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Rheana's Travels

hard day

USA | Thursday, 12 August 2010 | Views [242]

The goal was to send this yesterday, but I didn't make it before the rain storm cause our internet to fail...

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Today at the orphanage was hard. Really hard. It’s difficult to know what exactly to say about it, but I think it’s probably best to try.

I’ll start by describing the basics. There’s 25-30 kids, from maybe 9 months to 4 years old. It’s really hard to tell the ages of some of the kids though, because mal-nourishment is a problem for the majority of them. According to John, who runs the place, most of the kids were brought to him by their parents/family, or by the police after they have been abandoned. John’s goal is to contact the extended family or find foster parents so that the children don’t stay at the baby home (I like that name better than “orphanage”) for too long.

There are full-time nannies there to go along with the volunteers (right now, besides me and Jamie, there are 3 Germans and one lady from Zimbabwe that are there every day and then random others). There is a courtyard that is open to the kids, and then a room for when it’s raining. There’s a covered walkway around the courtyard where Jamie and I spend most of our time.

I can’t really explain why today was harder. Maybe because the reality of these kids’ lives really sunk in for the first time. They’re deprived, in almost every basic way. There’s not any diapers to go around so they spend up to an hour soaked to the skin in their own pee. There’s not any sippy cups so kids too young to walk or stand alone are given steaming hot cups of porridge to drink on their own. There’s not enough clothes so pants are too small or too big, underwear is a luxury, and belts are too time consuming. And perhaps most importantly there’s not enough hands to go around. There’s not enough love given, not enough attention, not enough patience.

It’s hard, as an American, to come in with my set ways of thinking and my ideas about how children should be treated and taught. After two years spent working at a daycare I have seen the way children can be taught and encouraged to develop in a positive and loving way. I have seen no hint of that here. Desperation and hardship are the definitive words instead. The nannies are strict and harsh. I recognize that the level and depth of love that I experienced from my family is not the norm, even across the US, but there is nothing but a shadow of that here.

Different memories standout to me. The kids swarm you when you arrive, cry when you put them down, and are desperate for any kind of love you can give them. Today Ava fell asleep standing, her head resting on my knee as she stood in between my legs. I stroked her head as she rested, fully aware that positive, healthy touch is a concept bordering on foreign in her young life. Timmy grabbed a box, pulled it up next to where I was sitting on the ground, turned it over, and sat with his back resting on my shoulder. He put his hands in his lap, sighed, and sat there peacefully with me for almost ten minutes. A lifetime for a fully-awake 18 month old. Patrick is the oldest, and struggles. He’s a bully, but it would take any student two days into their first child development course to fully understand why. He is so starved for attention, any kind will do. Today he shared a toy with a much smaller boy, and the smile on his face after I praised him was like magic.

I just hope that the love and attention we give these kids can make some sort of small difference. I know that they will survive and the lives they are living at the baby home are better than what life would have been on the street. They are fed and have space to run around and play and be kids… I just hope that’s enough.

 

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