Several Malibu families have hosted foreign children coming to the United States for surgery. One of those children is Enkh-Amar Gantumur, who has lived with the Maguire family in Paradise Cove for the past 18 months while going through surgery for his birth defect, severe clubfoot.
By Chris Karmiol / Special to The Malibu Times
Thirteen-year-old Enkh-Amar Gantumur has lived at the Maguire family’s Paradise Cove home for more than a year and a half, although he was only supposed to be there briefly.
The Mongolian native didn’t come here for the sunshine and ocean view, but rather to undergo what seemed like a never-ending series of intense surgeries followed by painful physical therapies.
The Maguires have provided Enkh-Amar with his home away from home and been his family for his life-changing visit to Malibu.
“There was an instant affinity,” said Melanie Maguire while preparing dinner for her husband, her two young daughters and Enkh-Amar. “The language barrier wasn’t a problem.”
Just a year and a half ago, Enkh-Amar was in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital city. He lived in a house with no running water and was born with a severe clubfoot. Enkh-Amar would be lucky if he ever walked normally, let alone became a schoolyard foursquare player.
After 17 surgeries at Shriner’s Hospital in downtown Los Angeles, and in the care of the Maguire family, foursquare has become one of Enkh-Amar’s passions, along with regular trips to Disneyland and his new best friends at Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School.
“His whole goal was to play foursquare,” said Cheryl Calvert, a Point Dume teacher’s aide who became close to Enkh-Amar while driving him to weekly physical therapy sessions. “Not to run or walk, but his whole goal was to play foursquare. Apparently it’s really popular in fifth-grade.”
Enkh-Amar, known to his family as Amraa, was instantly a hit with the Maguires.
“The thing that was really neat is it was really a family decision to have him stay,” Melanie Maguire said. “Moorea [the Maguires’ 10-year-old daughter] thought he was really cool. She introduced him like he was a rock star and that’s how the kids responded to him, like he was a celebrity.”
While Enkh-Amar’s Malibu stay was originally slated for only a few days, 18 months later he is still here, not having worn out his welcome.
He has become an established additional member of the Maguire family, a popular kid at school and a catalyst for a community that has come together to meet his needs as well as provide homes for other children from abroad whose severe conditions bring them here for surgeries and intense medical treatments.
Through Mending the Children International, a southern California organization that brings children from developing countries to stay with local host families while they undergo needed medical procedures, Malibu has become a destination.
“I find this community defies stereotypes,” said Cynthia Chea, a social worker with the organization. “There’s no pretence in recognizing that they’re blessed financially and instilling in their children at a young age giving back. This is not an exception. This is who they are.”
Chea said that about six local families have hosted children undergoing medical procedures through Mending the Children.
“I have four kids of my own, so having kids around isn’t hard for me and I was just looking for some way to give back,” said Sydney McDonald, a Malibu resident whose family has hosted three children here for medical care. “The amazing thing about it is what it brings out of my other children, just the compassion and the idea that you can do something.”
That is what the Simplicio family recognized when they decided to host a child from Honduras.
“I saw how rewarding it was for Sydney,” said Del Simplicio, whose husband Franco is a Malibu restaurant owner. “I definitely wanted to do something and give back rather than just sign the checks. I wanted my children to have the experience of sharing your life, opening your home and realize how lucky they are.”
While their host families offer their homes and generosity to children in need, they have found that they are also on the receiving end of the bargain.
“I’ve always wanted an older brother,” said Moorea Maguire. “When Enkh-Amar came, I never thought about him as a brother. But when I got to know him, we became best friends, like brother and sister, and it was like a dream come true.”
Enkh-Amar still limps, has had an amputation and prosthetic leg and continues his physical therapy. Plans for his return trip to Mongolia are in the works. In the meantime, he continues his new life as another Malibu kid.
“He does win in foursquare,” said Calvert, his teacher’s aide. “He’s a brutal player. He takes no prisoners.”