people who were there volunteering. We ran into a few different volunteers while traveling around the area and everytime we did our son ran up and hugged them so tight. I could tell that these young people were so very special to the children. From that time on I have wanted to be one of those volunteers and give back to other children what my son received ..... unconditional love and my time. I later found out that these volunteers were from OSSO. I have followed OSSO since. In 2018 I decided it was time and my now 11 year old son wanted to come too. In October we traveled to Cuenca and spent two weeks there. My son was asked many times why he wanted to go and he always replied "the food and to play with the children"! And that is exactly what he did. He became a big brother, little brother, friend and amigo to many of the wonderful kids that we got to spend time with. He was in awe as to how happy they all were. As we traveled around to other orphanages he couldn't wait to meet up with the buddies he had made. They were excited to see us arrive and sad to see us leave. He taught a few kids how to catch grasshoppers, build a racetrack, do handstands and make paper airplanes. The experience was very hard work at times but priceless to see my son give to these children exactly what they wanted and needed...and exactly what he received when he was a child of an orphanage. I feel it gave my son a sense of who he is and what his life was like when he was a young child. He saw the love that these kids and himself were surrounded by.
This blog is brought to you by alumni, Brooke Johnson
"You’ll never forget this experience. I’m going on 12 years since I volunteered in Ecuador and I STILL think of those kids, pray for them, relive my memories, and count the whole thing as a huge life-altering blessing." Although you may feel 'done' when you get home, we have many options for alumni to continue supporting the children that they love. You can become an orphan advocate, a sponsor, volunteer again at a discounted price or help us spread the word to family and friends. You can continue to help those orphans even years later!
"It’s hard work. But anything that is worth it, will be. To change a life (yours or the children’s) takes effort. But, to make a difference in this world pays off ten fold and is priceless to oneself." We require volunteers to work shifts of 5 hours twice a day. We do allow volunteers two shifts off and one full day off every week to rest, tour the city, etc. The work can be tedious, long and hard work!
"It’s a blast! The getaways are awesome. The country is BEAUTIFUL. The people are amazing and intriguing. And the food is delicious." We offer many different field trips and excursions for our volunteers in between shifts or on their days off. Those volunteers that are long term (4+ weeks) will also be able to go on our 3 day excursion to Banos Ecuador.
"You will wonder how you can leave and really go back to “normal” life. It’s a trip."
"It’s worth every penny. And don’t be afraid to use the fundraiser ideas on the website." Our prices may seem high to some, but we are paying for your room and board, field trips, transportation, your OSSO sweatshirt and a donation that goes directly to the orphans. We have LOTS of ideas on fundraisers and those that choose to do them, are very successful!
"Your eyes will be widened and your heart is going to grow in ways you didn’t expect."
Equestrian therapy is a form of therapy that makes use of horses to help promote emotional growth. [It] is particularly applied to patients with ADD, anxiety, autism, dementia, delay in mental development, down syndrome and other genetic syndromes, depression, trauma and brain injuries, behavior and abuse issues and other mental health issues.(source:https://www.equestriantherapy.com/equestrian-therapy/)
From our director "The children go each week. It really was a miraculous blessing that it happened. Keenan happened to be with some of our friends at the spa and while they were chatting with a man there, Keenan had mentioned the our OSSO children used to go to horse riding at the Calvary base down the street from OSSO. The man actually owns and runs a horse training facility and said that a woman was running a hippotherapy section. Long story short, she (Carol) invited us free of charge to ride every week and to pay for the transportation to get there and back from OSSO. We now take all the casa children (those who aren't in school or are pulled out) and the OSSO children every Tuesday.
Carol studies hippotherapy (or horse therapy) in University and even in Spain for a while. She has 3 different groups come including a down syndrome group and an autistic group and many other individuals. The children ride the horses in various different positions to increase movement, balance, relaxation among other things that you can look up online. Interaction with horses has proven to be very emotionally stimulating as well. Some of the positions include riding backwards, to each side, on their backs, on their stomachs and leading the horse by hand if the child walks. While on the horse, those children that are able to, are sometimes asked to do a task like throwing a ball through a hoop. These things help them balance and stimulate them.
We've seen children who normally never react to much of their surroundings just cry their eyes out on the horse. Although it may seem disturbing to witness or hear, it's actually a great experience. That child is able to react and express emotion and is stimulated by their environment. You can watch some children get on the horse worried and tense at first and then just melt like butter by the end, at one with the horse. Some of the children have grown accustomed to going each week and one now heads straight to the horse in the arena and climbs up the steps and swings his leg over the horse without even being prompted practically.
To insure the upmost safety for our children, we coach the volunteers a bit to be sure they feel comfortable with the task at hand. OSSO volunteers know the children better when if comes to the individual children. The Physical Therapist is the one that knows best though and she always accompanies us each week. Some children can't open their legs so they can only sit in specific positions. Some children don't hold themselves up on the horse well and our volunteers must help them which can be difficult. There are volunteers from the schools that come to help while we're there and there are people from the horse facility that help us out as well."- Sasha
We have had multiple volunteers ask, "Do you accept male volunteers into your program?" The answer is YES! Although the majority of our volunteers are women, we DO accept men as volunteers and LOVE having them! Although women make great volunteers, we realize that the impact men have on children is a very different and special type that cannot be duplicated. We researched and found some outstanding facts about having a male presence in the orphanages.
"No matter how great a mother is, she cannot replace what a father provides to a child. Irrefutable research shows that mothers are typically nurturing, soft, gentle, comforting, protective and emotional. Fathers tend to encourage risk-taking and to be challenging, prodding, loud, playful and physical. Children need a balance of protection and reasonable risk-taking. If a positive male role model isn't around, there is a void in this child's life. Children without positive male role models are more likely to be involved in criminal activity, premarital sexual activity, do poorer in school and participate in unhealthy activities. (https://firstthings.org/importance-of-positive-male-role-models/)
Studies have shown that involvement of a father or a positive male role model has profound effects on children. Father-child interaction promotes a child’s physical well-being, perceptual ability and competency for relating with others. Furthermore, these children demonstrate greater ability to take initiative and evidence self-control. (https://firstthings.org/importance-of-positive-male-role-models/)
Trinidad, or Trini, as it is known here at OSSO, is an adorable daycare up in the mountains of Cuenca. The children who go to school here come from poor, hardworking families. The kids come here during the day to learn and play and occasionally spend time with our volunteers! None of the children at Trini are orphans or looking for a new home. You will usually go to Trini only once during your time at OSSO, but you may have a chance to go again the longer you stay! An average day at Trini might sound something like this.
"After about a 30 minute bus ride, part of it through some beautiful mountains, we arrived at this cute little preschool called Trini. We walked inside and immediately were ambushed by a ton of little kids! They grabbed our hands and took us back to their classrooms, all the while asking us questions in rapid fire Spanish. Once we got to their classrooms they begged us to open our activities bags, but after being shushed by their teacher, they calmed down and patiently wait for us, well as patiently as two and three year olds can. Finally the teacher gave us permission to do our activities with the kids. We pulled out books, blocks, bubbles, coloring books, crafts, puzzles and so much more! The kids were so excited! Immediately I had several children in my lap, begging me to read them a story in my broken Spanish. They watched and listened intently as I struggled to get through the story. As soon as I was finished, another kid was pulling me over to help her with a puzzle. We played for a little while longer before it was time to clean up so the kids could have snack. While the kids ate their fruit, the teachers had us sing songs and do silly little dances for the kids. I think that we entertain the teachers more than the kids when we do this! After snack, we went outside and played on the playground. We took turns catching the kids as they went down the slide and pushing them on the swings. When we started blowing bubbles the kids went crazy! They were so excited! All too soon it was time to say goodbye. The kids didn't want us to go and they all ran and hugged us at the same time! It was so cute. We finally were able to free ourselves from their grasps and get back in the bus. I am so glad that the directors took some pictures of us here so that I can have something to remember them by. And so I can have something to post on social media to show my friends and family members what I've been doing here!"
Los Pequeñitos de OSSO which means OSSO’s Little Ones is the only orphanage actually owned by OSSO. We call it OSSO for short. It’s currently the home of 21 children although some of the “children” range to 28 years old. Because some of the children here at OSSO are severely handicapped, they live their entire lives here. This is the main site that we work at in Cuenca and we live here too!
There are currently 2 casas (houses) at OSSO: Casa Alegría (House of Joy) and Casa Milagros (House of Miracles). Casa Milagros is downstairs and is a mix of older children with special needs and one younger child that goes to school each day. Casa Alegria has younger children and some older children, all with special needs. Each casa has six bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen/dining area. Here at OSSO we have a large outdoor space to play soccer, go on walks around the orphanage and a balcony where the kids in Casa Alegría like to hang out. We also have a room called Sala Girasol (The Sunflower Room) where we do activities when it’s raining, have movie nights and other activities.
Volunteers sometimes find it difficult to find meaningful activities for these kids here at OSSO because of their severe handicaps. Remember that almost every activity can be modified for children in wheelchairs. Just being with them, singing to them, reading to them and hold their hand can make a difference.
What your journal entry may read like after a shift here: Dear Diary, the weather is so bipolar here. This morning it was sunny and beautiful and then just before my afternoon shift at Casa Milagros it got supper dark and just started dumping rain. Hence the movie in the afternoon shift. We’re only allowed 2 movies a week so I’m glad we saved it for today’s rainy day. The directors say it’s the rainy season so I guess it’ll be like this the entire time I’m here. At least it’s sunny in the morning. The boys in OSSO M absolutely loved watching Thor. I swear they’ve seen it like 3 times in the last month, but they still jump at the loud moments and love it! After the movie we headed in for dinner. We put bibs on a bunch of them and I asked if E’s food was ready. Although sometimes he’ll spit up food on me suddenly and he knocked the entire bowl of food on me my first day here, I think he’s the easiest to feed and he loves eating. At least he doesn’t sneeze it all over me like R does sometimes, haha. When I first got here, feeding the kids was one of the grossest things to me. To be honest, it used to make me gag, but it’s so normal now and I’m used to it. Now it’s just another daily thing that we help the tias with (we call all the workers tias like auntie in Spanish, I think it’s endearing). After dinner we just got some of them into their beds after brushing their teeth. Speaking of brushing their teeth, this morning I had the lovely opportunity of brushing C’s teeth. I literally had to ask my friend to come over and help me hold his arms down and his head still. I still feel awkward having to hold him down and force a toothbrush into his month, but I guess it gets the job done. This morning was in OSSO A. I helped shower the kids by taking their socks off and putting them in the laundry sink, then carrying them to the bathroom with the tia. They did the bathing but I helped put on deodorant and dress the kids afterwards. It’s become pretty second nature now that I’ve been here so long, but at first it was hard to know what the tias wanted me to do. After showering, I decided to work on physical therapy with some of the kids. I brought the binder down from the volunteer house and I worked with Little B on his sign language. He’s doing really well. I also did S’s therapy which always seems awkward because of how contorted his body and bones are. It’s nice to spend one-on-one time with the kids doing therapies though. We had some activity time so we painted trees with dot paints outside. Lunch came faster than normal I feel like and we brought them back upstairs and feed them soup and juice. Just when you think you’re done, they hand you a glass of juice to feed to them with a spoon. After that we headed back up to the volunteer house and ate lunch. Catalina (our cook) made us delicious potato soup, chicken and of course more rice. For dinner we all went out to town. I think we’re a little tired of meat and rice so we went to Fabianos and got pizza instead.