Last week, I was asked to go to an orphanage with our staff doctor, our psychologist and the guy in charge of the leadership academy (LA). I was kind of stressed out while translating a document for our administration (that I didn’t get to on Wednesday). I asked a lot of questions about what time, how long, what would we do, etc.
(Dr. Yark picked up a very content baby and she started to cry, but the cry face was so cute. So of course I gave her a hard time and told her she makes babies cry.)
But seriously, sometimes I’m just such a jerk. Whenever you’re asked to go to an orphanage, regardless of how long you’ve lived in an impoverished country… I just think the answer should always be yes. These are kids (153 million estimated orphans in the world) living without parents and consistent affection. And really, you never know what kid who has a family is getting attention. It’s the same when the kids in the school or generation hope pass my office. HUG THEM!! (except for Noah, he doesn’t like hugs and I only get one/month). You never know how much affection a kid gets at home, if any. So in my opinion, just hug everyone.
So I pushed through the document (and even had time for a dance break with the kids in our school) before we left.
As it turns out, this orphanage was part of a LA project. Each group was to look for a problem and then develop a solution. This particular group found this orphanage. It is very poor. There are 61 kids there, and I’d venture to say all are under 10 years old with the exception of one girl. There were a few toddlers (very wobbly when walking) and 2 babies. As soon as we walked through the gates, the kids were all grabbing us by the hands, trying to hug us, lead us into their house and saying “karibu” (welcome). They were all so small, and thin. Most of them didn’t speak French well, so I was doing my best fumbling around with Swahili. When the director said come wash your hands (In Swahili) , they immediately got quiet, crossed their arms and walked to the hand washing station. After washing their hands they very orderly walked up onto the balcony of this unfinished house and sat down. Still not talking.
Ok… Let’s be real. It’s not easy for me to be quiet as an adult; when I was a kid it was even harder… let alone when it’s time to eat.
I had no idea what we were doing so I just went on the balcony with the kids and sat down next to a little girl on the end. She looked at me, super annoyed, and said “ouni si chikula apa!” and not with a pleasant face. She told me “you can’t eat here!” (which by the way is a very disrespectful way to speak to someone), so I reassured her I would not eat. She didn’t believe me and kept giving me the stink eye as they were passing out food.
They passed out a bowl of rice, beans and a spoon to each kid. They did not start eating; the director had them sing a song for us, they asked me to pray, then the kids sang a prayer song in Swahili. Finally they started eating. While eating, I asked the director how many times per day they eat. He looked at me like I had 2 heads… I know my French accent is sometimes VERY strong, but that was an easy one. I asked again and threw in an example… “Once per day?” That’s when I found out, these kids eat three times a week.
I think my face had no reaction. I just stared blankly at this guy. They had not (in this case) eaten since Monday. It was Thursday. They were all eating with such good manners. So many thoughts. I fought back tears because I didn’t want the kids to see me cry. They weren’t crying. I did my best look happy after I got emotion back on my face, and to smile at the kids. Had great conversations with the little guy who sat next to me, made faces with the kids as they ate and got them to laugh.
But really… three times a week?
The LA team did their due diligence to check the validity of the orphanage. I’ve asked A LOT of questions, but at the end of the day, there are kids starving and so we can’t just do nothing. I came back and told Pastor Andre about the orphanage (in my fatigue and poor pronunciation, I called L’Amour Orphanage… La Mort orphanage! Oops. For those of you who don’t know French, l’Amour is love and la Mort is death). Pastor Andre immediately said, this is something our men’s’ bible study can take on.
Further, in church on Sunday, Andre did an announcement to the church raising funds for a Christmas party and food donations to feed them more than 3/week. AMEN! This is what the church is called to do. And more than that. This is the mission and vision of Un Jour Nouveau, that every Congolese be part of their own solutions. I love seeing people live out what they preach.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” James 1:27
I can’t wait to post photos of the Christmas part we will throw for them.
Much love from Goma,
Jenn aka, Jenni, aka Kapinga