Mandy Wright (left) recently returned to Niños de Baja orphanage and daycare, where she has volunteered during school breaks for years.
April 18, 2011
Physical therapy graduate students Mandy Wright and Erika Sepich decided to take a trip to Mexico over spring break, but they were not looking for just some fun in the sun, tanning or swimming. Instead, they spent their break caring for the children at Niños de Baja orphanage and daycare.
Niños de Baja, located in El Porvernir, Mexico, provides shelter, food and schooling to orphans in the area, free daycare for local children, and food, clothing and medical assistance for the poor. It is managed by a joint group of directors from both Mexico and the United States, and its staff is composed entirely of local workers.
Wright first became involved with Niños de Baja during her sophomore year at Western Illinois University. She interned at the orphanage for several summers, and when she came to Bradley as a graduate student, she invited some classmates to join her on a spring break trip. Sepich took her up on the offer.
Wright and Sepich both cited a desire to help people and build relationships as the reason they entered the physical therapy program at Bradley, and that concern and care for others motivated them to devote their time to the children.
They worked with the kids every day, taking the children on walks and bike rides and helping the older ones with their homework. Wright and Sepich took the children on trips to the local park, the market in town and even soccer matches at night.
The language barrier provided some difficulty for Sepich, but she said the children were used to people who could not speak Spanish and helped her get past the challenge.
Both of the students were touched by the enthusiasm of the children and their appreciation for the volunteers.
“As soon as you walk in the door, you have five kids hanging onto you,” Sepich said with a laugh.
“They’re so happy,” added Wright. “These kids come from backgrounds we can’t even fathom, but they’re so resilient and happy.”
More than just providing a memorable spring break, their time at Niños de Baja has impacted the Bradley students’ lives in a lasting way.
“It’s just a great place,” said Wright. “You’re so much out of your comfort zone that all you can do is grow.”