Andrea Camacho is having a great summer. She has been swimming a lot, watching movies and walking the dog.
Her summer might sound a lot like yours, except for one big difference: Andrea is visiting the Washington area hoping to find a new family. She is one of 25 orphans in the Summer Miracles program run by Kidsave International, a group that helps children who don't have parents find homes.
Thirteen of the kids, including Andrea, are from Colombia. Ten are from Russia and two are from Kazakhstan. They range in age from 5 to 15.
During their six-week stay, while Kidsave and their host families try to find them permanent homes, the children live like typical American kids. They go to camp, eat American food and talk about how hot and humid it is.
But it's not all fun and games. Andrea, 11, attends a day camp in Howard County. She had never been to camp before, so it was a bit scary at first, especially because no one else spoke Spanish, and she doesn't know English.
"The first day was hard, the second was a little better," said Renee Cantori, Andrea's host mom. "She is here with a family she doesn't know, in an unknown country [with] a different language. It's not easy for her."
But Andrea doesn't complain. Fortunately, Cantori speaks some Spanish. Among her new experiences, Andrea recently rode a bike for the first time. "I didn't fall -- mmm, I fell three days later, but I already knew how to bike and it didn't hurt!" she said excitedly. She turned to the family's pet: "Sientate, Cosmo, sit!" she commanded, adding, "I love this dog."
Kidsave hopes all its young guests will develop such feelings.
"They are experiencing what it is like to be a kid," said program coordinator Hiliary Jenkins. "A lot of things are new to them."
Edgar Rodriguez, who accompanied the Colombian kids here, said Summer Miracles gives them an opportunity for a better life. Their chances of getting adopted in Colombia are slim because they are older kids, he said. "Even if some [host] families don't speak Spanish, it's not a problem. When a family shows love, it doesn't matter if they don't speak the language."
Sisters Karen and Jenny Rincon arrived from Colombia with little more than a few outfits, sandals and a toothbrush for each. Even so, they were excited. The girls are staying with Susana and Jim Gazzale in Fairfax and go to a camp in Falls Church where lots of kids speak Spanish.
"Camp is so much fun. We went to the pool almost every day last week. I'm so tan I feel I am going to stay this dark for the rest of my life," 11-year-old Karen said in Spanish.
"You are too dramatic," Jenny, 13, said disapprovingly.
The sisters are hoping that someone will step forward soon to adopt them. Otherwise, they will go back to their orphanage in Colombia.
"I would love to stay here," Karen said.
If she could, that would be a true summer miracle.
-- Luz Lazo