An interview with Brooke Leaman
From March to July 2017, Brooke Leaman spent part of her gap year between high school and college serving in Guatemala at a children's home called Casa Shalom in partnership with the organization We Help Children. In an interview after her mission internship, Brooke told us about her experience, which included toddlers, friendships, and lots of dancing!
Q: Why did you decide to do a mission internship?
A: It's always been my plan to take a year off and serve somewhere. I wouldn't have it any other way. It's the best decision I've ever made.
Q: Describe a typical day of your internship.
A: Most of the time was spent in the house feeding kids, playing with them, and helping out the "house moms." I lived in the baby house, which was for newborns to four-year-olds. When I left, there were 17 kids in the house — two newborns, a six-month-old, and a bunch of toddlers. In the morning we would wake the kids up and change all the diapers — so many diapers! — before breakfast. We swept and mopped the floors after every meal. I've never seen a house with that many kids so clean in my life! Then the kids would play and have snack. Sometimes they would do learning games, like counting or color-matching games.
When I wasn't helping at the house, sometimes I would help shop for the orphanage. Once we went into the city and came out of Walmart with four full shopping carts. And then we came out of a Guatemalan version of Costco with another four shopping carts!
Q: Tell me one good part and one challenging part of your internship.
A: One of the best things was the friendships that I built, specifically with the house moms. At first, I thought one of them didn't like me. But once when I was sweeping, I swept over her feet, and that broke the ice! After that, we would pick on each other and constantly be laughing.
There was another house mom who was 25, and we got along like best friends or sisters. I was very worried about building relationships with the house moms because of the language barrier, but that wasn't an issue.
Probably the hardest part was leaving. I didn't know how to say goodbye. The kids didn't fully comprehend, but when I went around and hugged all of them, there was one girl who wouldn't let go. I almost lost it then.
Q: How did you grow as a person during your internship?
A: I think one of the biggest things was selflessness. If one of the house moms went to go buy a soda, she would come back with soda and chips for the rest of us. They never went out and bought something just for themselves. They'd always bring food for everyone. So whenever I was out in town, I would come back with food to share, too. It just naturally shifted my mindset.
Q: What's next for you?
A: I'm going to Lipscomb University for social work, and I want to minor in youth ministry. Being in Guatemala really solidified my desire to work with youth. I got really close to the pastors that were at the orphanage, and I loved watching them interact with the youth there. After college, I would love to be in Central or South America at a children's home in that pastoral role. We'll see what God wants — we all know those plans can change.
The radio was always on in the baby house. Whenever one particular song came on, all of the kids would yell for one of the house moms. She would stop whatever she was doing, turn up that radio super loud, and everyone would dance. It didn't matter what time it was — it could happen at 6:30 in the morning!