Sunday, 6 September 2009

Orphanage Reality

This weekend I got to visit 2 orphanages- the first was the Fact Foundation, the place where Ang started helping out last year. Ang, Liz, and I drove there on Saturday afternoon (which is a mini adventure in itself because Ang is still new to driving standard, and, like me, doesn’t have a great sense of direction J. And the driving here is absolutely crazy, as I think I talked about in one of the first blogs.) To summarize, Ang said that the Fact Foundation improved a ton since she had been there last year. Using Liz as a translator, we talked to the director about the place, if the septic system that was supposed to be put in by another group actually worked yet, what the needs were for the kids, stuff like that. I’ll try to explain what it was like.

There’s about 70 kids at this place. We walk in the gate and there’s a courtyard area where kids are playing with a flat soccer ball. A lady that works there is chopping up food on the ground sitting near baskets that have flies swarming around them. A soccer game is going on (Cameroon v Gabon, a huge game) and most of the kids are crammed into a room with a tv watching and cheering. There are two rooms stuffed with bunkbeds for the girls. The beds have bug nets up, which Ang said they raised money for last year, except the place never actually put up the nets last year for some reason. They were up, although there were lots of holes in them. The boys rooms are two rooms with a bunch of bunkbeds, no bugnets. Most windows have screens on them, which Ang and a guy from ASOY put up last year, except that the doors don’t have screens and there are a lot of holes, so I don’t see it deterring many bugs.

The bathroom area was 4 stalls with the doors taken off and leaning against the wall. One was flooded. The stalls just have a hole in the floor, that apparently they “flush” by dumping some water down the hole and its supposed to drain through the pipes. A group came and put in a septic system, which I guess is hooked up but there are no water pipes. Around the back of the property is where the septic system is, which is also like a mini dump- there’s trash all over the place, and some kids playing soccer in a cleared out area. The kitchen is outside, two little fire pits with grates over them, using wood for fuel. There are some wooden door frames over two cement rooms, one of which is supposed to be the kitchen, that a group came in to fix up, but haven’t finished yet. The woman who works there cooks food for 70 kids outside over those two little firepits. Amazing.

The director said the need is for money for school for the kids (which costs anywhere from 10-15 thousand CFA for primary school and 30 thousand for nursery school- 10,oooCFA is like 20 US dollars). I guess getting this money is hard, except the director said all the kids were starting school on Monday.

There were two infants that we saw there- the director said they were new: two girls had come to the orphanage who had been molested, and they had their babies there. I saw one of the girls holding her little baby- she was so young. I think that was the most powerful thing I saw there.

Ang said the orphanage was greatly improved- before there was just trash everywhere and no bug nets and it was just bad. So I guess its doing better now. But still, it’s amazing (in the negative sense of the word) to see so many kids crammed into one place, no possessions, no kitchen, barely bathrooms, 3 kids to a bed- and these kids have no one else. Ang is going to try to arrange a thing with ASOY where they bus in the orphans kids once a week to get tutored by high schoolers at ASOY and to play with the little kids.

A very different experience was going to visit Ryan’s orphanage, Green Eyes. I went with Liz, Ang, Lindsey, and Brian. Brian drove, but it was night and we didn’t have good directions, so it was a crazy experience getting there. The first adventure was that a biker hit us. That’s right, we didn’t hit him, he ran into us. I was sitting in the back left seat of the car, and we were driving past a big truck that was going the opposite direction, and I hear this clanking near the trunk of our car, and then I look out my window and I see a guy smushed between my window and the side of the truck! We pulled over- turns out the guy was drunk riding his bicycle, and for some reason tried to pass us on the inside of the road right when a large truck was coming straight towards him. He was fine and kept riding his bike. We’re pretty sure he’ll be feeling it once he’s sober. It was so scary at the time though- it definitely could have been really bad.

Anyways, we get really lost and have to circle back many times, driving on these crazy roads with crazy drivers, and people everywhere- everyone here comes out at night and walks the streets, sells stuff, goes to bars and clubs and restaurants near the road. We finally find the road for the orphanage but then miss the gate and start going down this steep road that is barely a road, we have to turn around and almost hit another car- good thing Brian is good at driving stick. It’s definitely a danger here of getting stuck somewhere in a ditch off these narrow roads.

So we finally arrive at Ryans, which is actually really nice. They just moved places, apparently the last place wasn’t safe and kept getting robbed. Ryan said that with the ecomonic crisis they’re running off of 1/4th of the funding they used to, so they had to revamp everything. Now they put most kids back with their families, funding the families and doing weekly checkups to make sure they’re treated well and that the families are functioning. So there are actually only 2 kids living at Green Eyes with Ryan. But the place is really nice- there’s a yard with some ducks, a living room, kitchen, a stairway that’s decorated like a pirate ship, a little library room (Ryan’s getting book donations and is going to try and expand the library so kids can come and check out books), Ryan’s room, and two rooms for the two kids who are living there now. There are little dolls and collections everywhere- lots of Disney. So I got to meet Joel and Ryessa, who were at the old orphanage (the one in the documentary) who are now living at Green Eyes. We sat outside and had crackers and cheese and talked. It was really nice. Definitely different than I thought it would be. Ryessa is having a birthday party on Friday so we’re gonna try and go to it. But we don’t want to drive there at night again J. Ryessa is turning 13 and loves highschool musical- she actually learned most of her English by watching the movies. It’s pretty amazing, the way everything is organized now. Ryan is like a dad to these two kids, and a guardian to all the others. There’s another guy I guess who volunteers a lot, who’s a Mormon missionary, so he takes the kids a lot to be with the other missionaries. I definitely want to learn more about it, because I still don’t know a lot about how they work, or even how many kids/families they’re helping out.

So that was my orphanage experience so far. It was amazing to see Joel, who I saw as a little boy in the documentary who was being mistreated and beaten, now a few years older and so happy and full of life. He loves attention and makes jokes and smiles all the time. Ryan said he has trouble at school with the other boys because he’s seen so much of life but is still happy and goofy, and the other boys at school are not.

I want to try and get more involved with this while I’m here. I’ll keep you updated. But not knowing the language is definitely a hindrance. Again, I don’t really see what the solution is to all this. It seems like what Ryan is doing is good- trying to restore families and help them out financially. The poverty just really messes everything up.

Well, now I’m back in the rich ex-pat world and I think we went last night to a concert at a bar where a lot of other white people were, it was kinda weird to see so many around here. We’re going to a guy from the embassy’s house tonight to play poker and guitar hero. Different world.

Thanks for reading- this week is week number 2 of school, I'll be picking up more resonsibilities in the middle school, so hopefully that goes well!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Grace, It is such a powerful experience to see a different culture and severe poverty. It must cause a real mix of emotions. We pray for you every day and trust that God will use this time in your life to share His wisdom and love to you and through you. Brian R.