This past week I was out of the office on assignment in a rural orphanage. The orphanage has room for 46 children - and overflows with 52 orphans ranging from 3-18 years.
This orphanage stands out from others around since it accepts orphans who are HIV+ whereas no other orphanages in the area accepts those infected.
It was immediately apparent that there was no stimulation for the orphans.
And the sticks and dirt that kept them busy was not contributing to their development in any way.
Having little to no supplies we adapted and attempted to organize some developmental games we could play with them in an attempt to prepare them for school.
It was startling to witness the 4 and 5 year old orphans who couldn't match colours together - never mind matching numbers or letters.
I taught the older orphans a simple paddy cake game that I performed daily as a child. Near the end of the first day they still showed no improvement or chance of catching on.
Ignoring our defeat the day before we continued to work on developmental activities with them and scraped together puzzles they could work on. As challenging as it was to repeat these basic exercises with them, hope existed in the rare moments when a child paired the right puzzle pieces together erupting in cheering, hugging and hi-fiving for their success.
The orphanage is located on a rental property which holds them back from any chance of self sustainability.
As of recent the landlord decided to build another rental home on the property. On my last day there a ton of bricks were dropped off between the orphanage and the entrance to the road.
This is a huge liability to have a rental located so close to the orphanage as there is no screening process for the tenant of the rental space. Leaving the orphans vulnerable and in danger of walking through their front door.
After talking with locals it is obvious how much danger OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) are in when it comes to strangers. This is a conversation we had with one local that left me speechless
"If I get a job in a different city that pays better I will go with my child. My husband will stay here and continue work unless he can find a job in the new city."
"What if your child would rather stay here with their father and continue school where they have been raised"
"HA, no you never leave a child with it's father. It's almost a guarantee that the father will turn on the child."
In african terms 'turning on a child' means abuse of some type, if not all types.
In an attempt to complete office work at the orphanage I escaped to the office for a few hours each day. Without a doubt a few kids always poked their heads through the door and slowly made their way from standing shyly in the door way to fighting over sitting on my lap.
The orphans were amazed by the light coloured skin on our arms and could spend hours running their hands through our hair.
Something I have become used to from the little hands that run through my hair when riding a matatu, or the fingers that reach for my hair while passing me on the street. (Both children and adults)