All I will say other than that is this: If you ever get a chance to go see children in another country, in another culture. Do it. Children are beautiful and precious wherever you go. Seeing them in Zimbabwe, feeding them at the feeding station, walking into their humble homes, and hearing their heart-breaking stories while at the same time watching them laugh and giggle and play was life changing.
January 10, 2011
Today was amazing and MUCH better than yesterday. Last night I was overwhelmed with the information I was receiving and the fear and uncertainty I was feeling. I felt scared and guilty for feeling uncomfortable and homesick.
Today was such a contrast. It was both extremely heartbreaking and encouraging at the same time. We visited about 5 orphanages, 2 homes and 2 "feeding projects" where churches associated with Hands of Hope (the organization that supports the orphanages) feed the children in high density neighborhoods.
This was the second orphanage we went to. They had an orphanage for girls and one for boys. Alot of the kids at this particular orphange were sick. But they had a whole garden and chickens that they learned to take care of to earn a living later. One of the girls told me she wanted to go to school so that she could one day be a doctor so she could help the sick children. It almost made me cry.
This was a bathroom at one of the homes in the high density area. These houses are pretty much on top of one another and probably no bigger than your living room and maybe another room attached to it. Alot of these homes had 4-6 children living there. It amazed me.
Today was jam-packed therefore, seeing all of those places required visits to be very short. Right about the time we finally learned the childrens' names, we had to leave. Hearing some of the children's stories was heart wrenching. Some kids were beaten, left at birth, orphaned when 1 or both parents died from AIDS...and the stories go on.
This is William. He is HIV positive and when we had arrived at the orphanage he was at, he was not doing very well. He had just walked back from a clinic to receive treatment. I think he was 9 or 10 years old. He was a precious boy and we prayed for him. He was finally able to smile a bit--he had the most beautiful smile!
These are some of the girls in the second orphanage. Alot of them were teenagers. But the little girl they are holding was sick. I do not remember her name but watching the way the girls took care of her and how much she clung to them was heart warming. They had such a culture of taking care of eachother as if they were all family. I'm sure it helps alot to live in such a loving environment.
Jephat or "jeph", the head of Hands of Hope was great! He answered so many of our questions. He told us that children are most often sent to relatives in rural areas when orphaned, but lately with the declining economy families cannot afford another child.
AIDS has a HUGE stigma attached and as a result, the children carry that stigma being orphaned.
Each orphanage is run by 1 or 2 caretakers and monitored by Hands of Hope and supported by a local church. We talked about how draining a responsibility the caretakers have, but they all have a VERY sincere passion.
I got to help serve the food at the first feeding station we went to, which was a blessing. And everywhere we went the children LOVED having their pictures taken and would swarm around anyone taking pictures.
At the food station over 200 children gathered to eat their meal. For some of them it was the only meal they ate that day. It was a meal of beans and Sadsa (the white stuff which is a thick sticky cornmeal type substance that they use to scoop up the beans. It expands in their stomachs to keep them full).
The children lined up like this waiting for their meal patiently and they would wash their hands in water before being allowed to go over to us to get a plate. Some of them were very small and some were older--teenagers. But they are were from just the surrounding high density neighborhood. 200 of them.
Here, me and Maria and Bonnie (all the way to the right) are portioning the food and handing the plates to the children as they come over 1 by 1. The 3 women helping us do this every single day. They said it took them about 2 hours to keep the sadsa in that big black pot. I'm sure they have some nice biceps!!
It was amazing watching the children carry their plates over to their friends and eating alll of the food very quickly. Some would ask for more! And even the very small ones, like this little boy finished every last drop on their plate. It was an experience I NEVER will forget.
Every child was so beautiful and so unique. I could never have enough pictures of their similing faces.
Every orphanage we went to, and even the feeding stations, we brought a soccer ball with us. The kids loved to play with them, soccer, volleyball, passing it around. A simple ball brought so much happiness to these children.
And like I said in my journaling--they absolutely couldn't get enough of taking pictures! But good thing, because I couldn't get enough of their beautiful smiles and expressions.
These kids should show our kids how to really enjoy life. They played the most simple games but were so happy! They played this game "the african hole game" but it is much like Mancala (if anyone has played that before). They just dug about 10 holes per person and each hole would have 4 stones in it. The goal was to end up with all of the stones in one hole at the end. These girls were super good at this! (too bad they didn't speak english because I wanted to play!)
And I will say this a million times-- kids will be kids wherever you go.