A few people and many open hearts have made a big difference for one orphanage in Mexico.
For the past 12 years, Jack and Vicki Dishon and Humberto and Emma Macias from Huntington Beach's Seaside Community Church have organized a monthly trip to Tijuana to help the Casa Hogar Ebenezer orphanage.
The two couples gather a group of about 12 church members and travel to the home they helped buy and improve.
The orphanage is one of very few in Mexico to be accredited, said Jack Dishon, which means it is checked monthly by the government.
For the couple, spending time with the 33 children in their orphanage in Tijuana isn't a duty as much as a family gathering.
"Seaside has become the aunts, uncles and cousins that they would otherwise not have," Vicki Dishon said. "It's all about relationships. They're never done. It's not a project, it's a process."
Every trip, the members of the church will play games with the kids – ranging from 5 to 18 years old – at their house, take a field trip to the city, and grab lunch and end the day playing at a local park, Jack Dishon said.
Jack added that during special occasions, like Christmas, the group will take the children down to Peter Piper Pizza and exchange gifts.
Like Chuck E. Cheese, Peter Piper Pizza has games the kids can play and receive tickets in return. But instead of using the tickets to get something for themselves, they inevitably use them to get gifts for the church members.
"It could be a small, little trinket, but they are so proud that they bought it and are giving it to you. It's the small things that make a huge difference," Humberto Macias said.
The trips to Casa Hogar Ebenezer aren't limited to church members.
Macias said that people interested in going should notify the church ministry in advance so they can be accommodated.
"Other than that, just have an open mind and an open heart," Macias said.
The two couples said they didn't know they would be creating an extended family bond with the orphanage and didn't know what was in store for them when they started going down to Tijuana in 1997.
"Why Tijuana? Because there's more need there than in Orange County," Macias said. "Arguable, but the argument loses because here we have social services and a number of agencies that support those kids, and in Mexico, it's just nonexistent."
The Dishons and Macias first met Eva Morales and Freddy Duarte when the couple traveled to Huntington Beach in hopes of getting help bringing down the director of a corrupt orphanage. After that problem was resolved, the couples continued to work together at other homes.
Eva and Freddy operated from a small room they rented in a house. Conditions were poor, with the children having to cram into the small living arrangement, Macias said.
"Things moved very rapidly to having just a little room in one house to renting another house," Macias said.
Seaside Community Church helped pay the rent for three houses for more children to live in.
But the conditions of the houses were poor and Freddy and Eva had to make repairs to make the residences more livable.
Eventually, the church and orphanage found a house that was for sale, but they ran into a couple of problems.
The church had three months to raise $50,000, which they were able to do with the help of several members through a fund drive, Jack Dishon said.
But then the church encountered problems with the owners of the house.
The property was owned by a man and his two sons, but the father died without a will and the two brothers fought over how much the house should be sold for and when they should sell it, Macias said.
After the quarreling between the brothers ended, buying the house was easy and the church was thrilled to hand over the title to Freddy and Eva, Macias said.
"It's their house and we're very happy about it," he said.
Since then, the Dishons and Macias, along with members of Seaside Community Church, have trekked to the orphanage in Tijuana regularly to continue building relationships with those in need.
Some of the children at the orphanage have been there since infancy, Macias said.
"Some of the kids are badly damaged. Sexual abuse, drugs, alcohol — anything you can think of, some of these kids have experienced all those things by age 12 or 13," he said.
The group went on Saturday and is planning to continue the monthly trips.
"A lot of people ask, 'What can we bring them? What can we do for them,'" Jack Dishon said. "The most important thing to do for them is to show up again next time."
If you want to go:
Every fourth Saturday of the month at 7:30 a.m.
Meet at the back parking lot of Sowers Middle School
Contact: Jack Dishon: (714) 747-0069 or Humberto Macias: (714) 330-6032
Bring a valid passport and cash to spend