So There I Was ...
By Brandon McDearis
So there I was ... at Hogar Belen, the orphanage in southern Peru that I have helped support since 2008. I was the last to arrive on the warm, sunny day off of that dusty road. I pulled into the long, narrow driveway in my black, fully equipped 2010 Toyota Hilux pick-up behind three motorcyclists, as I had done so many times before. I was the support driver for the expedition, which meant I was the guy that pulled up the rear wherever we went for 1,500 miles. Finally, we had made it after a long, rough journey.
I had made this trip once before. I joined my good friend motorcycle journalist Neale Bayly a year earlier in his mission to raise funds and build a new home for the abandoned children of Hogar Belen. We had traveled 2,000 miles from Lima to the desert town of Moquegua before with three motorcyclists and our Peruvian guide, and back to Lima. I was the guy who helped keep everyone together during the trying times of adventure travel. I was in charge of food and nutrition, proper hydration, and support driving, among other things.
The only difference in the 2009 trip from the most recent is that the first one was pure excitement. It was some of the most fun that I have ever had in my life. It created some of those moments in time that you look back on and the world stops for a minute while you ponder nostalgically. The 2010 trip was a bit different. While it was quite an adventure – one I will never forget – it was 10 days of constant tests and trials. The plan all year had been to make another trip to check in on the orphanage, deliver funds that had been raised, and bring home an update to our sponsors. However, this all changed in the spring when a TV producer decided that she wanted to turn our journey into a series pilot for a major network.
The 10-day adventure was difficult from the start. We had sunk thousands of our own dollars into the journey. I had traveled all the way from Alaska, left a stressful job without pay for weeks, and cut a romantic weekend short to gamble on possibly filming a hit television show, while fulfilling my obligations as a board member for my charity. The trip included many 16-hour days on the road, sleepless nights, a difficult cameraman, a disengaged field producer, severe dysentery with two others, and myself, and one very near-death head-on collision with a tractor-trailer.
So there I was, sick, exhausted, and grouchy as we finally pulled into our destination, wondering why I was there in the first place. However, when 150 smiling children and one 80-year-old nun met me, I hugged my good friend and finally realized what it was all about. I was not there for fun, adventure, fame, or fortune, but to test myself to the limits, and to bring a smile and our donations to a large group of young faces that would never know love from whoever brought them into the world. Despite my delirious state, cranky mood, and rumbling stomach, I could not have felt happier and more complete in that moment. I am happy to say, “I was there.”
# # #
Brandon McDearis is one of the board of directors for Wellspring International Outreach (www.wellspring-outreach.org). Brandon, motorcycle TV personality Neale Bayly, and a group of others work to raise money for the abandoned children of Peru.