The Desperation Was There

The hunger was there. The desperation was there. The emotional pain and the physical pain were there. All of it was reflected in the big round eyes of the children living nearby.

And Anabel had a garage…

Anabel started to feed the children from her garage door. They returned again and again. In time, more children came, and then their mothers joined them, and their grandmothers, and somehow these beautiful people began to move inside her home.

And later, for a myriad of reasons, some of the mothers did not, or could not return, and Anabel’s “family” grew. The need did not go away. Instead, it swelled, until one day she “counted over one hundred people in her house and yard. With love and compassion, Anabel had taken it all on.

Beyond providing food, classes were also added to provide skills which could generate income, such as sewing, crafts, aesthetician training. Soon, Anabel realized that another bigger, more permanent space was needed.

After gaining certification for a nonprofit daycare, Anabel agreed instead to the suggestion from the local government to provide “a full-service shelter for children.”  A large, beautiful and serviceable property was donated for Anabel’s new life’s work to carry on.

Little did Anabel know when she started a feeding program in her neighborhood, that 25 years later, it would have evolved into the Love in Action Center in Chapala for abandoned, abused, and orphaned young girls.

At the moment, there are 22 girls living at the orphanage. For us, we cannot even imagine their dark and difficult past lives. After once having lived with the terror of abandonment, the emptiness of loss, the toll of physical and emotional pain, these little girls now live with love, respect and hope, healing and care, while acquiring new skills and confidence to look toward a happy future.

Yet the need for constant funding is a daily reality. The costs do not stop. A year ago, a group of us snowbirds learned about the Love in Action Center from Angela Mendoza and Heribert Lehmann, owners of two local restaurants. We were greatly inspired by this couple’s generosity to this orphanage, when we learned that every Tuesday, they donate the meat supply for the week’s meals, and have done so for two years.

That day, we decided to come together in early 2024 to raise funds to help those little girls realize their hopes for the future. So, we met in the new year, and were further motivated by a tour of the orphanage. The extremely worn-out condition of the kitchen was jaw-dropping for us, and that did it. Our main thrust began— to fund the renovation of a new, modern, efficient kitchen right down to new pots and pans and utensils.

Each of us took on a task to make the fundraiser happen. We had six weeks to pull it together. That fundraiser came to fruition on Wednesday, February 28, on the beautiful grounds of Villa Tortuga with the theme of “red” attire and decor.

Anabel and the staff attended, as well as three of her little girls who simply walked into our hearts. Guests were greeted with a gratis glass of bubbly, a fun raffle, an exciting wine pull, live auction, and a cash bar.

A most delicious buffet dinner was catered by The Blue Rose. The Crooner’s provided the music, and folks hit the dance floor immediately! Donors had the opportunity to see large photos of the poor state of the kitchen and could designate their funds to a particular need—stainless steel preparation table and caddy wagons, exhaust system, floor tiles, painting, and on and on, and yes, those giant soup/stew pots and pans. The kitchen renovation has begun and will soon be completed.

Once a month, tours of the orphanage can be arranged through Angela Mendoza by email:

The generosity of everyone has left us awestruck. All of our hopeful goals were met, and far beyond. Our gratitude to everyone who attended can never be fully expressed. We know that there will always be another need to address, and we welcome you to join us next year!

Raising the girl…. Raises the family…. Raises the community ….

For more information about Lake Chapala visit:

Maggie Weller
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