Will Rogers

Will Rogers

I'm not known for gushing. OK, in some circles I'm not known for being

passably pleasant. But given the response to a column last month asking

for help in gathering supplies for the El Faro Orphanage in Tijuana, I

can't help but gush over the outpouring of generosity so many of you

showed for roughly 70 kids who live three hours away in another country.

Burbank resident Barbara Sykes organized the collection and delivery.

The day a column asking for rudimentary supplies was published, Sykes was

excited to get 20 calls -- before lunch. And the calls kept coming. And

they kept coming. Weeks later, as vans were being loaded, calls were

still coming.

Though we offered to go anywhere to pick up any donations, an endless

stream called for directions, most personally delivering enormous bags of

rice and cases of powdered milk to Sykes' front porch. In days, her

living room was packed wall- to-wall, then the dining room, and then, a

bedroom.

Apparently, the original column was photocopied and posted on bulletin

boards, and also e-mailed, throughout the area. Two weeks after it was

published, Sykes was still getting 40 calls in a day from people looking

to drop off baby wipes and cereal. Companies organized employees. City

officials talked to community groups. Student athletes made pitches to

their team mates. Supplies for El Faro poured in.

In May, the first time Sykes organized a caravan of minivans and other

family cars to deliver supplies, we had eight vehicles packed to

bursting. Last Saturday, 16 cars, vans and trucks made the climb up a

steep, rocky road to El Faro, a dusty collection of tiny buildings

perched atop a retaining wall made of tires.

Together, we carried more than a ton of rice, a ton of beans, and

cases of powder to make hundreds of gallons of milk. There were pallets

of toilet paper, a trio of cribs, and much, much more. Shade' Ogunleye,

the 15-year-old from Valencia whose resolve to make a difference at El

Faro first hooked the rest us, even came up with a used swing set. The

collection of beams and bolts was taken apart here to be reassembled in

the orphanage's courtyard. We were so heavily loaded, most drivers

stopped before leaving town to add air to tires nearly flattened under

the strain.

I'd list every donor, if only as a gesture of my deep gratitude. But

it would look like a page from a phone book. The best I can manage is a

list of those who made the trip Saturday, hearty souls who donated

supplies, then gave up one night to load cars, and the next day to drive

or ride for hours, then unload. They even had to assemble shelves we

brought for storing the bounty. Any spare time went to playing with the

residents of El Faro, and then we all headed home.

The latest "Elves of El Faro" are Carmen & Tom Duran, Dave & Patty

Augustine, Don Brown, Barbara Lazar, Jane Wrinkle, Dave Golonski, Claudia

Aguayo, Randi & Russell Tamillo, Jesse Rico, Jane & Cristina DiBattista,

Jim Brown, Evelia Garcia & family, Mary Lou Howard, Tom & Linda Jamentz,

Grant & Darlene Lewis, John & Ellen Shadday, Don Destouet, Roland

Williams, John, Ursola & Caroline Sasorski, Alison & Shade' Ogunleye and,

finally, representing the Burroughs High School girls' varsity

cross-country team, Hilary Duran, Brenda McDonald and Carolyn Brown.

Brown, I must add, didn't give up just any Saturday. On this

particular Saturday she had been named the Burbank Leader's Female

Athlete of the Year.

*

I've written about El Faro a couple of times. It's time to let

someone else give you their perspective.

The following letter was written by one of the track team members,

15-year-old Hilary Duran:

Above everything, I would first like to thank all the citizens of

Burbank and Glendale who contributed to the food collection. This was my

second trip to the El Faro Orphanage, and I must say, it was an awesome

experience. From the moment we pulled up the hill, there were kids

standing and looking at us, just waiting to be held, and to be loved.

It's not every day that 35 people come to the orphanage and visit with

the children. As I tried to hold three kids in my arms, I saw how hard it

was for them to try to love somebody, even if it was just for a short

while. Many of the older kids were peeking through the windows and into

the vans, trying to see what kind of goodies we had brought. But not the

little kids. All they wanted was a little love and attention. This is

something that really opened my eyes and made me think.

It was while holding 4-year old Alex that I realized how incredibly

lucky I am to have a family to come home to, and my own bed to sleep in,

and really no worries to carry on my shoulders. I take for granted the

little things in life, many things that these children will never be able

to see and appreciate.

My friends and I spent the day unloading trucks, building cribs and

playing with the children. We even got to serve them fresh watermelon,

something they get once a month, maybe. But in doing this, we also began

to realize how happy the kids are, despite the poverty they live in. They

were just so excited, partly because there was a swing set being put

together for them. Most had never been on a slide before.

As the day went on, I practically forgot that I was in an orphanage. I

was having a blast being with these kids. Just seeing them smile was

enough for me, and it's something I will never forget. I didn't feel like

a volunteer, but more like a friend. At the end of the day, when it was

time to go home, I begged my mom to bring home some of the kids. I wanted

to bring them all home.

To everyone who contributed, the food we took will be put to good use.

It's a great feeling knowing that the kids will not be going hungry for a

long while. If you can donate items, or help in any way, please call

Barbara Sykes at 843-2948. Your donation is another child's treasure.

I used to think that my life was full of obstacles and challenges, but

now I know that I have it easy. I live a very privileged life, a life the

children of El Faro will never know.

WILL ROGERS' column appears in every edition of the Leader. He can be

reached 24 hours a day at 637-3200, voice mail ext. 906, or by e-mail at

WillColumn@aol.com.

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