We Belong To Each Other


This post is for all of you. For every fabulously ordinary mom who is reading this. You need to hear this story. You need to know this mom. She is one of us. She belongs to us. And she inspires me to embrace my nurturing side and let it shine because that, my friends, is how we are going to change the world.

Lori Prince is a regular person. She’s a stay-at-home mom in Rexburg, Idaho who shuttles her four kids (ages 7 to 16) to soccer practice and dance lessons. She watches reruns of Friends. She shares recipes on Facebook. She is funny and beautiful and kind.

What is not so regular about Lori is that last spring, she and her family spent 10 days helping orphans in Ecuador. By the second day there, she says she knew this would be a life-changing trip. Now, several months later, it is certainly proving to be so.

What I love about her story is that it is about becoming a conscious mom — waking up to who you really are, discovering what you really want out of your life, and taking action to create your new reality. Everybody’s experience is going to be different, and everybody is going to be at a different level when they begin their journey. The point is to be open to having the experience. You don’t need to be fancy or rich or perfect in any way; you need only to be fabulously ordinary to tap into this heightened consciousness. And it will probably happen when you least expect it.

Like during a landslide in Ecuador.

Lori and her husband, Clay, had wanted to take this trip for a few years. Their friend Travis had been involved in a charity called Dando Amor (it means “Giving Love” in Spanish), and Lori and Clay wanted to be involved too from the moment they heard about it. But their youngest was only 3 at the time, and they wanted to wait until they could take their whole family to Ecuador for a massive service project helping out at several orphanages. Fast forward three years, and by November 2012 (when their youngest was now 6 and their oldest would be out of the house in only two years), they knew it was time to go.

In order to make the trip, Lori and her family were faced with the challenge of not only paying for all of their food and travel expenses, but also raising at least $5,000 in donations that would go directly toward providing necessities for the orphans once they were there.  Lori’s family gave up their Christmas and spent several months making and selling cinnamon rolls door-to-door to raise the required funds. Everyone in the family contributed, down to their youngest daughter.  Their hard work paid off, and they ended up more than doubling their required donation, providing a whopping $12,000 that went directly toward providing for the orphans.

Once they arrived in Quito, Ecuador, they spent the first day or two getting to know the orphans and staff and purchasing much-needed food and supplies for an all-boys orphanage there.  The cupboards were nearly bare and some of the boys had been sleeping on the floor for lack of beds.

The pantry for nearly 60 orphans sits mostly bare as Lori and her family arrive at one of the orphanages.  orphanage.

The pantry for nearly 60 orphans sits mostly bare as Lori and her family arrive at one of the orphanages.

They visited several orphanages, working together with the boys to help with everything from building garden boxes and a duck enclosure to buying beds for the kids and taking them on some fun outings. One orphanage in particular made a big impression on Lori from the moment she stepped foot in the door.

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One of Lori’s daughters works in the garden with some of the orphans, Ignacio and another boy.

“When I walked in, I just kind of stopped as I entered the doorway,” she said. “Travis looked at me, and said, ‘It’s interesting isn’t it?’ And I just said, ‘This place has the sweetest feeling I have ever felt in my life.’ It was a feeling of … family, I guess you could say. I expected it to be what it looked like—the grounds and the buildings—but I didn’t expect it to have that sweet, sweet feeling of love there.”

Almost immediately, Lori started to develop a strong bond with a few of the boys there, including a 15-year-old boy named Ignacio. “I knew going [to Ecuador] was going to be hard,” she said. “I knew it was going to be emotional and that we would have changes and that it would be a great experience for our family. But when I met Ignacio, it was like I knew him. You could feel it. There was a bond and a connection like I’ve never felt with anybody but my own kids. I didn’t expect that.”

She says that the directors there had taught Ignacio and the other boys well. “Those kids knew how to pray and they were the kindest, most polite, grateful children I’ve ever come across in my life,” she said.

To illustrate the point, Lori told a heartwarming story … about Doritos. (I always knew Doritos = Love, but this takes it to a whole new level.)

“We couldn’t eat the food they were eating because we would get sick. They would have breakfast and wouldn’t eat again until dinner, so we took bags of chips and Coke and other snacks down with us, but we’d go sit in the van and eat them because we didn’t want to eat in front of the kids.

One day I was getting a small lunch-sized bag of Doritos out of the back of the van, and as I was walking around to the other side to get in, Ignacio came up by me and started saying something to me in Spanish. I had these Doritos in my hand, so I took one out and I ate it, and I handed him the bag and said, ‘Here, do you want these?’ Ignacio took them and said, ‘Thank you.’

He took one out of the bag and ate it and then walked around and gave a chip to every single kid until they were gone. I just sat there and sobbed.”

Lori's husband Clay sits with a few of the orphans in the van they used for all of their outings.

Lori’s husband Clay sits with a few of the orphans in the van they used for all of their outings.

As Lori and her family continued their service that week at the orphanage, her bond with Ignacio grew stronger and it shows in the way she talks about him, bragging about his strengths as if he were her own child. Only a few days into their trip, Lori posted this about Ignacio on Facebook: “Ignacio can build or fix anything and is so smart and has the best sense of humor. He is a hard worker. The other kids really look up to him. He’s a really good leader. He’s always happy. He has the funniest laugh I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Ignacio sticks his tongue out for the camera.

Ignacio sticks his tongue out for the camera.

The day before Lori and her family came back to the States, her bond with Ignacio solidified. Their group of about 50 people had rented a bus and took some of the older boys zip-lining through a cloud forest in the Amazon. On their way back, they came up against a 40-foot-long landslide that had blocked the road ahead. As they waited for the bulldozers to clear the landslide, stuck on the road for seven hours with no bathroom, no water, and no food, Ignacio (with the help of a translator) had a heart-to-heart with Lori, who would be leaving the next day.

Lori and some of her family stand as triumphant silhouettes against the backdrop of the landslide that changed their lives in Ecuador.

Lori and some of her family stand as triumphant silhouettes against the backdrop of the landslide that changed their lives in Ecuador.

The conversation that followed would become life-changing.

Lori had asked Ignacio what he wanted to do with his life. “I half expected him to say he wanted to be a professional soccer player like many of the other boys,” said Lori. But instead, Ignacio shared with her his dream of working in the auto industry. “He told me he loves cars and can figure anything out. As I listened to him share his dream with me, I couldn’t help wanting to make this a reality. I knew that he could do anything if he was given the opportunity to, but I also realized that the opportunity would never be there if he stayed in Ecuador, and that soon he would be on the streets.”

As Lori talked with Ignacio about the possibility of her and her husband bringing him to the US for a year to study at a trade school and learn English, tears fell from his eyes as he realized that someone cared enough to help him realize his dreams.

As they talked and it became clearer that helping Ignacio was a real possibility, Lori says she knew she would do everything in her power to fight for him. She also knew her life would never be the same.

The next afternoon, as everyone was saying their final goodbyes at the orphanage, Ignacio and Lori spoke alone for a few minutes with the pastor from their church translating. “I told Ignacio how special he was,” she said, “and that I believed in him and would help him to accomplish his goals.”

With tears streaming down his face, Ignacio poured his heart out to Lori. “I feel like God finally sent me a mother when you got here,” Ignacio told her. “I’ve never had that feeling with anybody else,” he said. “You were so nice to me, and I feel like that’s the way a mother would be if I had one.” Through his sobs, he pleaded, “Please come and see me again. Please don’t forget me and who I am.”

“It ripped my heart out,” Lori said. “I told him that I loved him and that I could never forget him, and that because I knew him my life was better.”

As Lori and her family were traveling back to the States, she wrote, “I am actually dreading going home to my big house, with all of my nice furniture, and nice cars. While I am thankful for my comfortable life, I am very aware of the fact that these things do not bring me happiness. I feel like I have found myself over the past two weeks. My heart is in Ecuador.”

A lot has changed in the months since they have returned from their life-changing service trip. Dando Amor opened their own orphanage in Ecuador, specifically for the older boys who would soon be too old (usually only somewhere between 12 and 14 years old) to stay in the other orphanages but too young and ill-prepared to transition out into the world and be able to take care of themselves. Its focus is on helping the boys learn a trade and the life skills they will need to be able to support themselves as contributing adults.

Lori’s children have also been changed by the experience; perhaps most notably is her 16-year-old son Nathan. As they were unpacking from the trip, he sobbed and told Lori, “Mom. We have TOO much. I cannot believe that I have taken it for granted my whole life.” He plays for the high school soccer team and goes to several expensive soccer camps in the summer, which he partially pays for. Through his tears, he said, “I’m not going. I can’t pay $500 to go spend a week at a soccer camp when that could feed these kids for 8 weeks. There are just no words to explain how it’s affected me.”

The most significant change has been that Lori and Clay are now preparing to adopt 15-year-old Ignacio. Those hours stuck in the landslide were transformative, says Lori, and they ignited the nurturing spark inside her. She said she has wondered lately whether she should go back to school and get a degree, but nothing has really settled with her. “It just wasn’t right,” she said. “This is what’s right. I’m meant to be a mother. I love it. It is what I want to be doing.”

Lori gives Ignacio bunny ears as they pose for a photo together.

Lori gives Ignacio bunny ears as they pose for a photo together.

Lori never dreamed she would ever adopt. When she first starting becoming involved with Dando Amor, she thought she would probably stay involved in one way or another, helping with fundraising and things like that. But her perspective on life and motherhood has changed.

“I knew the second day we were there,” she said. “I said to my husband, ‘Clay, this is what our life is about.’ It just struck me what a blessing it is to be a mother,” she said. “Being with these kids that I loved who I felt like I could help make their lives better made me realize for the first time in my life, that who I am is a mother. That is what makes me happy.”

Last week, Lori received the heartbreaking news that she had to cut off all contact with Ignacio and the Dando Amor orphanage until the adoption is final so there would be no confusion as to whether she and her family were trying to bribe the orphanage Ignacio is living in or holding that over their heads in any way.

This wonderful mama has opened her heart to this precious young man and wants with all of her soul to continue to nurture him, both emotionally and temporally, but is now forced to stand back, be patient, and trust that all will be well and that his needs will be met while she waits for the legal end of this adoption process to run its course.

Friends, we belong to each other. Mother Theresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other—that man, that woman, that child is my brother or my sister.”

Ignacio and all of the boys at the orphanage are ours. Lori is ours. And we can help answer someone’s prayers if we choose to take the opportunity. The Dando Amor orphanage is new, and has many needs right now. Money is very tight, and Dando Amor now has legal fees associated with a child being adopted out of their orphanage. There is a great need for financial support at this time, especially in the form of a monthly sponsorship.

If you feel you are able to do so, please consider donating to Dando Amor at this time. The impact could be phenomenal if everyone gave even just $5.

Ladies. We can do hard things. When we do hard things, we get to see who we really are and what we are really capable of doing. Having the courage to follow your heart is hard. Opening your heart to love another human, young or old, is hard. Daring to follow your dreams is hard. Even though Lori’s experience has been a lot harder than she thought it would be (and it’s not over yet), it has allowed her to see who she really is.

She is a mother. A Mother. Is it going to be hard? Yes. But it’s going to be amazing.

With love,

The Conscious Mom

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4 Responses to We Belong To Each Other

  1. Jenny Mumby says:

    How can one read this and not emotionally feel impressed to help. Such an amazing story that will continue to heard!

  2. Jessica Payne says:

    This is an amazing story – and it is amazingly written! I especially love the ending of the story. Too often we hear the words “just” in front of mom. I’m just a mom. There’s nothing “just” about it. I wish before people said, “just a mom” they would sit and think about what kind of person would we be (for better or worse) without the influence of our mothers? It’s one of the most important influences in our life, whether it be good, bad, or absent – a mother matters so much in our identity, our outlook, the way we interact with the world. I just so hope that Ignacio get’s to know the feeling of what an incredible force a mother can be – and in this case, to have one of the best moms out there.

  3. kathleenmurf says:

    Such a moving story. We all have the power to cast such big shadows. Thanks for sharing this!

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