“When you put faith, hope and love together, you can raise positive kids in a negative world.” ~Zig Ziglar
A week has passed since my arrival. I’ve talked about the organization but I have yet to tell you about the work or the children.
Each morning I begin assisting in the preschool classroom. In Africa children are placed by levels not age so we have a range of children from ages 3 – 7, which means that the teacher has to teach 3 lessons at once from basic counting to subtraction; I try to help by going around the room and assisting the students, even if it’s just refocusing them. I have taught some children’s songs like the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I’m a Little Teapot” while they teach me Kiswahili, it’s a fun lesson for all.
After class is over I usually spend a couple of hours coloring, as it’s something they LOVE to do. I am mostly the “captain of colors” giving each student one color at a time, that way one child doesn’t end up with all of the colored pencils. This is one of my favorite times of the day because they are always so excited to show me their artwork and there is an unending call of my name “Eliza! Eliza!”
When the older students return from school and I work with them on their homework and do some English lessons. They are such a great group and so anxious to learn, when I have finished my lesson for the day they always want to continue so there’s a lot of improvising but they don’t mind. The day usually ends with a long walk with the older students or playing with the youngest children.
The best part of this orphanage is that the students look out for each other. There are your everyday quarrels over a puzzle or colored pencil but all of the kids protect and love one another, something they have been taught by the staff here. There is so much love you can’t help but smile when you walk onto the property.
I’ve only been here a week but I'm already in love with these children. Here is an introduction to some of them:
Charles is one of the oldest boys at the orphanage and I have deemed him “the protector.” While on our walks he keeps track of everyone making sure we don’t leave anyone behind, including me! On our first walk my youth leader instincts came out and I was trying to do head counts and watch where they were all going and where they were climbing, pretty much a lost cause. Charles saw that I was nervous, thinking it was because of the hike he said to me, “Don’t worry we won’t let anything happen to you.” He also walks me to the house if I am leaving alone, even though it’s only a 3 minute walk so that I make it home ok. Charles is lucky enough to have a sponsor who pays for him to go to the English Medium School, so he is getting a better education and his English is great. He is also an amazing “football” player!
Rosa and Anna: These girls are also two of the oldest children at the orphanage so they actually stay with me and Mama’s daughters at the volunteer house. They always want to wait on me and help me out, even though I have told them 1,000 times they don’t have too! They are sweet girls and they are also teaching me Kiswahili and helping translate to the youngest students who don’t know English yet.
Jonny is one of the HIV positive children, he’s in the preschool class and has the most infectious smile. First thing I must do when I walk in is to give him a high five and the smile he gives afterwards just makes my heart melt. He LOVES having his picture taken and also, taking a colored pencil using it for 1 second and returning for a new color.
Clemente – If I were to bring a child home with me he would be it! When he came to the orphanage he could not walk due to malnutrition, he had burns all over from witch doctor medicine in an attempt to "chase out" the evil spirits so that he would walk. Clemente is now about 3 or 4 years old (no one is sure of his actual age) and runs around everywhere. He is in the preschool class and he spends the entire time following me around. When I say following me around I mean attached to my leg at all times! I have accidentally stepped on him about 5 times but he usually doesn’t even notice as long as I am right next to him. When we are playing he is on my lap or chest or leg or wherever he can be. If another student tries to get near me he gets very mad and when it is time for me to leave at night we have to come up with tasks for him to do while I “make a run for it.” I don’t know what I am going to do on Friday when I have to say goodbye. If anyone tries to take him away from me he screams and yells Mama which is the only thing he says that I "understand" however, though I don’t understand the words he is saying I understand everything he is saying to me.
There are so many more students I could go on for days and when I return I am sure I will.