My friend Justin Mayo owns and runs an amazing non-profit in LA called RedEye – their mission is basically to connect young adults with unique and high-impact volunteer opportunities. Justin and my friend organized a small trip last summer to Tijuana, because Jolene knew the owners of an amazing orphanage near Tijuana that is always in need of volunteers. The owners mentioned they had a bunch of donated wetsuits and surfboards but nobody who knew how to surf. We committed to coming down for a weekend to teach the kids and watch them while they played in the ocean; and to bring down supplies and do any odd jobs they needed us to do while we were there.
Eight of us went down from LA – Jolene, Justin, Chase K & Chase S, Josh, Mariah, Dani, and me. We didn’t get to the border until about 10pm – and I had the pleasure of driving the caravan across and making a few wrong turns and freaking everyone out – but we arrived safe and sound in the beautiful moonlit oceanside complex and made ourselves comfortable in the common room. We fell asleep to the sound of the ocean crashing right outside the windows, and in the morning we awoke to a bunch of adorable kids ready and waiting to play with us.
You could see the US border and San Diego from outside the orphanage… yet it felt like a world away.
The orphanage complex used to be an old hotel, so they have this cool indoor pool and a beautiful building overlooking the ocean.
The kids were mostly a lot better than us at soccer, and this little girl schooled the guys…
We stayed in the orphanage common room which was perfect because it had a dozen sofas in it and we all just crashed in sleeping bags on the sofas and the floor and told ghost stories at night like we were in summer camp. It was amazing.
The founders of the orphanage Connie and Tyler got us all together and told us their incredible story of how they started it. They are an American couple that chose to “retire” in remarkable way – by moving to Mexico and starting an orphanage with their life savings. They need all the help they can get running it though, as the buildings and upkeep (food especially) is very expensive. Contact me for donation details or info if you’d like to help them out!
Then we went surfing!
And taught some of the brave kiddos how to surf, although only 2 were down to use the surfboards – the rest were comfortable with boogie boards and we couldn’t convince them to surf!
After that we cleaned some windows! Ok, if I’m being honest, I fell asleep (in the van!) before this happened, I swear it wasn’t to avoid work… I didn’t even know we were going to do this until I woke up after it was almost done… fail! So these photos were actually taken by Chase, not me, since I had passed out after surfing… I think he did a marvelous job capturing the sudsy fun though 🙂
Jolene working hard!
After I woke up from my nap we took a group photo and played more!
We also did some wandering around the town, and climbed on a fun rock and admired the local sights and sounds (and cuisine!)
… and we danced in the streets?!
At night, Connie took us down to the Red Light District downtown, to see where a lot of the kids come from, and where the orphanage used to be based. Many of the kids are children of the prostitutes, and some of them even visit their mothers from time to time.
We also saw central Tijuana with it’s cute little arch and “Tijuana” sign. Tijuana holds a lot of special memories for me, including my very first volunteer trip out of the country when I was 14 and I came here to build houses with Global Expeditions.
Mexico is a wild and beautiful place and this orphanage and it’s amazing kids totally stole my heart, and I can’t wait to go back (which I’m doing tomorrow!) and hopefully make this at frequent trip!