(July 25, 2002, Gazette)
While on a business trip to Chile in March 2001, Memorials Colleen
Clarke was asked to visit a local orphanage in Chile. At first, she was
more than a little hesitant.
I really did not want to go because of the horror stories we have
all heard about orphanages, but since it came up all of a sudden, I thought
that maybe there was some reason why I had to go, said Ms. Clarke
who has adopted children of her own.
As international projects administrator for the International Centre,
Ms. Clarke was in Chile in March 2001 to discuss CIDA guidelines and finances
concerning a five-year mollusk aquaculture enhancement project.
On the day Ms. Clarke visited Hogar de Menores Belen, or Bethlehem Childrens
Home in Valdivia, 21 of the 32 children did not have any visitors.
I got out of there without taking them all home with me, but thats
about it. They were between the ages of two and five and had such sad
stories. One little girl called us all mommy and kept saying happy,
happy, happy. I wanted them all, she said.
While the children were well cared for and
received an education, Ms. Clarke learned that the orphanage was in need
of funds to meet operational expenses.
Compelled to help these children, Ms. Clarke approached her minister,
Reverend Denine and the congregation at her church, St. James United,
when she returned to the province. She gave a presentation on the orphanage,
which included current operating costs and the institutions projected
needs and she also requested that the churchs Christmas 2001 project
be dedicated to helping the children at the orphanage.
What they were looking at was approximately $500 Canadian. We could
not believe how little they needed, said Ms. Clarke. We asked
the church members to bring in toys for the children for Christmas. People
were so generous that it became too costly to ship everything so we decided
to send just the teddy bears for Christmas with Sandra Pereda, a Chilean
PhD student at Memorial. The best thing was that a bag made by a seamstress
at the church was personalized with each childs name. We put the
bears in these bags, and a cross-stitch group back in Chile did the names
On Christmas Eve of 2001, the teddy bears in their personalized bags were
distributed to each child.
||Patty Toro (L) presents a teddy bear
to one of the children in the Bethlehem Childrens Home in Valdivia,
Chile, on Christmas Eve 2001. Ms. Toro is a friend of Colleen Clarke
who organized the teddy bear collection at her church for the children
at the orphanage.
The network of involvement stemming from Ms.
Clarkes initial contact with Hogar de Menores Belen is growing steadily.
Students and project-people traveling back and forth between Chile and
St. Johns ensure that toys are slowly, but surely reaching the children.
And soon, St. James will be making a donation to the orphanage to meet
their current need for diapers.
At the moment, Ms. Clarke is researching the creation of a charitable
organization that will continue to help the children of the Chilean orphanage,
and those around the world.
My route to the orphanage was a natural one, considering my love
of children. Im glad I started out with Hogar de Menores Belen,
but theres the world out there that I can help, one child at a time,
Donations to the orphanage may be made by contacting Colleen Clarke at