Warrior | Heidi Hanson Photography | Connecticut Wedding Photographer

For nine days I took a journey to the Napo Region of Ecuador as part of a team put together by an amazing photographer Alicia Daw. Simply Love 2014, was a group of individuals from all over the country who volunteered to work at Casa Feliz an orphanage run by an organization called Bless an Orphan.

It is really hard to put into words all the things that I encountered in the nine days I was gone, the ups, the downs, the highs and lows, the emotional moments (yes there were many), self realizations and just pure fun. The stories of the 17 children that live at Casa Feliz are so heart-wrenching, it is purely gruesome to hear how awful these children have been treated by their family members lives, but so beautiful to see their smiles and how happy they are now because of the love they have from the generous souls who help make Casa Feliz such a loving environment.

I have wanted to do a mission trip for a while, but as many things go, life kind of gets in the way of things like that.  But coming off the heels of 2013, one of the worst years for me ever, the stars aligned and everything seemed to fall into place.  I needed to know that there was some good in this world and that I could experience it first hand.

I don’t want to say that it was a soul searching mission for me, but I definitely learned a lot about myself during this trip. Living with 13 complete strangers will definitely help you figure out a lot about yourself rather quickly – LOL.

I feel like I’ve come back with a newer, fresher perspective on life and can really focus better on what is important in life:

  • I’m not going to beat myself up so much.  When I’m presented with a challenge I will take a step back and figure out how to handle it, we’re talking baby steps people; not blowing everything out of proportion…just simply looking at new ways to handle things rather than getting down on myself;
  • Being more truthful with myself and others.  I’m not going to filter so much more of my thoughts, so look out, I’m going to be more honest, it may backfire, but I’m tired of hiding my feelings inside ( “You hear my voice, you hear that sound Like thunder gonna shake the ground.”- Katy Perry Roar – yes I love this song 🙂
  • I know I can’t change the world, and a lot of circumstances are way beyond my control, I can’t change the past. I realize that. I have to let fate or ‘whatever’ let things be.  What I can change is myself and focus on the way I project my own thoughts and feelings onto people and events.  I am going to try really hard to let that happen this year.
  • This year I will learn to accept what I cannot change – whew this is a BIG one for me. And by big I mean hard!  I am going to have to remind myself of this everyday and take big deep breaths and really, really, REALLY try hard to do this.
  • Life is too short – I want to live it to the fullest with my family and enjoy all the moments we can together.

While I was only there for a short period of time I think that I was able to make a little bit of a difference.  I participated in projects at the orphanage including organizing all the donations we brought down there (thank you to all those that donated); organized the storage room; helped paint an outdoor chalkboard wall for the children; made corn hole and beanbag toss games; assembled a checkerboard tile area outside for the children; and put on a carnival in a jungle village (pie in the face – that was my station)! I also hope that I helped bring a few smiles to some of the children while I was there, because they certainly brought some smiles to my face.

I cannot say enough about the staff and volunteers of Casa Feliz and Bless an Orphan; they are amazing people who give up their entire lives and move thousands of miles away from their friends and families to help put smiles on these children faces everyday they truly are warriors. And the kids….they are the true warriors after having been through abuse, delinquency, corruption, neglect and worse, they are still smiling and happy to be alive and in a loving environment.  This was my first time doing something like this and it certainly won’t be my last.

Now I’m a warrior, I’ve got thicker skin, I’m a warrior I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, – Demi Lovato


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